Mechanical Engineering Jobs

Mechanical engineering combines materials science and physics in order to design, test and maintain mechanical systems. One of the broadest and oldest types of engineering, mechanical engineering involves the use of mechanical power and heat to design and operate tools and machines. Mechanical engineering is extremely important to our world today, as we rely on machines throughout each day to make our lives more convenient. Because we depend on machines, mechanical engineers are needed to keep them working and make sure they are up-to-date with the latest technology.

Mechanical engineering requires a solid knowledge of many concepts, including mechanics, kinetics, materials science, structural analysis and thermodynamics. Mechanical engineers use these concepts along with computer-aided design (CAD) to design industrial machinery and equipment, manufacturing plants, aircraft, watercraft, transport systems, heating and cooling systems, medical devices and robotics, among many other types of equipment and devices.

Mechanical engineering, like many types of engineering, incorporates technological advancements. Many mechanical engineers work on mechatronics, composites, friction stir welding, biomechanics and nanotechnology. Therefore, mechanical engineering requires a comfortable level of technology and the ability to incorporate new technology into existing products to make them better. Many mechanical engineers have a specialty, so if there is a specific topic within the field that you are interested in, find a school that specializes in it, or at least offers classes in it, so you can learn more about it.

A career in mechanical engineering requires a minimum of a bachelor's degree, which can take up to five years to complete because it is such a broad field. Engineering programs in the United States are required to have courses in both the mechanical and thermal systems areas. Therefore, students can expect to learn about a variety of topics within mechanical engineering, including statics, dynamics, solid mechanics, material strength, electronics, thermodynamics, energy conversion, combustion, automobile engines, fuel types, fluid mechanics and dynamics, engineering and product design, computer-aided manufacturing and design, mechanism design and hydraulics. This is all in addition to core classes in math, chemistry, physics and engineering. In addition, some mechanical engineering programs may require completion of specialized courses such as automotive engineering, fuel technology, transport, logistics, robotics, cryogenics, vibration, optics and biomechanics. Many programs also require an internship or some type of work experience before graduation.

Although many types of engineering are suitable for distance education, mechanical engineering is too hands-on to be learned at home. Mechanical engineering degree programs are lab-intensive. You will be spending time working with engines and machines. Many lecture-based classes can be taken online, but for the most part, expect to study mechanical engineering on a campus of an accredited school with top-of-the-line labs and materials.

Besides education, mechanical engineering requires certain personal skills in order to be successful. Probably the most important requirement is problem solving. No product is perfect. There are always ways to make things work better or be more useful to a consumer. It is the job of a mechanical engineer to find these problems and solve them. This often requires creativity and analysis, two other important skills. Mechanical engineering involves thinking outside the box and coming up with innovative ideas. Communication skills are also essential. Mechanical engineers need to be able to communicate with team members, management, suppliers and clients, and work well with them. They may be also called upon to write reports and conduct presentations. Mechanical engineering also involves many other activities such as design, research, measuring, testing, customer service, sales, consulting and interpreting data.

There are several stages involved in mechanical engineering careers. In the beginning of your career, right after you graduate from college, your technical work is the most important. As you gain several years of experience, you will expand your product knowledge and gain project management skills. As you progress into your senior years and become an expert in project management and technical work, your knowledge of mechanical engineering as it affects corporations, markets and the world will be your focus.

There are more than 234,000 mechanical engineers in the United States, one of the highest numbers of engineers. Most are found in the engineering field, with a high concentration in the engine, turbine and power transmission manufacturing field. The states with the highest number of mechanical engineers are Michigan, with more than 30,000, and California, with about 22,000. Salaries in the mechanical engineering field range from $50,000 to nearly $120,000. The average starting salary is almost $59,000. The top-paying fields are commercial and industrial machinery, software publishing and oil and gas extraction, all with annual average salaries exceeding $100,000. The top-paying states for mechanical engineering are Alaska, at more than $99,000, and the District of Columbia, at more than $96,000 annually. The top-paying metropolitan area is Idaho Falls, with an average salary of more than $126,000.

Mechanical engineering jobs are expected to increase by 6 percent in the next decade, which is slower than average. With new technologies emerging, there will be many opportunities for mechanical engineers. They will also be needed to improve upon existing technologies. However, many jobs will be outsourced to foreign companies for cheaper wages.

There are many job opportunities for those with a degree in mechanical engineering. Because the degree requirements are similar to other types of engineering, opportunities exist in civil or electrical engineering. Those with a degree can work in the government or military. They can also work in medicine, law or academics. Many mechanical engineers move on to become managers or administrators. These jobs may require further education, such as master's degree, but these are just some of the possibilities. Mechanical engineering is limitless.

Last Updated: 06/08/2014

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