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Mechanical engineer


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Mechanical Engineer Job Description

Arising from the application of physics and materials science to real-world problems, mechanical engineering is one of the oldest and most diverse engineering disciplines. Mechanical engineers design a wide variety of equipment, machinery, and devices for many different kinds of businesses. 

MEs may travel to help coordinate oil and gas exploration, for instance, or work at a medical research facility developing biomedical solutions for use in health care. They may help build powerful car engines or focus just on HVAC systems.

Mechanical engineering is a lot of math, science, and hard work. Being able to bring concepts to mechanical fruition based on complex specifications is a critical skill for these professionals. A mechanical engineer must see projects through to their successful conclusion, no matter the scale.

Common employers include the construction, manufacturing, medical, and utility power industries. Increasingly, it also includes the 'green' economy, where mechanical engineers' special knowledge of materials and technology can promote wise use and reduce environmental impacts.


Mechanical Engineer Duties

  • Create and analyze blueprints, technical drawings, and schematics
  • Use drafting software to help design products, tools, and systems
  • Design, analyze, and monitor mechanical products and processes per specifications
  • Collaborate with other engineers on team-oriented goals
  • Troubleshoot system irregularities working with maintenance personnel
  • Conduct research to uncover the feasibility or performance of systems
  • Help plan manufacturing methods and implementation of designs


Alternative Job Titles

  • Design engineer
  • Systems engineer
  • Process engineer
  • Equipment engineer
  • Mechanical design engineer
  • Product design engineer


How To Become A Mechanical Engineer

By convention and law, most mechanical engineers need only a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering to acquire an entry-level job in the field. There are, however, jobs with competitive graduate education requirements, and these often offer better pay and opportunities. The extent of a mechanical engineering education thus depends on one's career goals.

The Master of Applied Science (MAS) and Master of Engineering (M.Eng.) are common graduate-level choices for those looking to the expand their expertise and employability. Engineers who wish to conduct independent research in academia should pursue a full Ph.D.


How Long Does It Take To Become A Mechanical Engineer?

It takes at least 4 years of undergraduate education to become an entry-level mechanical engineer. A master's degree in mechanical engineering will take an extra 2 to 4 years. A Ph.D. may take another 4 to 7 years to complete.


Education Requirements

Students have a choice of undergraduate majors. A bachelor's degree may be pursued in Mechanical Engineering, Materials Science, or a related discipline. Whatever the major, all academic programs should be accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of the ABET.

Because mechanical engineering is inherently broad, specialization is common in this field. Areas of emphasis include, for example, fluid mechanics, nanotechnology, robotics, biomechanics, and aerospace engineering. At the undergraduate level, many programs steer students towards technical electives that reflect one of these specializations.

Students who complete a graduate education will have more opportunities to dive into a specialization of their choice. Graduate students can also participate in fellowships at the master and doctoral levels to further their practical training and experience.


Certification

While no single certification in mechanical engineering prevails, MEs have professional certification options through organizations like the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies.


Licensing

Like many related trades, mechanical engineers are regulated where their activities directly affect the public. Common licensing benchmarks are an accredited bachelor's degree in engineering and completion of two national tests—plus several years work experience under a practicing Professional Engineer (PE).

The first of the national tests is the general FE (Fundamentals of Engineering) exam, which can be taken before graduation. The second is the specialty-specific Mechanical PE exam, taken after about 4 years of post-college work experience. Every state has their own licensure rules for engineers, so it's important to check with each individual agency for updated information.


Job Outlook

Job growth for mechanical engineers will be “slower than the average” through the year 2020, rising just 9 percent this decade, according to the U.S. BLS. Mechanical engineers will see less growth even compared to similar disciplines. The agency says those who keep up with the latest engineering technology will have the best employment prospects. Detailed Mechanical Engineering salary data is available here.


States With Highest Employment Levels

State Hourly mean Wage Annual mean salary # Employed Employment/1000 jobs
Michigan $41.48 $86,280 30,450 7.77
California $45.39 $94,420 23,900 1.67
Texas $44.46 $92,470 17,250 1.63
Illinois $43.78 $91,050 15,640 2.77
Ohio $36.22 $75,350 11,650 2.30

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