Mechanical engineers work in a variety of industries and research, develop, construct and test all types of mechanical equipment. They help to engineer and design high-tech tools, machinery, engines, gadgets and weapons for private businesses and government agencies. Mechanical engineers must have a bachelor's degree to qualify for most mechanical engineering jobs, but some pursue advanced degrees and become researchers or professors. Their specialized skills are beneficial to manufacturers as well as production crews.
Mechanical engineers assess industry needs, troubleshoot problems with mechanical devices, engineer technologically advanced tools, and correct design flaws to create and improve mechanical equipment. They have strong problem-solving skills and develop cost-efficient methods for making mechanical improvements to satisfy manufacturers' needs and meet consumer demands. Mechanical engineers spend much of their time researching and testing prototypes that involve thermodynamics, energy conversion, hydraulics, automation and biotechnology. They must develop safe, environmentally friendly, reliable methods for engineering and producing mechanical devices.
Creativity and Design Strengths
Mechanical engineers must think creatively to solve complex problems. According to Michigan Tech's Department of Mechanical Engineering informational material, mechanical engineers use their design strengths to accomplish tasks such as developing rocket engines to withstand freezing temperatures, improving the aerodynamics of cars and airplanes, inventing ultrasonic devices to protect dolphins from fishing nets and designing medical prostheses. They draft blueprints that outline how mechanical tools and devices should be built to maximize productivity and efficiency. Mechanical engineers have strong math and science skills so they can accurately compute data and create designs around scientific principles.
Hands-On Building Skills
Mechanical engineers build, test and improve mechanical devices using hands-on experimentation with prototypes and equipment. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, mechanical engineers must safely and efficiently operate machinery such as turbines, generators, robotic devices, elevators, power tools, construction equipment and conveyor systems. Fine motor skills and gross motor skills are necessary to perform most manufacturing engineering tasks. Mechanical engineers, especially those who work in biomedical industries, use microscopes and laboratory equipment to test, design and implement advancements in nanotechnology and prosthetics.
Mechanical engineers are no strangers to computers and use them frequently to create, develop and modify blueprints. They often use computerized modeling systems to test mechanical equipment under various conditions and simulate how mechanical devices might solve complex problems. Computers allow mechanical engineers to test tools, engines, instruments and devices before they are used in the field. Supercomputers and advanced engineering software enable engineers to create, upgrade and transform mechanical devices to meet ever-pressing and ever-changing industry demands. Mechanical engineers must have strong computer skills.
2016 Salary Information for Mechanical Engineers
Mechanical engineers earned a median annual salary of $84,190 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, mechanical engineers earned a 25th percentile salary of $67,070, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $106,420, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 288,800 people were employed in the U.S. as mechanical engineers.