What Does a Mechanical Engineer Do?

If it runs on energy, a mechanical engineer probably had a hand in its development and production. Read on to learn more about mechanical engineers and how to become one, along with employment prospects and salary potential. Schools offering Engineering & Technology Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

Mechanical engineers design a wide range of products, such as toys, turbines, and spacecraft. As a mechanical engineer, you'll apply concepts of energy transfer, conversion, and manufacturing to create functional designs. This may entail exhaustive research combined with an extensive knowledge of materials and mechanics. You can expect to work as part of a team of engineers, mathematicians, and scientists. Mechanical engineers typically work specifically with one type of material, such as metal or ceramics.

Along with designing, mechanical engineers take part in the development and testing of products. You may select production materials, construct models, and prepare manufacturing plans. You might also troubleshoot any problems with designs and make improvements to develop an efficient and profitable final product. Mechanical engineers typically evaluate the final product, assessing its cost, safety, efficiency, and dependability.

Education Requirements

To enter this profession, you'll need to get a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from a school accredited by ABET. These four-year degree programs place strong emphasis on math, but you'll study much more than just how to solve for X on a chalkboard. You may take courses in:

  • Thermodynamics
  • Fluid mechanics
  • Heat transfer
  • Electrical circuitry
  • Statistics
  • Materials science
  • Machine design

Professional Licensure

Mechanical engineers who provide services to the public are required to obtain licensure. The licensing process begins with completion of an accredited degree program followed by passage of the Fundamentals of Engineering exam. You must then gain four years of experience as an engineer intern (EI) and pass the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam to become a licensed, professional engineer (PE). Depending on the state, you may be required to earn continuing education credits to maintain your license.

Employment Prospects

Mechanical engineering is one of the broadest disciplines in the engineering field. Employment opportunities may be available in a wide variety of settings, including the military, space programs, and manufacturing. Additionally, much of what you learn in a mechanical engineering degree program can be applied to other disciplines, so you may find employment in a non-mechanical specialty of engineering.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), mechanical engineer employment was expected to increase five percent from 2012-2022 (www.bls.gov). While this job growth is slower than the national average for all career fields, job opportunities were expected to increase due, in part, to efforts to develop a variety of mechanical products. Another possible factor is the emergence of advanced technology in production, specifically in the materials, nanotechnology, and biotechnology sectors. The BLS reported the median annual salary earned by mechanical engineers as $82,100 in May 2013.

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