If you decide to become a mechanical engineer, you’ll be joining a field dominated by men, as are most engineering professions. As of 2013, the American Society of Mechanical Engineering states that men comprise 92 percent of the mechanical engineers. However, about 18 percent of the first-year students in the discipline are women. To fill mechanical engineering jobs, companies are actively recruiting people like you.
Mechanical engineers are involved in every aspect of producing machines that range from small tools to automobile engines. They research problems by collecting data and meeting with managers, customers and manufacturing staff. They then develop equipment to solve those problems by creating prototypes. These initial models require extensive testing and modification before they are approved for final production. Mechanical engineers oversee manufacturing, installation, maintenance and repair of their creations.
As of 2010, the biggest employers of mechanical engineers were architectural, engineering and related services, and scientific and engineering research and development. These organizations receive consulting jobs from companies wanting to cut costs by outsourcing mechanical engineering tasks. Other big employers were manufacturers of control and navigational instruments, aerospace products and parts productions, and automobile parts manufacturers. In fact, mechanical engineers can work in almost any industry because their tasks involve any type of machine. Most work full-time jobs, but when deadlines approach, schedules can last up to 60 or more hours a week.
Computers form primary tools for the field. You use them to come up with initial designs, produce virtual versions, simulate testing and to generate specifications and materials. What used to take weeks for prototype creation and modification, now takes hours. In addition, drafters use digital software to convert your concepts into concrete specifications and plans that factories use to produce your creations. During manufacturing, hardware and software automatically control production and monitor quality.
To become a mechanical engineer, you need at least a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. Such courses of study typically last four years and include such subjects as engineering, design, mathematics, and physical and life sciences. Many programs include internships to provide students with hands-on experience. To move into management positions, you usually need a master’s degree. Some universities boast five-year programs that combine the bachelor’s and master’s degrees. If you offer services directly to the public, you also need a professional engineer’s license. This mandates an accredited degree, related work experience and passing a two-stage exam.
Aurelio Locsin has been writing professionally since 1982. He published his first book in 1996 and is a frequent contributor to many online publications, specializing in consumer, business and technical topics. Locsin holds a Bachelor of Arts in scientific and technical communications from the University of Washington.