Mechanical engineers use powerful computer-aided engineering software programs. Mechanical engineers design things like robotics, factory automation systems and machines of all types. In eras past, engineers spent their days with pencils, erasers and drafting boards. In the information age, engineers get the job done faster and more efficiently using computer-aided design software programs and plotters. Simply put, information technology provides mechanical engineers with the tools they need to do their jobs.
First-generation computer-aided drafting software programs have evolved into the computer-aided design CAD programs of today. CAD software programs are graphics-rich to allow engineers the ability to create three-dimensional models of their designs. These programs also perform complex calculations, helping engineers to create detailed specifications.
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As designs are completed, data associated with components identified populate the CAD program's database functionality, allowing the engineer to automate the building of a parts list. While CAD software creates designs, other computer-aided engineering CAE software programs allow engineers to analyze the designs and solve problems.
Mechanical engineers use CAE programs to determine conditions under which their designs can be expected to function properly, along with tolerance levels that introduce risk of product failure if exceeded. CAE programs are also used to run simulations of designs in action. If the engineer is designing a robotic arm, the CAE program can show how that arm will move in operation.
The designs created by mechanical engineers result in a lot of documentation, such as product drawings, bills of materials, design specifications and testing procedures. An efficient document management software program controls revisions of these documents, making sure obsolete versions are archived and only the latest authorized levels are released to production or accessed for decision-making or further design work. Document management software programs also control user access, requiring users to enter proper security credentials before gaining access to confidential documents and intellectual property.
They develop such systems for airplanes, trains, cars, schools, and even computer rooms. Robotic engineers plan, build, and maintain robots. These engineers plan how robots will use sensors for detecting things based on light or smell, and they design how these sensors will fit into the designs of the robots. Mechanical engineers held about , jobs in The largest employers of mechanical engineers were as follows:. In most settings, they work with other engineers, engineering technicians, and other professionals as part of a team.
Mechanical engineers who sell services publicly must be licensed in all states and the District of Columbia. Mechanical engineering programs usually include courses in mathematics and life and physical sciences, as well as engineering and design. 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 industry. Some 5-year or even 6-year cooperative plans combine classroom study with practical work, enabling students to gain valuable experience and earn money to finance part of their education.
ABET accredits programs in engineering and engineering technology. Most employers prefer to hire students from an accredited program. A degree from an ABET-accredited program is usually necessary to become a licensed professional engineer. Mechanical engineers design and build complex pieces of equipment and machinery. A creative mind is essential for this kind of work. Listening skills.
Mechanical engineers often work on projects with others, such as architects and computer scientists.
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They must listen to and analyze different approaches made by other experts to complete the task at hand. Math skills. Mechanical engineers use the principles of calculus, statistics, and other advanced subjects in math for analysis, design, and troubleshooting in their work. Mechanical skills. Mechanical skills allow engineers to apply basic engineering concepts and mechanical processes to the design of new devices and systems.
Problem-solving skills. Mechanical engineers need good problem-solving skills to take scientific principles and discoveries and use them to design and build useful products. Licensure is not required for entry-level positions as a mechanical engineer. Licensed engineers are called professional engineers PEs. A PE can oversee the work of other engineers, sign off on projects, and provide services directly to the public. State licensure generally requires. Several states require engineers to take continuing education to renew their licenses every year. Several professional organizations offer a variety of certification programs for engineers to demonstrate competency in specific fields of mechanical engineering.
During high school students can attend engineering summer camps to see what these and other engineers do. Attending these camps can help students plan their coursework for the remainder of their time in high school. Mechanical engineers may earn graduate degrees in engineering or business administration to learn new technology, broaden their education, and enhance their project management skills. Mechanical engineers may become administrators or managers after gaining work experience.
Note: All Occupations includes all occupations in the U. Source: U. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less.
In May , the median annual wages for mechanical engineers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program. Employment of mechanical engineers is projected to grow 4 percent from to , about as fast as the average for all occupations. Mechanical engineers can work in many industries and on many types of projects. As a result, their growth rate will differ by the industries that employ them. Mechanical engineers are projected to experience faster than average growth in engineering services as companies continue to contract work from these firms.
Mechanical engineers will also remain involved in various manufacturing industries, particularly in automotive manufacturing. These engineers will play key roles in improving the range and performance of hybrid and electric cars. However, employment declines in some manufacturing industries will temper overall employment growth of mechanical engineers. Prospects for mechanical engineers overall are expected to be good. They will be best for those with training in the latest software tools, particularly for computational design and simulation.
Such tools allow engineers and designers to take a project from the conceptual phase directly to a finished product, eliminating the need for prototypes.
Mechanical engineering students who can learn to create virtual simulations before proceeding to the design, build, and test stages might find themselves in high demand by companies because these skills will allow firms to reduce product development cycles. Engineers who have experience or training in three-dimensional printing also will have better job prospects. The Occupational Employment Statistics OES program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas.
The link s below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area. All state projections data are available at www. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state.
CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code. This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of mechanical engineers.
Drafters use software to convert the designs of engineers and architects into technical drawings. Materials engineers develop, process, and test materials used to create a wide range of products. Mathematicians and statisticians analyze data and apply mathematical and statistical techniques to help solve problems. Mechanical engineering technicians help mechanical engineers design, develop, test, and manufacture mechanical devices.
Natural sciences managers supervise the work of scientists, including chemists, physicists, and biologists.
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Nuclear engineers research and develop the processes, instruments, and systems used to derive benefits from nuclear energy and radiation. For more information about general engineering education and mechanical engineering career resources, visit. American Society of Mechanical Engineers. American Society for Engineering Education. Technology Student Association. Engineering Education Service Center. National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying.