how to become a mechanical engineer

What does a Mechanical Engineer do?

A mechanical engineer tests the designs of architects. They also develop, build, and test thermal and mechanical devices such as machines, tools, and engines. Mechanical engineers oversee the maintenance, installation, and operation of equipment or it’s repair. They also estimate distances, sizes, and quantities and determine the costs, time, materials needed, and resources for a project.

How to Become a Mechanical Engineer

Mechanical engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering or mechanical engineering technology. However, some go on to earn graduate school; thus, many colleges and universities offering 5-year programs allowing students to obtain both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree at the same time. These programs usually combine coursework with practical work, enabling students to gain valuable experience and earn money to finance part of their education.

Mechanical engineering programs usually include courses in mathematics, physical sciences, as well as engineering and design. Also, many 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 the industry. When seeking a program, we encourage you to make sure that the Accreditation Board accredits the accredited school for Engineering and Technology, Inc (ABET). ABET accredits postsecondary education programs in applied and natural science, computing, engineering, and engineering technology; thus, most employers prefer to hire individuals from an accredited program. 

Licensure is also common, though not required for entry-level positions as a mechanical engineer. There are two options through ABET. A Professional Engineering (PE) license, focused on leadership and independence, usually acquired after gaining experience. Licensed engineers are called professional engineers (PEs). For those just graduating with a bachelor’s degree, the Fundamentals of Engineering (FEs) exam is also an option. Those interning while in school also have the opportunity to pass an exam and are commonly called engineers in training (EITs) or engineer interns (EIs). After meeting work experience requirements, EITs and EIs can then take the second exam, called the Principles and Practice of Engineering.

Also, many professional organizations offer a variety of certification programs for engineers to demonstrate competency in specific fields of mechanical engineering once working as well. Several states require engineers to take continuing education to renew their licenses every year. Most states recognize licensure from other states, as long as the other state’s licensing requirements meet or exceed their licensing requirements.

Benefits of a Mechanical Engineer

There are several benefits to being a Mechanical Engineer, and at the top of the list is job security due to the career’s growing demand. That equates to plenty of job opportunities. Mechanical engineers also get to be creative and innovate, so the job is never dull. Mechanical engineers are needed in many different industries and can even work in aerospace. Engineers make competitive salaries along with generous benefit packages.

Job Description of a Mechanical Engineer

A mechanical engineer, researches, installs, designs, operates, and evaluates mechanical products and equipment systems to meet the job requirements. They apply engineering principles and communicate with engineers or others to implement operating procedures, give technical information, or resolve system malfunctions. In cases of a malfunction, they would design modifications to correct the problem and recommend their solutions to the company.

Also, mechanical engineers conduct tests and research to analyze equipment or design performance, components, and operation. They interpret blueprints, schematics, technical drawings, or other reports, such as computer-generated reports. They also ensure the conformance of a product with engineering design and performance specifications.

In-depth knowledge of engineering and technology is critical to this field as well as design, computers, and electronics. The ability to solve problems through mathematics, the understanding of scientific methods, and thinking logically are vital factors as well in mechanical engineering. These skills assist in finding solutions to issues needing to be addressed. Mechanical engineers should also be comfortable with software and hardware, computer programming, and enter data entry.

Most mechanical engineers generally work full time and in an office. They occasionally have to travel to a worksite; however, they can often accomplish their work from the office. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment opportunities are excellent, especially for those specializing in computational design and simulation. Those with experience or training in three-dimensional printing will also have ample opportunities.

Article Citations

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Mechanical Engineers.

National Center for O*NET Development. 17-2141.00. O*NET OnLine.

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