Mechanical engineers research, design and develop machines, tools and a wide array of mechanical devices and components. Some of the devices and equipment mechanical engineers may work with are surgical instruments, robots, elevators, and refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment. They also design tools utilized in other engineering fields.
Mechanical engineers oversee the installation, repair, maintenance and operation of various types of equipment including centralized heat, water, gas and steam systems. Many mechanical engineers work in manufacturing. They also work in maintenance and technical sales. Mechanical engineers usually have a specialty area. Some mechanical engineers specialize in a particular industry.
Some common job titles include design engineer, process engineer, mechanical design engineer, chassis systems engineer, product engineer, systems engineer and design maintenance engineer.
- Perform research that tests and analyzes the feasibility, design, operation and performance of systems, equipment and components
- Study and interpret technical drawings, blueprints and schematics
- Recommend design modifications to fix system or machine malfunctions
- Help drafters in preparing the structural design of products utilizing computer-assisted design or drafting tools
- Investigate equipment failures and problems and make diagnosis and recommendations to maintenance staff members
- Consult with other engineers and other personnel to implement operating procedures and resolve system malfunctions
- Specify system components or oversee modifications of products to ensure they conform with engineering design and performance specifications
- Develop, coordinate and monitor the various aspects of production
Mechanical engineers should have good problem solving skills. They often work as part of a team. Good written and oral communications skills are beneficial for the occupation. A mechanical engineer should be creative, curious and innovative.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has forecasted a 6 percent employment growth for mechanical engineers from 2008 to 2018 which is slower than the average for all occupations. Some new employment opportunities may be created from the effects of emerging technologies in material science, biotechnology and nanotechnology.
In 2008 the median annual earnings for mechanical engineers was $74,920. The highest paid 10 percent earned $114,740.
Education, Certification, and Licensing
Most mechanical engineer jobs require at least a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering. Some mechanical engineers earn an advanced degree in a specialized engineering field or in business administration.
Most mechanical engineering programs include a heavy course load in geometry, algebra, calculus and trigonometry. Science courses are also included in the programs. Computer programming and computer applications courses are beneficial.
The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology provides accreditation for college and university engineering programs. In addition, professional certification can be beneficial when looking for a job.
Every state requires licensure for engineers that offer their services directly to the public. Licensure typically requires a degree from an ABET accredited engineering program, four years of relevant work experience and passing a state examination.
The top employers are machine manufacturers, primary and fabricated materials manufacturers, electrical and transportation equipment manufacturers and consulting firms.
Schools for Mechanical Engineers are listed in the Browse Schools Section.