Is Mechanical Engineering a good career? What do they exactly do? You probably think they are those people who walk around with wrenches and can fix your cars. Well, that’s car mechanics you’re thinking of, not mechanical engineers. Here we will discuss 5 common misconceptions about mechanical engineering career path.
While it is true that a lot of mechanical engineers deal with automotive design and manufacturing, in reality, they perform so many other duties and work in so many different industries. One of the most common career path of mechanical engineering aspirant is a product designer. As product designers, mechanical engineers develop a wide range of products from wind turbines and rockets to robots and home appliances, depending on the industries they work in. Designing those products would involve tasks such as creating 3D computer models and technical drawings, and performing various testing and analyses. Apart from product designers, mechanical engineers can also work as manufacturing engineers, sales engineers, and many more. They work in diverse industries. Aerospace, energy, construction, and pharmaceutical are just a few examples.
Mechanical engineering is one of the broadest engineering disciplines. It deals with the applications of various engineering principles to design, analyze, and build mechanical and thermal systems. It has a wide-ranging curriculum, which is the reason why its graduates have the flexibility to work in different kinds of industries. The core courses usually cover basic mechanics, thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, systems & controls, heat & mass transfer, engineering design, and materials science. Apart from those, the students are also expected to learn advanced mathematics, and oral & written communication. Depending on the universities, there might be other courses that students are required to take. And no, they are not typically required to take courses on car repairs.
According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for mechanical engineers in the US in 2018 was $87,370/year, which is equivalent to $42/hour. The same bureau projected mechanical engineering will experience 9% employment growth rate from 2016 to 2026, which is slightly faster than the average growth rate for all occupations of 7%. This figure places mechanical engineering among the fastest growing engineering occupations. However, salary-wise, it is far from the highest-paying engineering career. Do you know which engineers get paid the most? It’s petroleum engineers with $137,000 annual salary.
Mechanical engineers like taking things apart to learn how the components inside work, then putting them back together. In fact, in a survey conducted by The American Society of Mechanical Engineers, when mechanical engineers were asked what they love most about being mechanical engineers, 32% of the participants responded with “learning how things work and making them work better”. However, this doesn’t mean they work in labs or manufacturing plants all the time. In fact, they spend a significant portion of their time sitting in front of computers. So, besides writing emails and reports, what else do they do on computers?
Mechanical engineers often need to utilize various software in order to complete their projects. One of the most common software they use is 3D Design software, which is usually called CAD software, short for Computer-Aided Design. This kind of software enables its users to create 3D computer models and technical drawings of those models. There are a lot of CAD software out there - CATIA, SolidWorks, and Creo to name a few. Mechanical engineers also frequently use analysis & simulation software, such as MATLAB and ANSYS. Some mechanical engineers might even be required to do programming, so they would employ programming languages, such as Python and C.
Mechanical engineering jobs involve solving complex problems on a daily basis. While technical skills, such as understanding of engineering designs and machining processes, are definitely crucial, strong analytical skills are also essential to solve those problems. Communication is another important skill for mechanical engineers, as they often give presentations or write technical documentation, such as test reports and technical work instructions. They also work in teams a lot of times. Therefore, they need to be able to work with people from various backgrounds. Lastly, creativity is another skill which mechanical engineers should have, as their jobs often involve designing products, which requires a lot of creativity.