Mechanical engineers work with mechanical devices to research, design and test such products as tools, engines and machines. Mechanical engineers specialize in machines that produce power, including generators, combustion engines and steam or gas turbines. Jobs in mechanical engineering may also involve working with power-using machines such as refrigerators, air conditioners, elevators, escalators and robots. One focus of mechanical engineering is the creation of tools that other types of engineers use on the job.
Mechanical engineering jobs are varied across industries, and most engineers have a focus or specialization. This can include energy systems, auto mechanics, manufacturing, plant engineering, piping, heating, refrigerating or agriculture. Mechanical engineer jobs are diverse; the field is one of the broadest career paths available. Within a company or branch of engineering, a mechanical engineer can work in sales, technical work, administration, management and production operation.
The majority of jobs in mechanical engineering are in manufacturing. This includes machinery, transportation, electronics and fabricated metal. Most other mechanical engineer jobs are in the architectural or government sectors. While mechanical engineering employment is declining overall, jobs in the manufacturing industry are expected to be in high demand because of an ever-increasing need for automotive machinery, tools and processes. A mechanical engineering degree can often be applied to more than one aspect of the industry, so these engineers can be very versatile in the workforce.
Jobs in mechanical engineering become more specialized with the higher the education level the engineer has received. While many engineers only receive bachelor’s degrees, master’s and doctorates are available, and an online mechanical engineering degree can also be granted. Mechanical engineering classes will explore such subjects as statistics, dynamics, kinematics, fluid mechanics, manufacturing, machine design, heat transfer, lab methods, electrical circuits, vibrations and the economics of engineering. Areas such as biotechnology, nanotechnology and materials science are creating more of a niche for mechanical engineers, and the use of computers on the job is making the industry more technologically in tune with the rest of the world.
A successful mechanical engineer will possess an essential problem-solving nature, creativity, the ability to come to a conclusion or understanding through hands-on interaction, leadership, conflict resolution skills and management abilities. Jobs in mechanical engineering will require the engineer to analyze, present, report, test, measure, interpret data, research, consult and conduct sales. Mechanical engineers should feel comfortable working both independently and with a team, as most jobs require a little of both.