Last Updated on August 2, 2022
You asked for it, here it is! We know that mechanical engineers have a lot on their plate. From design to development and then onto the manufacturing phase, you’re there for all phases of a product’s life-cycle. Because of this, you’re equipped with a wide variety of skills and knowledge.
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Those of you seeking the what is mechanical engineering and types of mechanical engineering need not look further as the article below gives you all the information you require and more. We recommend that potential students interested in this area learn from a reputable University or if you have the financial resources to take one on ones from a practicing engineer. You will also find related posts on what subjects are needed to become a mechanical engineer
What do mechanical engineers need to know? That is a great question. If you have been wanting to learn about this profession, but have been unsure as to how to go about it this article will help. You will find a comprehensive overview of the profession, day in the life of a mechanical engineer, training and education needed and salary.
What Do Mechanical Engineers Need To Know
Mechanical Engineering is a branch of engineering that is concerned with the design and manufacture of machines. It is a large sub-division of engineering, which consists of topics like Machine Design, Manufacturing Processes, Thermal Engineering, Fluid Mechanics, Automobile Engineering, Mechatronics and so on. In Mechanical Engineering you will study the concepts that you studied in mechanics in your high school and college but in greater detail. You will also be introduced to newer topics such as computer integrated manufacturing, machine design, mechatronics and much more. It is a highly sought-after branch in engineering colleges.
What is Mechanical Engineering
- Mechanical engineering is the discipline that applies the principles of engineering into the design, analysis, manufacturing, and maintenance of machines and mechanical production techniques.
- MechEng is the branch of engineering education that has been around for the longest period of time. Nowadays, alongside the traditional practical application of techniques, much is based on computer simulations.
Is This Stream Right for Me?
If the working of a machine and the principles behind it interest you, this field might be suitable for you. Being a diverse stream, you have a lot of options for pursuing specializations based on your interests further. A word of caution – if you plan to pursue Mechanical Engineering because you were proficient in Mechanics in your college days, then think again. Your strengths and weaknesses in your entrance exam preparation in no way reflect what field is suitable for you. Academics are quite different in engineering colleges compared to junior colleges. You should rather use other parameters such as your interest in that subject to decide. Deciding which branch suits you is an important decision but a difficult one to make. I would suggest you go through the curriculum and see if the topics being taught interest you.
Types of Mechanical Engineering
Mechanical Engineering has numerous sub-divisions. Some of them are described here in brief.
- Thermal Engineering and Fluid Engineering: Thermal and Fluid Engineering requires an understanding of concepts in Thermodynamics, Fluid Mechanics and Heat Transfer. It finds applications in various places such as air-conditioners, refrigerators, fuel cells, IC engines, power plants, steam and gas turbines and so on. It is a more research-oriented field. The mechanical part of energy engineering involves mostly thermal and fluid engineering. Knowledge of calculus, differential equations, numerical analysis along with some computer programming skills is needed.
- Machine Design: Machine design involves the design of machine parts and tools including gears, breaks, welded joints, clutches, etc. It requires a knowledge of solid mechanics, which includes stress-strain analysis and fracture mechanics. Material Sciences also cover a significant part in this sub-division. In these modern times, computer-aided design is an important part of machine design. The finite element analysis method is a numerical technique that is widely applied in machine design.
- Manufacturing/Production: Manufacturing Engineering, also known as production engineering, deals with planning, managing and controlling the operations of a manufacturing plant. In recent times, manufacturing has become heavily computer integrated. Computer Integrated Manufacturing deals with computer control and automation of manufacturing process. One needs good programming skills in this field.
- Automobile Engineering: As the name suggests, it deals with designing, manufacturing, and operating automobiles. It is all about vehicle design, vehicle safety, fuel efficiency and part of electronics and automation. This engineering field includes parts of thermal and fluid engineering and machine design. Keep in mind that fluid dynamics are involved heavily. Automobile engineering integrates mechanical engineering with parts of electrical engineering and is often offered as a separate course in many colleges.
