Mechanical engineers are intrinsically interested in how things work. They conduct research, analyze results, manufacture products, and design and test mechanical systems such as engines, machines, and medical devices. Mechanical engineers create technologies necessary to meet the needs of society.
How To Become A Mechanical Engineer
A bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering is required to be considered for an entry-level position. Additionally, licenses, certifications, and registrations are highly recommended for advancement in the profession. Following are major requirements for pursuing a career as a mechanical engineer:
Earn a High School Diploma
In order to be accepted into a college or university, the minimum requirement is the completion of a high school diploma. Good grades and exposure to advanced Mathematics and Science classes in high school increase the chances of being accepted into a university.
Take an Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) Preparation Course
The SAT is a test used in the United States to determine admission into colleges. It measures verbal and quantitative reasoning through reading, math, and writing subtests.
It is highly recommended to take a preparation course for the SAT. These may be taken at local colleges or online. Many SAT study guides are also available for purchase.
Pass the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT)
Take the SAT test. This can be done either while in high school or after high school graduation. A good SAT score is approximately 1200 or higher.
Attend a Two-Year Community College
A good score on the SAT is one of the requirements for being accepted at a university. If a student has difficulty obtaining the required score, an option would be to do associate’s level course work to help strengthen academic proficiency.
Complete a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering
A bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering or mechanical engineering technology is required. The major difference between the two programs is that the latter places more emphasis on the practical aspects of the field and offers opportunities for internships and co-ops.
Course work should include engineering design, mathematics, life sciences, and physical sciences. It is highly desirable to attend a program that is ABET accredited. ABET accredits programs at the associate, bachelor, and master levels.
Additionally, some programs may offer the opportunities for students to attend the program for 5 years and graduate with a bachelor and a master degree. Opportunities for students to engage in paid work practices may also be available.
Pass the Fundamental of Engineering (FE) Exam
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, candidates are eligible to sit for the FE exam. Once experience requirements are met, the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam may be taken. These are necessary to secure state licensing.
Pass the Professional Engineering (PE) Exam
For leadership positions or to open a firm in the mechanical engineering field, a PE license is necessary. Licensure requires a passing score on both the FE and PE exams and at least 4 years of work experience.
Earn a Ph.D.
Faculty position at the university levels or positions in research and development require a Ph.D. Candidates may either pursue their Ph.D. in engineering or in business administration.
Job Description / Responsibilities
Mechanical engineering is reported to be one of the broadest field within engineering. Therefore, mechanical engineers have the opportunity to practice in many different industries. They may be employed in the transportation, medical, automotive, aerospace, or computer and electronics industries.
Mechanical engineers conduct research and analyze results, design and manufacture products, and build and test mechanical systems. Mechanical engineers create the technologies that society needs to advance and function efficiently.
Much like the field of mechanical engineering, the responsibilities of mechanical engineers are very broad. These can be described as follows:
- Conduct research to evaluate mechanical systems and analyze problems to identify solutions that can be developed to help solve them.
- Design and develop mechanical devices in accordance with customer needs and requirements.
- Develop prototypes of devices and test the designs to confirm capabilities. Research and test assembly procedures.
- Develop and suggest manufacturing procedures and equipment necessary to build, assemble, and install parts of a product. Lead the manufacturing of products.
- Design testing procedures to ensure quality, capabilities, and proper fabrication and installation.
- Analyze the results obtained to determine if and what modifications are necessary.
- Collect, analyze, and summarize product information and trends. Write detailed reports based on the information collected.
- Provide engineering support to internal and external customers by answering questions and requests either in person, by telephone, or in writing.
- Use computer technology to help in the creation, analysis, and testing of designs. Maintain product data base by entering data.
- Ensure compliance with all government regulations pertaining to the products made by the company. Attend professional workshops to maintain technical knowledge and join professional organizations to network with others in the profession.
- Ensure operation of equipment. Coordinate maintenance and repair services as necessary.
- Train and guide new technicians on procedures and operation of equipment and products.
Mechanical engineer employment is expected to grow 5% from 2014 to 2024. This growth is considered to be as fast as other occupations according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In 2014, the number of jobs in the field was 227,500 with a projected increase of 14,600 by 2024. Mechanical engineering is a very broad and diverse field that offers opportunities in a wide range of industries.
The field is reported to account for most jobs of any engineering field, but its continued growth will be dependent on industry trends. In 2014, the industries that employed the most mechanical engineers were engineering services, followed by machinery manufacturing.
