Mechanical engineers design, build, supervise and operate machines. With a degree in mechanical engineering, you can work in automation, IT, and manufacturing industries. You can qualify for technician, engineer and management positions, as well as several continuing education opportunities.
Technological advancements and the complexity of the manufacturing process keep well-trained and highly skilled mechanical engineers in demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 7% growth in this industry between 2020 and 2030. On this page, we take a look at the field of Mechanical Engineering and highlight some of the training avenues available to you.
What is mechanical engineering?
Mechanical engineering is one of the largest engineering disciplines. These professionals work in fields such as biotechnology, acoustics, transport and thermodynamics. They build household machinery, automotive equipment, robotics, and computers.
Mechanical engineers typically need a bachelor’s or master’s degree, although some entry-level mechanical technician and engineer jobs are accessible with an associate’s degree. The training includes courses in mathematics, physics, materials science and computer programming.
What do you learn in a mechanical engineering degree program?
While each mechanical engineering degree program might look a little different, you can expect to see some common elements across most programs. Among the many skills acquired during your training, you will likely develop the following:
- Engineering processes and principles
- Computer Aided Design
- Problem solving
- Critical mind
- Data analysis
- Product design and development
Examples of mechanical engineering courses
Computer-aided mechanical design
Students in this course learn to apply CAD to the mechanical manufacturing process. They explore various types of engineering modeling and simulations.
Instrumentation and measurements
In this course, students learn the principles of measuring physical quantities, as well as acceleration, position, and force. They also learn to use various instruments and deal with their bias, sensitivity and precision.
This course examines gas processes, including compression and combustion. Students learn to apply thermodynamics to things like power generation, refrigeration, and advanced cycles.
Control system design
In this course, students learn about analog and digital controllers. They perform laboratory work using different controls and learn how to design and implement them for various uses.
How Difficult is a Mechanical Engineering Degree?
A degree in mechanical engineering can be difficult for some students. Learners may find it difficult to focus on math and physics, especially in the early years of their studies. After developing the basics, however, students improve their understanding with visual and practical lessons.
The complexity of training, the scope of research and the scope of projects increase with each subsequent degree level. As they progress, engineering students tend to be better equipped to deal with new challenges and the demanding workload. In general, dedicated learners with problem-solving and creative skills can be successful at any level.
What types of mechanical engineering degrees are there?
Each mechanical engineering degree level has unique study options and postgraduate opportunities. The following sections detail the different mechanical engineering degree levels available.
Associate Degree in Mechanical Engineering
A mechanical engineering degree at the associate level typically takes students two years. The training covers the principles of engineering, manufacturing and materials science. Students can take introductory courses in engineering design, applied mechanics, and introductory thermofluids.
Graduates can qualify for several entry-level careers, including draftsmen and mechanical engineering technologists and technicians.
Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering
Students in bachelor’s degree programs in mechanical engineering lay foundations in mathematics and science, including the sciences of mechanics, systems, and thermal fluids. They also develop an understanding of robotics, automation and controllers.
The courses offered vary by program, but some of the topics covered may include thermodynamics, manufacturing engineering, and energy systems. Professionally, these degrees can lead to a variety of careers, including mechanical engineering, mechanical design, and product development.
Graduate Certificate in Mechanical Engineering
A graduate certificate in mechanical engineering allows holders of a bachelor’s degree to deepen and specialize their training. These condensed programs last approximately one year and provide focused training in areas such as manufacturing systems, aerospace, materials science, and fluid dynamics.
Classes vary by program, but learners may be exposed to topics such as the fundamentals of computer aided design (CAD), machining, and engineering design. Some possible career paths for graduates might include mechanical engineering and engineering management.
Master in Mechanical Engineering
Mechanical engineering students at the master’s level typically graduate within two years. Their education includes advanced design and manufacturing, energy and thermal sciences, and materials science. The program may include in-depth research, theoretical training, and practical exercises.
Many engineering master’s programs offer specializations, such as robotics, mechatronics, aeronautics, and thermal and fluid engineering. Specializations allow learners to focus on the areas that interest them most and improve their postgraduate chances in that area. Graduates can access many engineering careers, including engineering management and industrial production management.
Doctorate in Mechanical Engineering
As a terminal degree in mechanical engineering, a doctorate in this field gives access to most of the careers available. These programs generally last four to seven years. After graduation, you can take up post-secondary education, research, or engineering management positions.
The doctoral program training emphasizes research and development. Learners strive to make valuable contributions to their field in the form of research, theory and innovation development. Students can specialize their studies in a field such as biomedical engineering, automation and control, design, and applied mechanics.
Accreditation for Mechanical Engineering Programs
In order for engineering students to have access to federal financial aid, transfer credits, and full employment opportunities, they must attend a school with appropriate accreditation. Regional accreditation depends on the location of the school and comes from one of the organizations approved by the Higher Education Accreditation Council. Programmatic accreditation comes from the Accreditation Council for Engineering and Technology.
Mechanical engineers help create all types of devices, equipment and products. With a degree in Mechanical Engineering, you can drive innovation and solve problems for organizations and consumers in most industries. Use this guide to help you identify your ideal mechanical engineering level and specialization, and what to expect from each.