Engineering can be defined as the creative application of scientific, empirical, and mathematical knowledge. This branch of science and technology is concerned with the building, design, and use of machines or engines and other structures. The field is known for its creativity and its full-on embrace of innovative thinking. However, engineering overall is a broad and diverse discipline, full of different subspecialties and areas of concentration. There are civil, chemical, petroleum, electrical, and mechanical engineers, among other types. All require unique strengths and have different emphases.

As a result of this diversity, it can be difficult to figure out what makes these specialties different, what educational and certification requirements apply and so on. That is why we’ve compiled some valuable information on one specific type of engineer here: mechanical engineers. In this article, we will discuss what differentiates these engineers from the other disciplines. We will also outline education requirements, salary considerations, and the job outlook so that you can make the most informed decision possible about entering the field.

Mechanical Engineer Job Description

As we laid out above, there are numerous specialties and subspecialties within the broad field of engineering. Mechanical engineering is one of the most flexible, wide-ranging disciplines. Mechanical engineers handle many duties but, simply put, they are responsible for studying, researching, designing, developing, and testing mechanical devices such as vehicles, engines, and tools. These duties vary greatly depending on each unique work situation. Still, mechanical engineers everywhere take and apply the principles of science, mathematics, and physics to create and maintain successful products.

Engineering Duties Involving Innovation & Design

A mechanical engineer is trained to consider the effects of work, force, center of balance, inertia, friction, and other forces. As a result, you will find mechanical engineers involved in just about any project involving a complex system of moving parts. Mechanical engineers design and manage the fabrication of various products, focusing on activities such as:

  • Designing both power-producing and power-consuming machines like electric generators and refrigerators
  • Designing machines like elevators, conveyor systems, and escalators, ensuring that all of these machines function properly and safely
  • Using computers extensively to make and break down plans, run simulations, test how a machine will likely perform and produce details for parts
  • Analyzing problems to determine how mechanical and thermal enhancements may help take care of the issue
  • Upgrading mechanical and thermal devices to apply practical analysis and computer-aided design results
  • Creating and testing prototype models of systems and products they design
  • Examining the test outcomes and designs as required
  • Regulating the manufacturing procedures for devices
  • Working individually and with team members to ensure machines and devices are functioning properly

Educational Requirements

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Most entry-level mechanical engineering jobs require a bachelor’s degree in either mechanical engineering or mechanical engineering technology. Prospective students looking to enter this field should be sure to research programs extensively to ensure that they are certified by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Most employers strongly prefer to hire students from these types of accredited programs.

Typically, mechanical engineering degree programs include comprehensive coursework in life and physical science, mathematics, engineering, and design. These programs are designed to give students insight into the field in practice and at a theoretical level. Early on, students will be taught about ways to apply engineering principles in practice to create solutions. They will also take part in design projects and other forms of hands-on learning so they will be able to grasp and apply more advanced mechanical engineering processes.

Courses of Study & Practical Experience

Most college programs are designed to last four years, but it is common for some students to take 4 to 5 years or even a bit longer to obtain their degrees. Certain colleges and universities even offer students accelerated programs through which they can earn both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree at a pre-planned pace.

Although the lengths of programs differ, most strongly emphasize internships and other practical work experience. Mechanical engineering is one of the most hands-on disciplines of all, so internships are highly valued. Students should expect to seek out and participate in these learning experiences since it is essential for a mechanical engineer to have real-world experience not just conceiving of, but also creating and testing out their designs.

Newly graduated mechanical engineers typically work under the close supervision of a more experienced engineer. As the trainee gains more confidence, skills, and experience, she will be able to handle more responsibility and more complex processes. For upper-level positions, teaching positions, and academic research positions, an advanced degree may be necessary.

Skills and Certifications

Becoming a mechanical engineer involves more than obtaining one specific certification or degree. Mechanical engineers should possess several qualities to be successful in this career field. First, they must be highly creative. Engineers use imaginative and innovative thinking to asses problems and come up with new solutions daily. They must also be great listeners with effective problem-solving skills.

Mechanical engineers often work with many people on various projects, so they must listen to others’ opinions and perspectives, using that information to create viable, effective solutions. Finally, mechanical engineers should have great mechanical and math skills because they must use engineering concepts and mathematic principles daily to design, tune, and repair complex pieces of machinery.

Most engineers, including mechanical engineers, take a test called the Fundamentals of Engineering examination in order to graduate from their programs. Those who pass this exam are considered engineer interns or engineers in training. Then, following four years of professional experience, engineers in training can take the higher-level Principles and Practice of Engineering exam to become professional engineers.

Organizations like the  American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE), and the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) offer other professional certifications for engineers to prove their abilities and competencies.

Salary and Job Outlook

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Now that we’ve examined just what a mechanical engineer does and how to become one, let’s consider salaries and opportunities associated with the field.


Compared to other specialties within engineering, mechanical engineers earn average compensation. In 2012, the average annual wage for mechanical engineers was $80,580. The lowest ten percent in this field earned  $52,030. In comparison, the top ten percent earned an average of somewhere around $120,000 annually.

Job Outlook:

Jobs in mechanical engineering are expected to increase approximately 5 percent per year from 2012 to 2022. This projection is slower than the average for all types of engineering, so those looking to enter this profession should be sure to remain current on technology and advancements in the field. As a whole, however, the prospects for this specialty are good, and those who are trained well in the latest tools and methods will find excellent job opportunities.

Prospective engineers should also keep in mind that, since mechanical engineering is such a broad and diverse field, job opportunities will vary depending on the industry one chooses to work in and the type of projects one develops. For example, mechanical engineers should see faster-than-average growth in industries such as oil-and-gas extraction.


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Engineering involves the creative application of scientific, empirical and mathematics. It is a field known for its creativity and the value placed on innovative thinking in its practice. The subspecialty of mechanical engineering is no exception to this rule.

Mechanical engineering is one of the widest-ranging, flexible disciplines within engineering, with practitioners found anywhere there are moving parts. These types of engineers are responsible for studying, researching, designing, developing, and testing devices machinery, vehicles, engines, tools, and more. These duties vary greatly depending on each unique work situation. Mechanical engineers must work both independently and as a team to ensure machines and devices function properly.

Becoming Educated to Solve Complex Mechanical Challenges

Mechanical engineers break down problems to determine how mechanical and thermal solutions may help take care of problems. They plan or upgrade mechanical gadgets using analysis and computer-aided design. Engineers create and test prototypes, examine test outcomes as required, and regulate the manufacture of devices.

To enter this field, one typically needs a bachelors degree in either mechanical engineering or mechanical engineering technology. This degree should be obtained from an institution certified by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), as most employers prefer to hire students from these types of programs.

During college, students should seek out and participate in internships to gain hands-on experience in the field before they graduate to increase job prospects. Those aspiring to become mechanical engineers should also be creative, have good listening, problem-solving, math, and mechanical skills.

Jobs in mechanical engineering are expected to rise 5 percent from 2012 to 2022. This projection is slower than the average, so those looking to enter the profession should be sure to remain up to date on technology and advancements in the field. The diversity, rewards, and job satisfaction associated with becoming a mechanical engineer is something to consider. We hope this article gave you information that will help you jump-start your career as a mechanical engineer.