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.

Mechanical engineers

  • 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


  • Mechanics
  • Energy and heat
  • Mathematics
  • Engineering sciences
  • Design
  • Manufacturing

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
  • Maintenance
  • 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

Coursework to consider
  • Pre-algebra
  • Geometry
  • Advanced algebra
  • Engineering fundamentals
  • Chemistry
  • Calculus
  • Trigonometry
  • Statistics
  • Physics
  • Robotics
  • Programming
  • Design
  • Engineering dynamics
  • Systems and controls
  • Fluid mechanics
  • Heat transfer
  • Data analysis
  • Thermodynamics
  • Differential equations
  • Computer-aided design
Suggested extracurricular activities
  • Competitions
  • Summer programs
  • Afterschool programs
  • Clubs
  • Internships
  • Online puzzles and games
  • Online courses
  • Maker Faires
  • Design projects
Local programs offered by
  • Science centers and museums
  • Professional societies like IEEE
  • Universities
Important Skills
  • 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