The field of mechanical engineering is one of the broadest areas of engineering. Mechanical engineering utilizes the principles of materials science and physics to analyze, design and create mechanical products or systems. All types of mechanical engineers have gained an understanding of structural analysis, thermodynamics, and mechanics. Most mechanical engineers have learned and use the basic principles of chemical engineering, electrical engineering, and civil engineering as well. Some of the more common specialized areas of mechanical engineering include aerospace, automotive, and biomedical engineering. Overall, mechanical engineering career opportunities are predicted to increase during the second decade of the early 21st century.
The conceptualization, design, and construction of aircraft, spacecraft and missiles are part of the field of aerospace engineering. Within aerospace engineering there are actually two separate but overlapping areas: aeronautical engineering, which involves the design and construction of aircraft that operate inside the earth's atmosphere, and astronautical engineering which involves design and construction of spacecraft that operate outside the earth's atmosphere. This part of the mechanical engineering field deals with forces and physical properties involved with aerodynamics such as lift, drag, airfoils and control surfaces. Aerospace engineers must sometimes design for severe structural loads, extreme temperatures, and atmospheric pressure levels.
Automotive engineering includes design and testing of the various parts and processes used by cars and other equipment produced by the automotive industry. Specialties in this area of engineering include exhaust systems, engines, and structural design. Some engineers in this field specialize in one or two specific areas while others may have the opportunity to work in a number of different specialized areas. The environmental issues and opportunities for advancement to senior positions indicate strong growth potential in mechanical engineering opportunities for this area of specialization.
Biomedical engineering applies the concepts of engineering together with medicine and biology to improve quality of life for many people. A relatively new source of mechanical engineering career opportunties, much of the work done in this field involves design and development of biocompatible prostheses, micro-implants, and diagnostic devices, like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and electroencephalography (EEG) equipment. Some of the sub-disciplines within the biomedical engineering field include bioinstrumentation, biomechanics, and bionics.
Salaries in these professions vary greatly,depending upon the area of specialization. Opportunities in the various fields of mechanical engineering, however, are projected to increase well into the 21st century. This projected increase is highest in mechanical engineering career opportunities in certain areas of specialization, like biomedical engineering.