- Mechatronics: Today, there’s a need for engineers with interdisciplinary knowledge. Engineers who have the knowledge of just one specific field are not adequate for the employers. Mechatronics is a branch, which combines elements of mechanical, electrical and computer engineering. It finds applications in automation and robotics, automobiles, computer machine controls and so on.
Disciplines within mechanical engineering include but are not limited to:
- Autonomous Systems
- Computer Aided Design (CAD)
- Control Systems
- Cyber security
- Human health
- Manufacturing and additive manufacturing
- Production planning
- Structural analysis
What Do Mechanical Engineers Do?
As a core engineering branch, there are a lot of opportunities for both research and jobs in mechanical engineering. Some of the research that goes on in machine design is – developing efficient and safe equipment and decreasing the vibrational effects of machines. Thermal and Fluid Engineering research encompasses developing energy efficient transmitting systems and innovative engines and gas turbines. Computational fluid dynamics is a prominent area of research in fluid mechanics. Thermal engineers also look to develop efficient internal combustion engines for automobiles. In manufacturing, research involves the development of new manufacturing technologies, implementation of automation in everyday industries and so on.
Job profiles for mechanical engineers mostly involve design, development and installation of mechanical components, quality control, manufacture and operation of computer-aided components and so on. There are also jobs in the Research and Development section of companies, and it involves the development of better mechanical systems. Many people chose to pursue a specialization or post graduate education in one of the sub-disciplines of mechanical engineering mentioned above. There is ample scope for whatever career path you choose in mechanical engineering.
What Subjects Are Needed To Become A Mechanical Engineer
Mechanical engineering principles began to be formalized the late 18th century, but the field did not truly come into its own as a discipline until 1847 with the founding of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. The practice of mechanical engineering involves the design of mechanical systems, such as power and energy systems, aircraft and aerospace products, weapon systems, pumps, engines, compressors and physically operating machinery of all types. Mechanical engineers are college-educated professionals with a thorough grounding in math, physics and engineering principles.
Mechanical engineers need to be comfortable with math. According to WeUseMath.org, mathematics is the language of physical science and engineering. All subfields of mechanical engineering involve the use of math, and many require a thorough understanding of advanced math including trigonometry and calculus. The ability to understand and solve differential equations and the ability to use math in statistics is particularly important for mechanical engineers.
Physics is the study of the natural laws of the universe, and knowledge of physics is essential for a mechanical engineer. Mechanical engineers have to understand and apply the principles of physics in virtually all aspects of their work — how much force is required to overcome gravity or friction or the properties of coherent light such as lasers, for example.
Working as a mechanical engineer obviously involves the application of basic engineering principles. Every mechanical engineer needs to be familiar with basic mechanical principles, methods for determining the strength of materials, fluid mechanics, statics and dynamics, thermodynamics, hydraulics, material fatigue, properties of lubricating oils, cylindrical gear units, shaft couplings and vibration and control theory.
Mechanical engineers also need to be familiar with statistical methods. Almost all projects are designed and modeled first before beginning to construct a prototype, and the use of statistics is involved in every step of this process. Statistics is particularly important in determining the strength of materials or calculating the reliability or expected working life of a mechanical device.
Why study Mechanical Engineering?
- One of the most expansive and lucrative engineering fields today is mechanical engineering. With skyscrapers going up in all parts of the world, to the constant demands for housing, mech engineers are a valued breed.
- A mechanical engineering student gains a very wide set of skills. Computer applications, electricity, structures, mathematics, physics, drafting – basically knowledge of nearly every other type of engineering.
- It is considered to be one of the most challenging undergraduate degree courses available. Once students have pushed through the core curricula, they have proven themselves capable of most professional challenges.
- In later years of the degree, MechEng allows for a lot of branching out and option exploration. Some go into aerospace engineering, engine design, robotics, manufacturing or even theme park ride design.
