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Mechanical Engineering Career

Career Description

Mechanical Engineers perform engineering duties in planning and designing tools, engines, machines, and other mechanically functioning equipment. Oversee installation, operation, maintenance, and repair of such equipment as centralized heat, gas, water, and steam systems.

Common Work Tasks

  • Research, design, develop, manufacture, and test tools, engines, machines, and other mechanical devices
  • Work on power-producing machines such as electric generators, internal combustion engines, and steam and gas turbines
  • Work on power-using machines such as refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment, machine tools, material handling systems, elevators and escalators, industrial production equipment, and robots used in manufacturing
  • Design tools that other engineers need for their work
  • Read and interpret blueprints, technical drawings, schematics, and computer-generated reports
  • Confer with engineers and other personnel to implement operating procedures, resolve system malfunctions, and provide technical information
  • Research and analyze customer design proposals, specifications, manuals, and other data to evaluate the feasibility, cost, and maintenance requirements of designs or applications
  • Specify system components or direct modification of products to ensure conformance with engineering design and performance specifications
  • Research, design, evaluate, install, operate, and maintain mechanical products, equipment, systems and processes to meet requirements, applying knowledge of engineering principles

Other Job Titles

Mechanical Engineers are also known by other titles, including:

  • Materials Engineers
  • Industrial Engineers
  • Civil Engineers
  • Electrical Engineers

Education, Training, and Experience

Education and Training
A bachelor’s degree in engineering is required for almost all entry-level engineering jobs. College graduates with a degree in a natural science or mathematics occasionally may qualify for some engineering jobs, especially in specialties in high demand.

Most engineering programs involve a concentration of study in an engineering specialty, along with courses in both mathematics and the physical and life sciences. Many programs also include courses in general engineering. A design course, sometimes accompanied by a computer or laboratory class or both, is part of the curriculum of most programs. General courses not directly related to engineering, such as those in the social sciences or humanities, are also often required.

Graduate training is essential for engineering faculty positions and many research and development programs, but is not required for the majority of entry-level engineering jobs. Many experienced engineers obtain graduate degrees in engineering or business administration to learn new technology and broaden their education. Many high-level executives in government and industry began their careers as engineers.

Certification and Licensure
All 50 States and the District of Columbia require licensure for engineers who offer their services directly to the public. Engineers who are licensed are called professional engineers (PE). This licensure generally requires a degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program, 4 years of relevant work experience, and successful completion of a State examination. Recent graduates can start the licensing process by taking the examination in two stages. The initial Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) examination can be taken upon graduation. Engineers who pass this examination commonly are called engineers in training (EIT) or engineer interns (EI). After acquiring suitable work experience, EITs can take the second examination, the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam. Several States have imposed mandatory continuing education requirements for re-licensure. Most States recognize licensure from other States, provided that the manner in which the initial license was obtained meets or exceeds their own licensure requirements. Many mechanical, mechanical, mechanical, and mechanical engineers are licensed PEs. Independent of licensure, various certification programs are offered by professional organizations to demonstrate competency in specific fields of engineering.

Experience
  Engineers should be creative, inquisitive, analytical, and detail oriented. They should be able to work as part of a team and to communicate well, both orally and in writing. Communication abilities are becoming increasingly important as engineers frequently interact with specialists in a wide range of fields outside engineering.

Salary

The median annual salary for a mechanical engineer is $72,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $108,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $46,000. Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of mechanical engineers are:

  • Architectural, Engineering, and Related Services - $78,620
  • Navigational, Measuring, Electromedical, and Control Instruments Manufacturing - $79,790
  • Scientific Research and Development Services - $86,480
  • Federal Executive Branch  - $84,720
  • Motor Vehicle Parts Manufacturing  - $72,440

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  4%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 9,400
  • Employment 2006 : 226,000
  • Employment 2016:  235,000
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