What Does a Mechanical Engineer Do? Are you interested in designing mechanical systems ranging from heating and cooling systems to nano-scale robots?
Do you want to use your creative thinking skills to analyze or build an exciting product or system that can be used in industries such as automotive, aerospace, biotechnology, computer and electronics, environmental control, and manufacturing?
Would you like to work in an office and occasionally visit worksites where a problem or piece of equipment needs your personal attention?
The field of mechanical engineering offers unique opportunities to make a real difference by applying your knowledge to designing, developing, building, and testing mechanical and thermal sensors and devices, including tools, engines, and machines.
- Use the principles of energy, materials, and mechanics to design and manufacture machines and devices of all types.
- Create the processes and systems that drive technology and industry.
- 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
- Steam and gas turbines
- Power-using machines, such as:
- Refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment
- Machine tools
- Material-handling systems
- Elevators and escalators
- Industrial production equipment
- Robots used in manufacturing
- Design tools that other engineers need for their work
- Power-producing machines, such as:
- Energy and heat
- Engineering sciences
Famous Mechanical Engineers
- Kalpana Chawla – first Indian-American astronaut and first Indian woman in space; flew on Space Shuttle Columbia in 1997 as a mission specialist and primary robotic arm operator
- Kate Gleason – first female to enroll in the Mechanical Arts engineering program at Cornell University and to be voted into membership with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers
- Willis Haviland Carrier – American engineer best known for inventing modern air conditioning
- Rudolf Diesel – German inventor and mechanical engineer famous for the invention of the diesel engine
- James Watt – Scottish inventor and mechanical engineer whose improvements to the Newcomen steam engine were fundamental to the changes brought by the Industrial Revolution
- Karl Friedrich Benz – German engine designer and car engineer who invented the first automobile powered by an internal combustion engine
- Thomas Alva Edison – American inventor and businessman who developed the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and a long-lasting, practical electric light bulb
Areas of Employment
- Engineering services
- Machinery manufacturing
- Computer and electronic product manufacturing
- Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences
- Aerospace product and parts manufacturing
- Automotive manufacturing
- Agriculture production
- Technical sales
- Administration or management
- Government institutions including:
- Science and exploration, such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
- Safety investigation, such as the National Transportation Safety Board
- National laboratories
- Military service, including Air Force, Navy, and Army
Career Guidance Suggestions for Pre-University Students
- Advanced algebra
- Engineering fundamentals
- Engineering dynamics
- Systems and controls
- Fluid mechanics
- Heat transfer
- Data analysis
- Differential equations
- Computer-aided design
- Summer programs
- Afterschool programs
- Online puzzles and games
- Online courses
- Maker Faires
- Design projects
- Science centers and museums
- Professional societies like IEEE
- Listening skills: listen to and analyze different approaches made by other experts to complete the task at hand.
- Interpersonal skills: collaborate on projects with others, such as architects and computer scientists.
- Math skills: use the principles of calculus, statistics, and other advanced subjects in math for analysis, design, and troubleshooting.
- Mechanical skills: apply basic engineering concepts and mechanical processes to the design of new devices and systems.
- Problem-solving skills: take scientific discoveries and use them to design and build useful products.
- Creativity: be able to design and build complex pieces of equipment and machinery.
Links and Resources
- American Society of Mechanical Engineers: a non-profit membership organization that enables collaboration, knowledge sharing, career enrichment, and skills development across all engineering disciplines.
- American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers: focuses on building systems, energy efficiency, indoor air quality, refrigeration, and sustainability.
- Society for Experimental Mechanics: members are committed to interdisciplinary engineering application, research and development, education, and active promotion of experimental methods.
- Association of Energy Engineers: promotes the scientific and educational interests of those engaged in the energy industry and fosters action for sustainable development.
- Society of Automotive Engineers: a global association of more than 138,000 engineers and related technical experts in the aerospace, automotive, and commercial-vehicle industries.