Mechanical Engineer

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Mechanical Engineer


Many essential mechanical entities in our lives including machines, boats, energy conservation systems and heat mechanisms that we take for granted are the products of mechanical engineering. For example, nuclear power plants, which provide people with electricity, require the expertise of a mechanical engineer. Mechanical engineers research, develop, design, manufacture and test tools, engines, machines, and other mechanical devices. They work on power-producing machines such as electricity generators, internal combustion engines, steam and gas turbines and jet and rocket engines.

They also develop power-using machines such as ventilation, refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment, robots used in manufacturing, machine tools, materials handling systems, and industrial production equipment. Mechanical engineers design tools needed by other engineers for their work. Some are considered true inventors of new machines and gadgets -- Alexander Graham Bells or Orville Wrights of the modern age. If it were not for mechanical engineers, our world would have no mechanical structures or systems.

Most mechanical engineers specialize in a particular area once they become established. Specialty areas such as nuclear power, machines, automotive and heating are a few different options. Nevertheless, all specialized mechanical engineers perform similar duties in one of three general areas: research, design or testing. Researchers formulate theories using mathematical and scientific projections and determining whether or not a plan will work. Designers take research products and put them into practice, trying to manufacture them. Testers literally test the products for safety and quality before they hit the marketplace. In smaller, independent engineering firms, mechanical engineers may do all three of these tasks both producing and creating.

Mechanical engineers meet with manufacturers, lawyers and clients and make sure that design plans are safe and will withstand a number of conditional variables. Safety is one of the most important issues that mechanical engineers must contend with, especially when it comes to nuclear plants and potential hazardous emissions. They create engineering plans on computers which test and predict possible errors and problems with a mechanism and in this, they generate workable solutions. Although most work takes place on the computer, many mechanical engineers travel to factories or plants to see their work in progress.

Mechanical engineers use traditional and high-tech tools, such as computer-aided design (CAD) systems to create realistic geometric models of objects which can simulate and analyze the effects and potential problems of designs such as machine malfunction and breakdown. CAD models are eliminating the need for hand drawn models. They research and evaluate each project to find the most cost-effective solutions to problems while still maintaining recognized standards. They are required to constantly update their skills and knowledge in order to keep up with technological advancements in this quickly changing field.
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  Interests and Skills  
Mechanical engineers should have a natural affinity for mechanics, mathematics and electronics. Since imprecise calculations could cause major disasters and expensive mistakes, they must be 100 percent accurate in their calculations. Their jobs are extremely technical therefore they should be organized and methodical in their working habits. They must be good problem solvers and be able to come up with innovative and creative solutions to potential problems and design work.

They must also have strong communication skills. Mechanical engineers constantly deal with people from both sides of the professional spectrum therefore they must be able to communicate ideas and give orders in a clear, concise fashion.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Research, design and develop machinery and systems for heating, ventilating and air-conditioning, power generation, transportation, processing and manufacturing
  • Prepare material, cost and timing estimates, reports and design specifications for machinery and systems
  • Design power plants, machines, components, tools, fixtures and equipment
  • Prepare plans and drawings of machines or machine parts
  • Study the energy, environmental and safety aspects of the planned work
  • Supervise and inspect the installation, modification and commissioning of mechanical systems at construction sites or in industrial facilities
  • Investigate mechanical failures or unexpected maintenance problems
  • Supervise technicians, technologists and other engineers and review and approve designs, calculations and cost estimates
  • Work closely with civil, electrical, aerospace, chemical, industrial and other engineers, resulting in job mobility between some fields of specialization in these disciplines
  • Work with professionals from other occupational fields, gaining knowledge and skills
  • The typical workday for a mechanical engineer will vary depending on the project they are working on. An average workweek will run anywhere between 40 and 55 hours, yet longer hours may be required when deadlines must be met and due to other emergency circumstances (for example if a machine breaks down). Most mechanical engineers work in large manufacturing companies or for engineering firms. They do spend a great deal of time in an office behind a desk using a computer, yet also travel to factories and plants and conduct outdoor fieldwork at various sites.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Mechanical engineers work in many different positions in both the public and private sectors. Some work for engineering consulting firms, power generating utilities and a wide range of manufacturing, processing and transportation industries, government agencies and universities and colleges. Many mechanical engineers are self-employed. There are also options in related fields such as natural resources, pharmaceuticals and computer industries.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Mechanical engineers can advance to supervisory and senior management positions within their companies. Some may decide to open up their own businesses or engineering companies. Many engineering experts say that mechanical engineers could work as salespeople in mechanical companies since they already have strong technical backgrounds. There are many environmental issues that will keep mechanical engineers on their toes, to ensure that their products are not harming the environment. For example, cars in many areas require emissions tests, therefore new fueling ideas could be researched.

Those with master's and PhDs in mechanical engineering can always teach at the university or college level and share their experience and knowledge with students.

  Educational Paths  
While still in high school, if this is the career path you are interested in taking, make sure you take courses in mathematics and physics. Most university programs will require these subject areas as prerequisites.

Mechanical engineers require a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering or in a related engineering field. Then, they must also become registered as a professional engineer (PEng) within an association of professional engineers to secure employment and practice in their field. Some engineers also get master's degrees in a specific area, such as marine engineering.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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  • Industrial Maintenance and Automated Technology

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