- Mechanical Engineering is a field changing so quickly, that you may study things in your final year that were thought almost unfeasable in first year (3D printers anyone?). If that excites you, give MechEng serious thought.
Coursework, assessment and exams
- Teaching methods for most courses include lectures, seminars, tutorials and laboratory sessions backed up by design classes and practical workshops.
- Assessment methods are usually split between exams and continuous assessment, such as reports, computer exercises, laboratories and essays.
What degree can I get?
- MEng Mechanical Engineering
- MEng Mechanical Engineering with a year abroad
- MEng Mechanical Engineering with Management
- MEng Mechanical Engineering with Sustainable Energy
What qualifications do I need?
- Mechanical Engineering often requires high grades for entry.
- Always check the entry requirements for the particular university or college course you are interested in.
What are the postgraduate opportunities?
- There is an exciting range of taught MAs and research degrees at postgraduate level.
- Examples include an MSc in Engineering Management, Operations Management, Project Management, and Advanced Mechanical Engineering. A straight MSc in MechEng is also available.
What are the job opportunities?
- Mechanical Engineering has the obvious focus of setting graduates up for life as an engineer, but there are other options available for those who would prefer a job on the administrative side.
- Particular job areas include as an engineer in aerospace, civil contracting, controls and instruments, maintenance and of course mechanisms. Banking, patents and management are also pathways.
- Several professional organisations offer specialised positions for Mechanical Engineering graduates, such as Capita.
What Mechanical Engineers Do
Mechanical engineers research, design, develop, build, and test mechanical and thermal sensors and devices, including tools, engines, and machines.
Duties of Mechanical Engineers
Mechanical engineers typically do the following:
- Analyze problems to see how mechanical and thermal devices might help solve a particular problem
- Design or redesign mechanical and thermal devices or subsystems, using analysis and computer-aided design
- Investigate equipment failures or difficulties to diagnose faulty operation and to recommend remedies
- Develop and test prototypes of devices they design
- Analyze the test results and change the design or system as needed
- Oversee the manufacturing process for the device
Mechanical engineering is one of the broadest engineering fields. Mechanical engineers design and oversee the manufacture of many products ranging from medical devices to new batteries.
Mechanical engineers design power-producing machines, such as electric generators, internal combustion engines, and steam and gas turbines, as well as power-using machines, such as refrigeration and air-conditioning systems.
Mechanical engineers design other machines inside buildings, such as elevators and escalators. They also design material-handling systems, such as conveyor systems and automated transfer stations.
Like other engineers, mechanical engineers use computers extensively. Mechanical engineers are routinely responsible for the integration of sensors, controllers, and machinery. Computer technology helps mechanical engineers create and analyze designs, run simulations and test how a machine is likely to work, interact with connected systems, and generate specifications for parts.
The following are examples of types of mechanical engineers:
Auto research engineers seek to improve the performance of cars. These engineers work to improve traditional features of cars such as suspension, and they also work on aerodynamics and new possible fuels.
Heating and cooling systems engineers work to create and maintain environmental systems wherever temperatures and humidity must be kept within certain limits. They develop such systems for airplanes, trains, cars, schools, and even computer rooms.
Robotic engineers plan, build, and maintain robots. These engineers plan how robots will use sensors for detecting things based on light or smell, and they design how these sensors will fit into the designs of the robots.
Work Environment for Mechanical Engineers
Mechanical engineers hold about 312,900 jobs. The largest employers of mechanical engineers are as follows:
|Architectural, engineering, and related services||20%|
|Transportation equipment manufacturing||11%|
|Computer and electronic product manufacturing||7%|
|Scientific research and development services||6%|
Mechanical engineers generally work in offices. They may occasionally visit worksites where a problem or piece of equipment needs their personal attention. In most settings, they work with other engineers, engineering technicians, and other professionals as part of a team.
How to Become a Mechanical Engineer
Mechanical engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering or mechanical engineering technology. Mechanical engineers who sell services publicly must be licensed in all states and the District of Columbia.
