Mechanical engineers are responsible for designing, manufacturing, researching and developing tools, machines and engines of all kinds. This machinery ranges from the refrigerators in our homes and the cars in our driveways, to the production lines and air conditioning systems at our places of work. Many of the cons of mechanical engineering jobs arise from working in a fast-changing industry, where knowledge becomes obsolete very quickly.
Problems with Design Software
The job description for mechanical engineers has transformed over the last 50 years. Many of these changes involve the introduction of CAD, or computer-aided design, software. This tool simplifies the process of designing, but also creates perfectly feasible structures on the computer screen which cannot be built in the physical world, because the program ignored practical considerations like joins made with welds and fasteners. William Durfee, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and the director of design education at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, has over 25 years of experience teaching students to use the CAD system. He expresses the view that these issues are problems facing inexperienced and beginner mechanical engineers, who have no background in producing the designs they create. A more senior engineer, with years of manufacturing behind him, wouldn't make this mistake; this is one disadvantage facing beginners entering the profession of mechanical engineering.
Broad Job Description
Mechanical engineering is a very broad term, covering industries ranging from cutting-edge scientific research, to the design of better energy systems for homes. Each industry requires different work from an engineer. One drawback of a mechanical engineer's employment mobility is that it requires him to find another company engaged in similar work, if he wishes to change employers. Those engaged in designing and manufacturing heavy plant machinery cannot apply their experience so easily, if the next position they take is with a company involved in production of machines for biotechnology or nanotechnology.
Long Courses of Study
Because of advances in techniques in computer-aided design, or CAD, and computer-aided manufacturing, or CAM, students are required to have knowledge not just of metallurgy and design, but must also have superior computer operating skills to use the new advanced software programs. To obtain a degree in mechanical engineering, students study for an average of four semesters; to gain a master's degree, another four to five years of study are required. In the past decade, increases in jobs for mechanical engineers in sectors like information technology, transportation equipment and electronic products were slower than the U.S. average. There are no guarantees that students completing lengthy studies will see improved prospects -- even after dedicating years to obtaining their qualifications.