It’s more important than ever to choose a degree that will be useful to you in the future with respect to job growth and career opportunities. How well does mechanical engineering fit that bill? Is there a demand for mechanical engineers well into the future? What are the benefits of studying mechanical engineering? Here are some of the basics concerning this very interesting and useful degree.
What Is Mechanical Engineering?
Mechanical engineering may be one of the most diverse disciplines there is. It deals with the research, development, design and building of machines, which we can define as anything that makes use of force, energy or motion. Car engines and even the human body itself qualify. Mechanical engineers need to be able to understand and combine principles of physics, material sciences and general engineering.
Mechanical engineers can comprehend and apply the concepts of thermodynamics, hydraulics and pneumatics, fluid mechanics, machine design, robotics, computer-aided design (CAD) and more. There is almost nothing a good mechanical engineer cannot create, given enough time, with the right tools and materials.
What Types of Jobs Can You Get With a Mechanical Engineering Degree?
As you might guess, there are rather few industry sectors that can’t make use of qualified mechanical engineers. That said, a mechanical engineering degree can set you up especially well for careers in:
- Aerospace: Designing aircraft, satellites and spacecraft.
- Automotive: Mechanical engineers design combustion systems, wheel arrangements and more. No new car design sees the light of day without the input of mechanical engineers.
- Construction: Mechanical engineers help design HVAC systems, plumbing systems, fuel line setups and more.
- Healthcare: Mechanical engineers help design and test life-saving medical devices like pacemakers and respiration machines, not to mention improve quality of life with devices like artificial limbs and smarter wheelchairs.
- Manufacturing: Manufacturing typically requires a host of machines to make them work: machines designed and built by mechanical engineers. The product a manufacturer makes will also frequently be the design of a mechanical engineer.
- Power: Getting power to people and homes, whether it’s solar power, nuclear power or hydroelectric power, is often the job of a mechanical engineer.
These are just a few of the opportunities that could be available to you with a mechanical engineering degree.
What Are the Benefits of a Mechanical Engineering Degree?
As you can see, the biggest benefit of a mechanical engineer is probably the number of career opportunities and fields open to you. However, there are many other rewards. For one, being able to see a need in the world and then build something to fix it can be extremely satisfying. That’s probably why roughly nine out of 10 mechanical engineers report high levels of job satisfaction.
Not only are the options plentiful and the job contentment high, but mechanical engineering also tends to pay quite well. As appealing as mechanical engineering is, the market typically needs more highly qualified mechanical engineers all the time who are readily available, meaning good salaries and long-term job security.
Where Can I Get a Mechanical Engineering Degree?
So now that you know you want a mechanical engineering degree, where do you go to get one? There are several pathways to success as a mechanical engineer.
Most four-year colleges offer a mechanical engineering bachelor’s degree program. However, for the best opportunities, it’s important to make sure your bachelor’s program has accreditation from ABET, or the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. There are both on-campus and online mechanical engineering degree programs that are accredited by ABET, but it’s very important to verify this accreditation before starting, especially with an online program.
If you are not ready for a four-year college program yet but are interested in pursuing a career as a mechanical engineer, you can start by apprenticing as a mechanical drafter while attending a two-year pre-engineering degree program. Once you successfully complete this program, you should be able to transfer into an appropriate bachelor’s program.
How Can I Start a Career in Mechanical Engineering?
Once you have your mechanical engineering degree, you will still need licensure before you can offer your services directly to the public. This means passing the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam.
After you have the FE license, you can begin to seek out opportunities for mechanical engineers. However, to maximize your career opportunities and earning potential, you will want to work for more licenses and certifications. After four years of working in the field, you can take the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam to become a Professional Engineer.
You can also apply for certifications in specific areas of mechanical engineering as well as earn a Master’s or Doctorate in a specific area in order to boost your credentials and increase your desirability to employers in the field of your choice.