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How to Become a Mechanical Engineer

We live in a heavily mechanized world. Machines and robots do quite a bit of the heavy lifting for us in our daily lives, both at home and at work. There are vital engineers who design, create, fix, and improve all the various machines and robots that make our lives easier.

Mechanical engineers are responsible for prototyping, creating, and troubleshooting equipment and machinery, alongside creating documentation for future use. By collaborating with other engineers, project managers, and equipment owners, these experts create efficient and cost-effective methods of improving departments.

As an engineer, you’ll be expected to have a strong knowledge of all mechanical engineering concepts. Excellent understanding of math and physics, alongside advanced problem-solving skills and the ability to work under deadlines, is needed. Strong interpersonal skills and effective written and verbal communication skills are a plus.

Sample job description

Mechanical engineers design, build, and test various mechanical devices, such as industrial machines, transportation systems, and robotics equipment. They analyze problems with various machinery and develop effective solutions. They use CAD technology to design and develop new products. Mechanical engineers need a strong foundation in mechanics, thermodynamics, and other mechanical engineering concepts, as well as solid math problem-solving, and critical thinking skills. [Your Company Name] is hiring an experienced mechanical engineer. If you are highly creative and have experience working on production cycles from research and design to manufacturing, installation, and evaluation, you might be a perfect fit for a role as a mechanical engineer.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Analyze problems to see how mechanical and thermal devices might help solve them
  • Design or redesign mechanical and thermal devices or subsystems, using analysis and computer-assisted design
  • Investigate equipment issues to diagnose faults and recommend solutions
  • 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
  • Train technicians in using devices

Education and experience

This position requires a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. Some employers prefer a master’s degree or Ph.D. for certain jobs or career advancement.

Required skills and qualifications

  • Analytical, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills
  • Firm grasp of engineering concepts, and experience designing mechanical systems and products
  • Advanced mathematics skills
  • Teamwork and interpersonal communication skills
  • Strong technical writing ability
  • Experience with database and spreadsheet software
  • Skill in working with engineering and computer-assisted design software
  • Demonstrated expertise in solving complex technical problems

Preferred qualifications

  • Bachelor’s in mechanical engineering or manufacturing
  • 2+ years of mechanical engineering experience
  • Knowledge of lean manufacturing and statistical problem solving

Typical work environment

Mechanical engineers typically work in offices where they work on solutions, test products, and design new products. They may visit worksites on occasion to analyze or fix a problem or piece of equipment. Mechanical engineers generally work full time during regular business hours. They may work overtime as the workload demands. 

Typical hours

The typical work hours for a mechanical engineer are from 9 AM to 5 PM. However, many mechanical engineers work longer hours to hit project deadlines or troubleshoot project issues.

Available certifications

Many institutions offer certifications to help mechanical engineers increase their skills and knowledge. Here are some of the top certifications for mechanical engineers: 

  • American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). The ASME is a leader in the global engineering community. They offer a range of certification programs for engineers that provide professional development and a solid foundation for advancing technical knowledge. Certification programs include the Boiler and Pressure Vessel Certification (BPVC), Bioprocessing Equipment Certification (BPE), Nuclear Quality Assurance (NQA-1) Certification, and Parts Fabrication (PRT) Certification. Certifications are awarded based on passing an assessment in your program of choice.
  • Fluid Power Hydraulic Specialist (CFPHS). Offered by the International Fluid Power Society, this certification is for professional engineers who design systems involving hydraulic components for mobile and industrial operating machinery. The program tests an individual’s technical skill level in fluid power and motion control technologies. Certification requires the completion of a 3-hour written test covering the functions of hydraulic components and circuits, how to select components for hydraulic systems, how to analyze and troubleshoot hydraulic systems, and electrohydraulic control systems.  

Career path

This position requires a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. Some employers prefer a master’s degree or Ph.D. for specific jobs. Several companies also need a Professional Engineer (PE) license, which requires a passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering exam, on-the-job experience, and a passing score on the Principles and Practice of Engineering Examination. Successful mechanical engineers can advance to supervising a team of engineers and receive greater independence to design and evaluate projects and processes.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 17-2140

2020 Employment299,200
Projected Employment in 2030494,400
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 7% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift20,900 increase

According to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, one major trend affecting the mechanical engineering field is the use of artificial intelligence (AI). Software companies are using AI for everything from helping mechanical engineers select materials for projects to standardizing products or performing clerical work. AI is also showing up in autonomous systems, such as self-driving cars and robotic manufacturing systems. Another change in the mechanical engineering profession is the use of interdisciplinary teams. Projects are becoming more sophisticated, so mechanical engineers now find themselves collaborating with electrical engineers, manufacturing engineers, and professionals in non-technical departments like marketing to create a more cohesive development process for products.