Mechanical engineering is one of the most expansive engineering disciplines, and accordingly the specific job descriptions of individual mechanical engineers are highly variable. However, there is commonality among the various mechanical engineering jobs out there – mechanical engineers are the engineers who design, test, build, and maintain engines, equipment, vehicles, and tools; if it relies on the principles of force and motion to do its job, a mechanical engineer was probably involved in its creation.
Most mechanical engineering jobs require or strongly prefer candidates with a degree in mechanical engineering or a related field. Check out the programs below which offer free information:
Mechanical Engineer Job Responsibilities
In a very broad sense, a mechanical engineer is responsible for taking the principles of physics and mathematics and using them to design a product that fills a certain function. Mechanical engineers are employed in a very wide variety of industries, as their skills are applicable to virtually any system that involves moving parts. Mechanical engineers are experts in force, work, center of balance, friction, and inertia. Complex systems such as an automobile engine or actuating arm on a robot are often a mechanical engineer’s specialty.
The average mechanical engineer is responsible for one component of a large system, operating from a set of desired end product requirements to come up with the most efficient solution to the problem either individually or as part of a team. In fact, teamwork is essential to most mechanical engineers’ job descriptions – several minds can often examine a problem from multiple angles and together produce a more innovative solution than one engineer could come up with alone. In addition, the complexity of a modern engine or robot means that the efforts of numerous engineers will be needed to efficiently develop a coherent end result. Mechanical engineers have to work together to determine which parts of a system are vital, which can be made more efficient, and what features will have to be left out in order to keep the end product cost effective and as robust as possible.
Mechanical engineers are employed by large corporations like Ford, Honda, Hyundai, and Audi. They are also found in small machine shops making tools or consumer products. Many mechanical engineers work for themselves in consulting positions, or participate in research and development at a university lab. Indeed, the particular qualities that make a good mechanical engineer make such an individual indispensable on a multidisciplinary team, as a mechanical engineer’s unique focus makes spotting large scale system flaws more likely.
Mechanical engineers straight out of university will most likely work closely with and under the guidance of a more experienced mechanical engineer. As the mechanical engineer gains more experience, more complex projects and positions of greater responsibility can be expected.
Mechanical Engineer Training and Education Requirements
Most mechanical engineering positions require a four year undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from an Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) accredited institution of higher learning. This degree program will require extensive coursework in mathematics and physics, and both a broad understanding of these academic areas and engineering theory is essential to academic success.
Mechanical engineering students typically participate in design projects early in their academic career, in many universities they are presented with the components for a basic robot in their first year, and continually improve it and expand its functions as they go through their undergraduate engineering program.
Internships are also highly recommended for mechanical engineering students, because as one of the most hands-on of the engineering disciplines it is essential for a mechanical engineer to possess physical experience actually designing and testing their constructions.
While the majority of entry level mechanical engineering positions only require a bachelors degree, engineers who go on to obtain graduate degrees in the field are well positioned to conduct academic research and teach at the university level. An advanced degree is valued in some industries and can lead to better paying positions with a higher level of responsibility.
Mechanical Engineer Salary and Wages
Mechanical engineers are around the middle of the pack relative to other engineering disciplines when it comes to compensation. As one of the largest engineering disciplines and facing a slow job market, mechanical engineers starting salaries was slightly less than $59,000 in 2009. The median salary for mechanical engineers was about $75,000 during the same year, and the top ten percent of earners received compensation topping $114,000 in 2009.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Mechanical Engineer Certifications
Like most engineers, mechanical engineers take the Fundamentals of Engineering examination around the time they graduate from university. After four years of professional experience, they sit the state certified Professional Engineer (PE) examination, and upon successful conclusion of this test are certified professional engineers. This means that the mechanical engineer may now offer services directly to the public, and this certification is generally considered to be vital for a mechanical engineer’s career.
Mechanical Engineer Professional Associations
The most popular mechanical engineering society is the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), but as such a broad engineering discipline there are numerous professional associations that serve certain types of mechanical engineers. For example, there is the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) and the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE).