Mechanical engineers design, develop, build, and test mechanical and thermal sensors and devices.
What they do
Mechanical engineers research, design, develop, build, and test mechanical and thermal sensors and devices, including tools, engines, and machines.
Mechanical engineers typically do the following:
- Analyze problems to see how mechanical and thermal devices might help solve a particular problem
- Design or redesign mechanical and thermal devices or subsystems, using analysis and computer-aided design
- Investigate equipment failures or difficulties to diagnose faulty operation and to recommend remedies
- Develop and test prototypes of devices they design
- Analyze the test results and change the design or system as needed
- Oversee the manufacturing process for the device
Mechanical engineering is one of the broadest engineering fields. Mechanical engineers design and oversee the manufacture of many products ranging from medical devices to new batteries.
Mechanical engineers design power-producing machines, such as electric generators, internal combustion engines, and steam and gas turbines, as well as power-using machines, such as refrigeration and air-conditioning systems.
Mechanical engineers design other machines inside buildings, such as elevators and escalators. They also design material-handling systems, such as conveyor systems and automated transfer stations.
Like other engineers, mechanical engineers use computers extensively. Mechanical engineers are routinely responsible for the integration of sensors, controllers, and machinery. Computer technology helps mechanical engineers create and analyze designs, run simulations and test how a machine is likely to work, interact with connected systems, and generate specifications for parts.
The following are examples of types of mechanical engineers:
Auto research engineers seek to improve the performance of cars. These engineers work to improve traditional features of cars such as suspension, and they also work on aerodynamics and new possible fuels.
Heating and cooling systems engineers work to create and maintain environmental systems wherever temperatures and humidity must be kept within certain limits. They develop such systems for airplanes, trains, cars, schools, and even computer rooms.
Robotic engineers plan, build, and maintain robots. These engineers plan how robots will use sensors for detecting things based on light or smell, and they design how these sensors will fit into the designs of the robots.
Mechanical engineers generally work in offices. They may occasionally visit worksites where a problem or piece of equipment needs their personal attention. In most settings, they work with other engineers, engineering technicians, and other professionals as part of a team.
How to become a Mechanical Engineer
Mechanical engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering or mechanical engineering technology. Mechanical engineers who sell services publicly must be licensed in all states and the District of Columbia.
Mechanical engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering or mechanical engineering technology. Mechanical engineering programs usually include courses in mathematics and life and physical sciences, as well as engineering and design. Mechanical engineering technology programs focus less on theory and more on the practical application of engineering principles. They may emphasize internships and co-ops to prepare students for work in industry.
Some colleges and universities offer 5-year programs that allow students to obtain both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. Some 5-year or even 6-year cooperative plans combine classroom study with practical work, enabling students to gain valuable experience and earn money to finance part of their education.
ABET accredits programs in engineering and engineering technology. Most employers prefer to hire students from an accredited program. A degree from an ABET-accredited program is usually necessary to become a licensed professional engineer.
The median annual wage for mechanical engineers was $88,430 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $57,130, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $138,020.
Employment of mechanical engineers is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Mechanical engineers can work in many industries and on many types of projects. As a result, their growth rate will differ by the industries that employ them.
Similar Job Titles
Application Engineer, Design Engineer, Design Maintenance Engineer, Equipment Engineer, Mechanical Design Engineer, Mechanical Engineer, Process Engineer, Product Engineer, Project Engineer, Test Engineer
Aerospace Engineer, Electrical Engineer, Electronics Engineer (except Computer), Photonics Engineer, Manufacturing Engineering Technologist
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- ASHRAE - The mission of this organization is to serve humanity by advancing the arts and sciences of heating, ventilation, air conditioning, refrigeration and their allied fields.
- SAE International - SAE International is a global association of more than 128,000 engineers and related technical experts in the aerospace, automotive and commercial-vehicle industries. Their core competencies are life-long learning and voluntary consensus standards development.
- Society of Women Engineers - This organization’s mission is to empower women to achieve full potential in careers as engineers and leaders, expand the image of the engineering and technology professions as a positive force in improving the quality of life, and demonstrate the value of diversity and inclusion. A long list of available scholarships is provided. As well, students, checkout the Youth Programs section of the website.
- The American Society of Mechanical Engineers - ASME is a not-for-profit membership organization that enables collaboration, knowledge sharing, career enrichment, and skills development across all engineering disciplines, toward a goal of helping the global engineering community develop solutions to benefit lives and livelihoods.
Magazines and Publications
Tinkering on a computer, at a drafting table, or in an office late at night, mechanical engineers pull modern marvels out of their imagination and into the world. Mechanical engineers design devices such as generators, engines, thermal sensors, and tools. Most projects start with an analysis of a problem to determine how a device might solve it. They make prototypes of their designs, and work with teams to build and improve them. Mechanical engineers design air conditioning systems, elevators, and the automated conveyors we see in stores, or that factories use to keep things moving. They are experts at making machines efficient, and integrating all the parts into a smoothly functioning whole. Some mechanical engineers specialize, such as fuel cell engineers, who focus on developing fuel cells that generate electricity from hydrogen, and automotive engineers who improve features of cars, such as suspension or temperature controls. Math, computer, and analytical skills are essential for mechanical engineers. Often team leaders, they must be effective listeners and collaborators as well. Positions are typically available in engineering companies, manufacturing, and in research and development departments for a variety of organizations. Mechanical engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering or mechanical engineering technology.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org