Education for Mechanical Engineers
Mechanical engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering or mechanical engineering technology. Mechanical engineering programs usually include courses in mathematics and life and physical sciences, as well as engineering and design. Mechanical engineering technology programs focus less on theory and more on the practical application of engineering principles. They may emphasize internships and co-ops to prepare students for work in industry.
Some colleges and universities offer 5-year programs that allow students to obtain both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. Some 5-year or even 6-year cooperative plans combine classroom study with practical work, enabling students to gain valuable experience and earn money to finance part of their education.
ABET accredits programs in engineering and engineering technology. Most employers prefer to hire students from an accredited program. A degree from an ABET-accredited program is usually necessary to become a licensed professional engineer.
Important Qualities for Mechanical Engineers
Creativity. Mechanical engineers design and build complex pieces of equipment and machinery. A creative mind is essential for this kind of work.
Listening skills. Mechanical engineers often work on projects with others, such as architects and computer scientists. They must listen to and analyze different approaches made by other experts to complete the task at hand.
Math skills. Mechanical engineers use the principles of calculus, statistics, and other advanced subjects in math for analysis, design, and troubleshooting in their work.
Mechanical skills. Mechanical skills allow engineers to apply basic engineering concepts and mechanical processes to the design of new devices and systems.
Problem-solving skills. Mechanical engineers need good problem-solving skills to take scientific principles and discoveries and use them to design and build useful products.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations for Mechanical Engineers
Licensure is not required for entry-level positions as a mechanical engineer. A Professional Engineering (PE) license, which allows for higher levels of leadership and independence, can be acquired later in one’s career. Licensed engineers are called professional engineers (PEs). A PE can oversee the work of other engineers, sign off on projects, and provide services directly to the public. State licensure generally requires
- A degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program
- A passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam
- Relevant work experience typically at least 4 years
- A passing score on the Professional Engineering (PE) exam.
The initial FE exam can be taken after one earns a bachelor’s degree. Engineers who pass this exam are commonly called engineers in training (EITs) or engineer interns (EIs). After meeting work experience requirements, EITs and EIs can take the second exam, called the Principles and Practice of Engineering.
Several states require engineers to take continuing education to renew their licenses every year. Most states recognize licensure from other states, as long as the other state’s licensing requirements meet or exceed their own licensing requirements.
Several professional organizations offer a variety of certification programs for engineers to demonstrate competency in specific fields of mechanical engineering.
During high school students can attend engineering summer camps to see what these and other engineers do. Attending these camps can help students plan their coursework for the remainder of their time in high school.
Advancement for Mechanical Engineers
A Ph.D. is essential for engineering faculty positions in higher education, as well as for some research and development programs. Mechanical engineers may earn graduate degrees in engineering or business administration to learn new technology, broaden their education, and enhance their project management skills. Mechanical engineers may become administrators or managers after gaining work experience.
Mechanical Engineer Salary
The median annual wage for mechanical engineers is $87,370. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $56,270, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $136,550.
The median annual wages for mechanical engineers in the top industries in which they work are as follows:
|Scientific research and development services||$99,870|
|Computer and electronic product manufacturing||$93,070|
|Architectural, engineering, and related services||$90,060|
|Transportation equipment manufacturing||$88,460|
Most mechanical engineers work full time and some work more than 40 hours a week.
Job Outlook for Mechanical Engineers
Employment of mechanical engineers is projected to grow 4 percent over the next ten years, as fast as the average for all occupations. Mechanical engineers can work in many industries and on many types of projects. As a result, their growth rate will differ by the industries that employ them.
Mechanical engineers are projected to experience faster than average growth in engineering services as companies continue to contract work from these firms. Mechanical engineers will also remain involved in various manufacturing industries, particularly in automotive manufacturing. These engineers will play key roles in improving the range and performance of hybrid and electric cars. However, employment declines in some manufacturing industries will temper overall employment growth of mechanical engineers.
