Understanding how and why machines work is not necessarily intuitive. Some devices that seem simple at first glance, such as conveyor belts, actually rely on complex technology and precise manual work.
A mechanical engineering degree teaches someone how to build devices with moving parts, ranging from small objects like watches to huge vehicles like space shuttles. Robot building teams often include mechanical engineers, and medical device manufacturing also involves mechanical engineering.
“It’s really hard to think of anything that exists in the world that a mechanical engineer wasn’t involved in the design,” says Robert Hurlston, chief engineer and co-founder of Fidelis Engineering Associates, a Michigan-based engineering consultancy. .
Hurlston, who has a doctorate in nuclear engineering, says the distinction between mechanical engineering and other fields of engineering is that it tends to focus on moving objects like cars and airplanes as opposed to stationary objects such as bridges and buildings.
Eric Johnson, chief innovation officer at Bright Machines – a company that designs technologies for the manufacturing industry – says mechanical engineering has long been out of fashion due to the emphasis on other areas of engineering like software engineering and electrical engineering. But he suggests it’s now “cool again”.
Johnson notes that powerful emerging technologies such as solar panels, electric cars and reusable rockets could not be designed and produced without the work of mechanical engineers.
Allen Robinson, head of the mechanical engineering department at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, notes that “the emergence of data science” has increased the number and variety of employment options for mechanical engineers. They can now combine “machine learning” with engineering to solve a wide range of daunting technical problems, “from water desalination to gene expression,” says Robinson, PhD in Mechanical Engineering. .
Here is an overview of the many career options for someone who obtains a degree in mechanical engineering.
Jobs for graduates in mechanical engineering
The problem-solving approach and clear communication style that mechanical engineering students learn are valuable skills, Johnson says, noting that mechanical engineers are generally excellent at analyzing and explaining complex problems.
Because of their ability to understand and clarify difficult concepts and identify solutions to challenges, mechanical engineers are often recruited by management consulting firms, Johnson explains. Mechanical engineers can also become outstanding project managers or business leaders, he explains.
Joe Heaney, president of Lotus Biosecurity – a company that develops sanitation technology solutions for companies operating amid the coronavirus pandemic – notes that people with mechanical engineering degrees are well suited for technical sales positions that involve explain and customize a technology company’s products. for potential customers.
Mechanical engineers are also involved in research and development in many science labs, according to Heaney, who received her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
“Traditionally, mechanical engineering graduates have often gone into manufacturing, helping to design many of the products and household appliances that we use on a daily basis,” Bala Balachandran, chairman of the mechanical engineering department of the A. James Clark school of the ‘University of Maryland. of Engineering, wrote in an email.
“With the emergence of advanced technologies, the door is now open for mechanical engineers to get involved in nanotechnology – for example, in the design of drugs and devices that operate on a very small scale,” says Balachandran, PhD in Mechanical Engineering.
Marie Buharin, head of recruiting in the medical device industry, says she regularly hires mechanical engineers.
“We hire a lot of mechanical engineers in the medical device industry,” says Buharin, who is also the founder of Modernesse, a website that provides career development advice. “It is one of the most commonly found majors among many departments within medical device companies.”
Lt. Col. Robert Rabb, department head and assistant dean for evaluation at The Citadel – a military college in South Carolina – describes mechanical engineering as “one of the broadest engineering disciplines.”
Rabb – who holds bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees in mechanical engineering – notes that mechanical engineers can work on ambitious government construction projects and often quickly progress to project leadership roles.
Mechanical engineers usually work with their hands, says Rabb. “Mechanical engineers are not at their desks all the time. We have to design, develop, build and test. It forces us to see and touch something other than a computer.
These are a few examples of jobs where a mechanical engineering degree is valuable, according to experts.
- Aerospace engineer.
- Automotive engineer.
- A biomedical engineer.
- Company manager.
- Building engineer.
- Intellectual property lawyer.
- Manufacturing engineer.
- Management consultant.
- Mechanical engineer.
- Patent lawyer.
- Production engineer.
- Project Manager.
- Project Manager.
- Petroleum engineer.
- Process engineer.
- Product designer.
- Quality Engineer.
- Sales Engineer.
- Structural engineer.
- Technology specialist.
- Thermal engineer.
Job prospects in mechanical engineering
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary of American mechanical engineers in May 2019 was $ 88,430. It is possible to enter the profession with only a bachelor’s degree.
Someone who is considering a mechanical engineering background but doesn’t feel ready for college may want to pursue an industrial apprenticeship in a trade, says Brian Keating, director of the Joint Apprenticeship & Training Fund for Local 355 of the United Service Workers Union in New York.
Keating notes that alumni of building trades apprenticeship programs sometimes become mechanical engineers.
Experts note that it is often advantageous for mechanical engineers to take additional training in computer science or business, but also suggest that such additional training is optional.
“A degree in mechanical engineering provides the individual with a real Swiss Army knife of skill,” wrote Keith F. Noe, partner of Lando & Anastasi, LLP, a Boston-based intellectual property law firm.
Noe, who holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, says the skills learned through a degree in this field are applicable to a wide range of industries and assignments.
“A mechanical engineer has the opportunity to work in the automotive, heating and air conditioning, manufacturing, and aerospace industries, to name a few,” he explains. . “Projects can be revolutionary or scalable.”
Some mechanical engineering projects involve the design of new products while others focus on reducing costs, improving quality, or both.
“To use a sporting analogy, a mechanical engineer is the utility player in the engineering world,” Tony Sanger, senior vice president of multinational consulting firm Turner & Townsend, wrote in an email. “The opportunities are endless.”