This is a mechanized world that we live in. From automobiles to airplanes to home appliances, machines that help us live better, work smarter and play harder are everywhere we turn. Mechanical engineers are the people who dream up these modern day marvels that have helped human civilization survive and thrive in the 21st century.
At the basic level a mechanical engineer is the person who designs machines that produce and use energy, such as a nuclear reactor and an air conditioner. Specific duties include researching and analyzing design proposals, specifications and other data needed for evaluating the feasibility of a particular design. They also oversee installation, operation and maintenance of mechanical structures. Some engineers also design mechanical products for specific industries or companies.
Most mechanical engineers specialize. Some concentrate on a particular area of engineering. For example, an engineer might focus on building airplane engines while another might design home appliance units. Others may work in a specific industry like plastics. Still others get into fluid power or bioengineering. The job further breaks down into specific jobs with some engineers supervising installation and production while others teach or have a hand in research and development.
A mechanical engineer must use their critical thinking skills to solve complex problems. They must be able to listen, evaluate input and communicate effectively with others. People in this career need to have a solid understanding of mechanics, kinematics, thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, heat transfer, material science, and energy. Mechanical engineers should also understand basic chemistry, electrical engineering, civil engineering and physics as well as have experience with computer-aided design or computer-aided engineering.
A minimum of a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering is required to enter this field. Many go on to receive their master’s degrees in Engineering, Technology, Science or Engineering Management as well as a Doctorate of Philosophy. In the United States, mechanical engineers are required to become licensed in order to obtain the status of Professional Engineer. This requires them to pass a comprehensive Fundamentals of Engineering exam, work as an engineering intern and then pass the Practicing/Professional Engineer exams.
The workplace conditions of a mechanical engineer vary from job to job. Some people work in office buildings while others work on dusty construction sites or in factories. You can expect to work a normal forty hour week unless a deadline is approaching. Then some overtime may be required. Most people start out as assistants and work their way up the ladder to become supervisors, managers or executives. While the majority of mechanical engineers are male, more and more women are entering the profession.
Salary is based on the level of education achieved. Those with bachelor degrees average $50,000 while those with master’s degree average $59,000. Those at the doctorate level are able to command $68,000 or more. The Department of Labor Statistics estimates that employment growth is equal to the average for all occupation and will remain good through 2014. If you like building things, then a career in mechanical engineering may be just the thing for you.