Job Prospects for Mechanical Engineers
Prospects for mechanical engineers overall are expected to be good. They will be best for those with training in the latest software tools, particularly for computational design and simulation. Such tools allow engineers and designers to take a project from the conceptual phase directly to a finished product, eliminating the need for prototypes.
Mechanical engineering students who can learn to create virtual simulations before proceeding to the design, build, and test stages might find themselves in high demand by companies because these skills will allow firms to reduce product development cycles.
Engineers who have experience or training in three-dimensional printing also will have better job prospects.
|Occupational Title||Employment, 2018||Projected Employment, 2028||Change, 2018-28|
Is Mechanical Engineering a Good Career?
Architectural and Engineering Managers
Architectural and engineering managers plan, direct, and coordinate activities in architectural and engineering companies.
Drafters use software to convert the designs of engineers and architects into technical drawings. Most workers specialize in architectural, civil, electrical, or mechanical drafting and use technical drawings to help design everything from microchips to skyscrapers.
Materials engineers develop, process, and test materials used to create a wide range of products, from computer chips and aircraft wings to golf clubs and biomedical devices. They study the properties and structures of metals, ceramics, plastics, composites, nanomaterials (extremely small substances), and other substances in order to create new materials that meet certain mechanical, electrical, and chemical requirements.
Mathematicians and Statisticians
Mathematicians and statisticians analyze data and apply mathematical and statistical techniques to help solve real-world problems in business, engineering, healthcare, or other fields.
Mechanical Engineering Technicians
Mechanical engineering technicians help mechanical engineers design, develop, test, and manufacture mechanical devices, including tools, engines, and machines. They may make sketches and rough layouts, record and analyze data, make calculations and estimates, and report their findings.
Natural Sciences Managers
Natural sciences managers supervise the work of scientists, including chemists, physicists, and biologists. They direct activities related to research and development, and coordinate activities such as testing, quality control, and production.
Nuclear engineers research and develop the processes, instruments, and systems used to derive benefits from nuclear energy and radiation. Many of these engineers find industrial and medical uses for radioactive materials—for example, in equipment used in medical diagnosis and treatment.
Petroleum engineers design and develop methods for extracting oil and gas from deposits below the Earth’s surface. Petroleum engineers also find new ways to extract oil and gas from older wells.
Physicists and Astronomers
Physicists and astronomers study the ways in which various forms of matter and energy interact. Theoretical physicists and astronomers may study the nature of time or the origin of the universe. Some physicists design and perform experiments with sophisticated equipment such as particle accelerators, electron microscopes, and lasers.
Sales engineers sell complex scientific and technological products or services to businesses. They must have extensive knowledge of the products’ parts and functions and must understand the scientific processes that make these products work.
Important Job Skills for Mechanical Engineers
A career in mechanical engineering is both highly lucrative and intrinsically rewarding. Engineers must have a solid educational background and training. Therefore, a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering (or mechanical engineering technology) is essential. Many mechanical engineers also have a master’s degree or Ph.D. in mechanical engineering. Certain jobs in mechanical engineering also require a license.1
Types of Mechanical Engineering Skills
A big part of a mechanical engineer’s job involves solving problems using mechanical or thermal devices.
Mechanical engineers need to be strong analytical thinkers who are capable of solving problems raised by clients or their employer.
