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What Do Mechanical Engineers Do?

Updated: December 26, 2023 | Published: April 11, 2021

Updated: December 26, 2023

Published: April 11, 2021

What Do Mechanical Engineers Do

Mechanical engineering is one of the oldest and most diverse types of engineering. Mechanical engineers study how systems and objects work in motion, which means it consists of everything from designing tools for the human body to manufacturing parts for airplanes to take flight. Any industry you can think of will likely have a position that calls for a mechanical engineer, so when you ask the question, “What do mechanical engineers do?” you can expect a wide range of answers.

We’ll break down everything you need to know about what it takes to become a mechanical engineer, where they work, and some common job titles.

Mechanical engineer working on microscopic parts

What is a Mechanical Engineer?

The field of mechanical engineering took shape as a field of study during the 18th century because of the Industrial Revolution. Naturally, it’s been around within civilizations even earlier. And, as technology progresses, the need and duties of a mechanical engineer continues to expand.

Mechanical engineers are responsible for designing, testing, building and creating products, devices, engines, tools, and machines. Some examples of what mechanical engineers develop include: fuel cells, printers, turbines, robots, and machine tools.

What Do Mechanical Engineers Do?

Mechanical engineers apply their knowledge of mechanics, thermodynamics, structural analysis, and electricity to design and develop parts, tools, and systems. They are tasked with analyzing problems to find solutions, designing mechanical devices, overseeing manufacturing, developing prototypes, and creating blueprints.

The job description of a mechanical engineer will vary according to industry and business objectives.

Where Do Mechanical Engineers Work?

For the most part, mechanical engineers will work in an office and/or lab setting. Depending on their role, they may be required to visit job sites. Today, you can find mechanical engineers working within the automotive, biotechnology, computer, automation, manufacturing and aerospace industries, to name a few.

Common Mechanical Engineering Job Titles

Mechanical engineers work across industries and sectors, so the job titles for mechanical engineers are diverse. Some common mechanical engineering jobs include:

Aerospace Engineer

Within aerospace, mechanical engineers design, test, and build parts for planes. They may be charged with creating fuselage, power plants, landing gears, and wings. A mechanical engineer entering the industry of aerospace will learn about internal combustion engines, fluid mechanics, machine design, and more.

Automotive Research Engineer

An automotive research engineer has a goal to maximize an automobile’s performance. They’ll look for ways to do so by sprucing up components such as the suspension or perhaps even trying alternative fuel options. They work on cars, buses, trucks, motorcycles, and off-road vehicles.

CAD Technician

A computer aided design (CAD) technician works on software to aid the design of products and systems. CAD technicians can either work on 2D or 3D models.

Maintenance Engineer

Like the name implies, a maintenance engineer works to repair and service machinery, systems, equipment, and infrastructure. They make sure that equipment runs as it should. Sometimes, they perform routine checkups, and other times, they have to resolve issues.

Nuclear Engineer

Nuclear engineers research and develop instruments and systems to reap the benefits of nuclear energy and radiation. One example of where the energy has beneficial usages is within medical care for diagnosis and treatment interventions.

What Education Do I Need?

To become a mechanical engineer, it is required to have at least a bachelor’s degree in the field. This degree takes either four or five years to complete and culminates in a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering (B.M.E) degree. This is the case for even entry-level positions.

However, if you want to work as a mechanical drafter, then a two-year or pre-engineering degree is acceptable.

It’s likely that employers of mechanical engineers will want to hire someone who has graduated with a degree accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).

For any mechanical engineer who wishes to offer services straight to customers within America, there is a required state license. Those who wish to become Professional Engineers (PE) will have to obtain a bachelor’s degree, pass an exam, work four years, and then take another exam to qualify.

Skills for Your CV

As you can probably pick up from the array of fields in which mechanical engineers work, there are a variety of skills that bode well for the career path. Some common characteristics and skills for someone wishing to become a mechanical engineer to possess include:

  • Problem-solving abilities
  • Computer literate
  • Excellent analytical skills
  • Careful attention to detail
  • Ability to exercise good judgment
  • Strong communication skills
  • Business acumen

Job Outlook and Salary Expectations

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the field of mechanical engineering is expected to grow at an average rate of 4% between 2019 and 2029. The median pay per year for a mechanical engineer is roughly $88,430, which equates to about $42.51 an hour.

mechanical engineer designing a robot

The Bottom Line

If you enjoy the combination of math, technology, science, business, and management, then mechanical engineering could offer an engaging career path. The discipline is found across industries as mechanical engineers design, test, and develop parts, systems, and equipment. For this reason and more, it is often even listed as one of the best degrees you can get!

As you can see from the long list of options, the response to “what do mechanical engineers do?” will fully depend on the job title and industry in which one works.