Candidates with the most knowledge and experience in recent technologies will have the best opportunities for job selection. Mechanical engineers will be in high demand in the transportation, alternative energies, remanufacturing, and nanotechnology industries.
Overall, mechanical engineer job prospects are expected to be good. Those with training in the latest software technology and three-dimensional printing will be afforded the best opportunities.
For the most part, mechanical engineers work full time. Many of them work long hours. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 1 in 3 mechanical engineers employed in 2014 worked more than 40 hours per week.
Mechanical engineers work in office settings where they collaborate with other professionals to discuss and design projects. They also work in laboratories where they develop and test prototypes.
Mechanical engineers also visit worksites such as manufacturing plants to ensure proper production and assembly of a design, or provide guidance on a project. They work in collaboration with other engineers and technicians to ensure timely product delivery.
After the product is manufactured, mechanical engineers perform quality assurance tasks. They visit worksites to inspect the device while it is operational, ensure proper function, and make improvements if necessary.
Mechanical engineers play an important role in the development and manufacturing of goods and services needed for society to function efficiently. This is also highly dependent on technological advancements.
To stay apprised of the latest career resources, education, technology, and licensing changes, you may visit the following sites:
- American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME): ASME is a non-profit organization whose members include college students, professionals, researchers, and academic leaders. ASME was founded to promote collaboration, professional development, and career advancement among all engineering specialties.
American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE): ASEE is a nonprofit organization founded with the purpose of promoting advancement in engineering education and technology. The organization also encourages communication and collaboration among governmental agencies, educational institutions, and corporations nationally and internationally.
- National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES): NCEES is a nonprofit organization created to promote consistency in the licensure process throughout the United States. NCEES also oversees the creation, administration, and scoring of engineering and surveying exams.
National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE): NSPE is a professional organization with the goal of promoting and protecting the interests of professional engineers. Its members include engineering students, engineers in training, and engineer professionals regardless of geographical regions.
Mechanical Engineering Forums: An engineering site for discussing new applications and technology, employment and licensure resources, and career advancements.
- Engineers Edge Solutions by Design: An online site for engineers, designers, and manufacturing professionals with the purpose of providing guidance and solutions to complex problems in the world of engineering. It also provides training and seminars.
- Journal of Mechanical Engineering Research: JMER is a peer reviewed academic journal that publishes full length articles covering a wide range of topics in the field of mechanical engineering. It also accepts manuscripts for publication.
American Journal of Mechanical Engineering: AJME is a peer reviewed journal that provides open access and publishes original research in diverse topics within the field of mechanical engineering.
Journal of Mechanical Engineering and Automation: JMEA is an academic journal that publishes a wide variety of papers in the field of mechanical engineering and automation. It includes a combination of theoretical and experimental articles.
Mechanical Engineering: This website is an online resource that offers a complete guide for mechanical engineers. It discusses the latest news and articles in the field of mechanical engineering.
To be successful in the profession, a mechanical engineer must possess a very specific set of skills and abilities. These must include not only technical skills that are specific to the profession, but also a number of personal traits.
Following are some of the most important skills and abilities necessary to be successful as a mechanical engineer:
- Technical knowledge: Knowledge, training, and experience in current versions of graphic design tools such as AutoCad, Microstation, and computation tools such as MATLAB. High information technology ability that facilitates the use of a variety of software to store, interpret, and present information.
- Mathematics and science skills: Utilize mathematics and science rules and methods in problem solving.
- Problem-solving skills: Identify and analyze complex issues and formulate appropriate solutions.
- Systems analysis and evaluation: Analyze and evaluate systems to measure performance and determine if modifications are needed for improvement.
- Quality Control Analysis: Test and inspect products and services to assess quality and performance.
- Budgeting skills: Develop and provide accurate cost analysis of projects to potential clients. Manage financial and material resources needed to complete projects.
- Project Management Abilities: Coordinate with other disciplines to prioritize and manage projects in a timely manner. This requires excellent organizational and time management skills.
- Creativity: Create innovative products and designs to meet the needs of a growing society. Analyze needs and product requirements when creating designs. This also requires being aware of current commercial trends.
- Excellent communication and presentation skills: Communicate effectively both verbally and in writing. Mechanical engineers work in a variety of settings and come into contact with a diverse audience. They must be able to communicate and present their ideas and project goals clearly.
- Excellent team player: Collaborate with other professionals such as technicians and coordinate with other engineers to create, manufacture, and test products. This requires excellent interpersonal skills.
- Ability to work under pressure: Mechanical engineers will often work long hours to meet strict deadlines.