- Analytical thinking
- Analyze test results and adjust design if needed
- Develop and test prototypes
- Design mechanical device projects
- Develop design calculations
- Ensure designs meet legal guidelines and safety requirements
- Identify potential design improvements
- Knowledgeable in the machining and fabrication process
- Perform equipment and system calculations
- Product validation experience
- Provide cost estimates for materials, equipment, and/or labor
- Research materials for future design opportunities and usage
- Sound knowledge of engineering fundamentals
- Test building materials
- Troubleshoot equipment to solve problems
- Work to improve and maintain existing products
Mechanical engineering entails developing and designing products, which range from batteries to electric generators to medical devices. Inventing products involves a great deal of creativity, as does figuring out how to bring projects home within challenging timeframes.1
- Work in 3D design (computer-aided design, or “CAD”)
- Devise alternative mechanical structures
- Develop new tools and systems to enhance production
- Complete assigned tasks within time and budget restraints
- Convert basic design information and requirements into working drawings
- Create blueprints using CAD (computer-aided design)
- Develop a scope and timeline for each project
- Draft standards and geometric, dimension, & tolerancing (GD&T) specifications
- Prepare designs and estimates
Communication and Leadership
Often, mechanical engineers develop a product for a client. They may have to explain complex machines or devices to people who are not familiar with mechanical engineering. They have to be able to convey their ideas clearly and effectively, and this takes strong communication skills. They also frequently leverage their communication talents to take the lead on mechanical design and manufacturing projects.3
- Clearly explain design ideas
- Comfortable writing technical reports
- Make regular site visits
- Manage and monitor each stage of a project
- Oversee the project manufacturing process
- Prepare conclusions and analysis reports
- Read and interpret drawings and specifications
- Recommend modifications for design improvements and simplification
- Effectively present proposals, status reports, and final project reports to groups
- Use notes, sketches, and verbal instructions to complete project designs
- Write and maintain operating procedures and standards
Mechanical engineering involves a lot of teamwork.
Engineers often work in groups to invent technologies and solve problems.
They might work with people who are not mechanical engineers, such as computer scientists or architects. As such, they need to be able to work with a diverse team of people to solve problems. Many engineers will need the leadership skills necessary to manage or lead groups.3
- Assemble project deliverables
- Assist with field and manufacturing problems
- Assist with shipping of equipment prior to deployment
- Proactive and willing to take on new challenges
- Work effectively under pressure
- Mentor junior staff
- Resolve conflicts amongst team members
- Motivate team members
Math and Computer Skills
Mechanical engineers need to be comfortable using math to solve problems. The math skills required in mechanical engineering include calculus and statistics. They must be adept at applying these skills to analyze problems and design solutions.
- Automated model programming
- CAD (computer-aided design)
- Engineering product data management software (EPDM)
- Microsoft office suite experience
- Pro-E CREO CAD software
- Understand diagrams, drafts, flowcharts, and other information and documentation
- Use software to design at the level of industry and government standards
More Mechanical Engineering Skills
- Inductive reasoning
- Deductive reasoning
- Environmental awareness
- Written communication
- Verbal communication
- Independent thinking
- Commitment to ongoing improvement
- Organizational approach
- Project management
- Strategic planning
- Data analysis
- Structural analysis
- Causal relationships
- Diagnostic approach
- Evaluation skills
- Sound judgment
Mechanical Engineering in Summary
Before we dive into the steps that will help you become a successful mechanical engineer, let’s look at what Mechanical Engineering really is and what you can expect during your studies.
Mechanical Engineering focuses on the design, manufacturing, testing, and improvement of mechanical systems, which are used in virtually any industry you can think of.
One of the reasons Mechanical Engineering students choose this discipline is its versatility and the various career options available after graduation. You can work in fields, like construction, the automotive industry, robotics, the energy sector, and many others.
The type of courses you’ll take will vary depending on the curriculum of your Bachelor’s programme. In general, you can expect to study subjects like Engineering Service and Statistics, Engineering Economy, Materials Science, Technical Writing, Design & Automation, Thermodynamics, Mathematics, Engineering Analysis, etc.
To be a successful mechanical engineer, some of the most important skills you can develop are:
- Problem-solving: essential to solve all the complex puzzles that stand between you and the perfect mechanical product/device/system
- Creativity: the only way to come up with innovative solutions, see what others do not, and create something from nothing
- Communication: needed to work with your team, and even more important when explaining clients and users how to use your product or solutions
- Teamwork: mechanical engineers often work in groups, which helps them brainstorm ideas, compare suggestions, and find the right answer to a given challenge or task
- Math skills: solving mechanical engineering problems most often requires the use of mathematical principles, like Calculus or Statistics