What is a Mechanical Engineer?
A mechanical engineer is someone who designs, develops, builds, and tests mechanical devices, including tools, engines and machines. They work mostly in research and development, manufacturing industries, and the federal government.
What does a Mechanical Engineer do?
Mechanical engineers typically do the following:
- Analyze problems to see how a mechanical device might help solve the problem
- Design or redesign mechanical devices, creating blueprints so the device can be built
- Develop a prototype of the device and test the prototype
- Analyze the test results and change the design as needed
- Oversee the manufacturing process
Mechanical engineers use many types of tools, engines, and machines. Examples include the following:
- Power-producing machines such as electric generators, internal combustion engines, and steam and gas turbines
- Power-using machines, such as refrigeration and air-conditioning
- Industrial production equipment, including robots used in manufacturing
- Other machines inside buildings, such as elevators and escalators
- Machine tools and tools for other engineers
- Material-handling systems, such as conveyor systems and automated transfer stations
Like other engineers, mechanical engineers use computers extensively. Computers help mechanical engineers to produce and analyze designs, simulate and test how a machine is likely to work, generate specifications for parts, monitor the quality of products, and control manufacturing and production.
How to Become a Mechanical Engineer
Nearly all entry-level mechanical engineering jobs require a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. Mechanical engineering degree programs usually include courses in mathematics and life and physical sciences, as well as engineering and design courses. The programs typically last four years, but many students take between four and five years to earn their degree. A mechanical engineering degree program may emphasize internships and co-ops to prepare students for work in the industry.
Theory is often another main focus in order to prepare students for graduate-level work. A few engineering schools allow students to spend three years in a liberal arts college studying pre-engineering subjects and two years in an engineering school studying core subjects to receive a bachelor’s degree from each school. Some colleges and universities offer five-year programs that allow students to obtain both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. Some five, or even six year cooperative plans, combine classroom study with practical work, enabling students to gain valuable experience and earn money to finance part of their education.
Graduate training is essential for engineering faculty positions in higher education, as well as for some research-and-development programs. Many experienced mechanical engineers get graduate degrees in engineering or business administration to learn new technology and broaden their education. Many become administrators or managers after obtaining a graduate degree.
Most jurisdictions require licensure for engineers who offer their services directly to the public. Licensed mechanical engineers are designated as professional engineers (PEs). The PE license generally requires a degree from an accredited engineering program, four years of relevant work experience, and passing a standardized exam.
What is the workplace of a Mechanical Engineer like?
Mechanical engineers are the second largest engineering occupation. They work mostly in engineering services, research and development, manufacturing industries, and the federal government. The rest are employed in general-purpose machinery manufacturing, automotive parts manufacturing, management of other companies, and testing laboratories.
Mechanical engineers generally work in professional office settings. They may occasionally visit work sites where a problem or piece of equipment needs their personal attention. Most mechanical engineers work full time, with some working as many as 60 hours or more per week.
Mechanical engineers can find employment virtually anywhere where innovation takes place, and are sought out by employers within a variety of industries, such as: aerospace, automotive, chemical, construction, defence, electronics, consumer goods, marine, materials and metals, pharmaceuticals, rail, and utilities.
Mechanical engineers can also work in non-engineering types of jobs, both within and outside of the engineering industry. These can be in areas such as: finance, management, law, the military, government, medicine, research, technical sales, technical consulting, technical publishing/science journalism, and teaching. From developing a prosthetic leg to a new child’s toy, a degree in mechanical engineering gives you a diverse choice of industries and projects you can be a part of.
A good mechanical engineer is an innovator at heart, and truly enjoys complex problem solving. They have excellent communication skills (both oral and written) and enjoy working with others as a team player. They are excited to be on the edge of technology, learning how to make things work more efficiently. They feel a sense of accomplishment when turning their ideas into reality and solving problems that better society. Mechanical engineers are naturally curious, innovative, creative, and practical, and have a desire to help people and the world around them.
Becoming a well-rounded student with real work experience and good academic success is what will give you the optimal chance in landing a great engineering job. Note that top jobs will require both good grades and real engineering experience. Every summer that you’re in university, make it a top priority to get an internship; there should be opportunities even for first or second year students.
When going to a job interview, be as prepared as possible by reading up on interviewer’s techniques and what questions will typically be asked. How you present yourself at the interview is as important as the experience or grades you have. It is recommended to write out notes and study them before every interview, even practicing with a friend if possible.
Depending on what field of work you go into will depend on what your job will be like. Mechanical engineering is a broad career that deals with mechanical issues, and engineers typically work with mechanical physics, vibrations, forces, rotation, and velocity on a daily basis.
In today’s world, computers have changed how mechanical engineers do their job, allowing complex analyses to be completed in a matter of seconds versus the days or weeks of hand calculations that were once the norm. However, mechanical engineers will still use industrial production equipment, material-handling systems, and electric generators to produce a fully refined product, and using calculus and trigonometry is needed when confronted with the more complex and analytical portions of the occupation.