Mechanical Engineer Job Description - Definition, Duties, Skills and Career
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Mechanical Engineer Job Description
A mechanical engineer is a person who specializes in the design, manufacture, installation and maintenance of mechanical components, motors and industrial systems and equipment.
Let’s take a detailed look at what the job of a mechanical engineer involves.
Mechanical engineers produce mechanical designs and drawings using software applications such as Autocad 2D and 3D, Inventor and SolidWorks.
The aim of their work is typically to solve a problem or to respond to a specific industrial requirement, e.g. to reduce the energy consumption of a process, minimize production waste, optimize a production process, reduce production times or achieve continuous quality improvements.
Mechanical engineers working in a company’s design office may also assist other company offices, such as the sales, purchasing or production departments, providing technical information and support on a wide range of issues (e.g. helping with the technical specifications of a component, identifying opportunities for product or process standardization, verifying technical documentation or assessing compliance with product standards).
Mechanical engineers often work in research and development departments (typically in a team with other engineers and technicians), carrying out research into new materials and technologies, designing product and process innovations, developing prototypes, conducting tests and leading product industrialization and the transition to production.
Mechanical engineers may also apply their technical skills and expertise in a range of other professional roles, e.g. managing a production process (or even an entire industrial plant); performing quality control and production monitoring activities; coordinating a team of maintenance mechanics and ensuring, through a combination of preventive, routine and breakdown maintenance, that equipment and systems are kept in good working order throughout their life-cycle; and installing new systems and equipment in accordance with requirements.
Mechanical engineers work on various types of equipment and machines, which may be partly or wholly mechanical. These include motors, energy production systems, machine tools, industrial robots and computer numerical control (CNC) machines, industrial manufacturing systems, automated and robotic material handling systems, cooling and air conditioning systems, construction site equipment and machinery, as well as vehicles such as cars, trucks, motorbikes, trains, ships and planes.
Mechanical engineers make frequent use of software applications to perform calculations, carry out measurements, analyse data, determine the technical specifications of mechanical components, machinery and systems (e.g. modelling software and CAD), conduct tests and simulations and perform production quality control activities.
In terms of employment opportunities, vacancies for mechanical engineers mainly occur in the manufacturing sector, the steel industry, the engineering and fabrication industry, the energy sector, the automotive and transport sector and the construction sector. Companies operating in these sectors always require qualified mechanical engineers to work in their technical offices, design teams, production units and maintenance workshops, as well as in their sales and marketing offices. Other organizations employing mechanical engineers include consulting firms, companies providing engineering and design services and the military.
Depending on the type of job they do, mechanical engineers may work in offices, R&D laboratories or in production plants. They may be required to travel for work frequently or on an occasional basis - e.g. to meet clients, carry out inspections at worksites or oversee the installation of equipment and systems.
Mechanical Engineer Responsibilities and Tasks
The main tasks of a mechanical engineer include:
- Mechanical design of industrial equipment, machinery and systems
- Production of technical documentation
- Quality control of mechanical manufacturing processes and technical support for production equipment and systems
- Supervising mechanical production systems and processes
- Developing and testing mechanical prototypes
- R&D activities - e.g. scale-up and industrialization of new products and processes
- Analysis and improvement of mechanical systems and processes
- Coordinating operation and maintenance of mechanical equipment and systems
How to Become a Mechanical Engineer - Education and Training
To become a mechanical engineer requires a degree in mechanical engineering. University-level programs typically provide mechanical engineering graduates with in-depth knowledge in a range of subjects, including mathematics, physics, chemistry, mechanics, thermodynamics, technical drawing, materials science and mechatronics - as well as economics and management expertise.
In addition, students on mechanical engineering courses also learn to use the key computer applications they will need for their job, such as CAD (computer-aided design) software.
It is also essential for mechanical engineers to keep up to date with all the latest developments (i.e. new technologies, materials, production processes and testing methodologies).
Mechanical Engineer Skills and Qualifications
Mechanical engineers require the following skills:
- Strong technical and scientific knowledge
- Knowledge of technical/mechanical drawing
- Ability to carry out mechanical design and modelling using CAD 2D / 3D (AutoCad, Inventor, Solidworks)
- Ability to prepare technical documentation
- Understanding of mechanical processes and operations
- Strong IT skills
- Analytical and problem-solving skills
- Organizational and planning skills
- Ability to work both independently and as part of a team
What's the career goal of a Mechanical Engineer?
A newly-graduated mechanical engineer will typically begin their career in a junior position, in a team with more experienced, senior engineers. A job as a junior mechanical engineer is an opportunity to gain familiarity with the various aspects of engineering, such as designing mechanical components and systems, overseeing production processes and attending daily production meetings.
As they acquire experience and seniority, mechanical engineers may take on additional responsibilities and work on more challenging and stimulating assignments (as an employee or perhaps as an external consultant, working in a self-employed capacity).
Engineers demonstrating an aptitude for management may progress to coordination or planning roles - e.g. coordinating the work of engineers, scientists and technicians on large national and international projects, as a project manager. Alternatively, a mechanical engineer may become a production manager for a manufacturing company and specialize in continuous improvement methodologies, such as lean production and Six Sigma.
There are a number of very promising career fields for mechanical engineers,
including service robotics and automation technologies, mechatronics, process engineering, transport and sustainable mobility, energy technologies and aerospace and defence.
Mechanical engineers can also make use of their technical expertise and knowledge in
sales and marketing roles in the industrial machinery and components sector, where their duties may include producing technical drawings, verifying product compliance with customer specifications, carrying out cost estimates and providing technical consultancy services to clients.
Top Reasons to Work as a Mechanical Engineer
Mechanical engineers are highly-qualified professionals who can work in a wide variety of settings, including the manufacturing, energy and automotive industries, and fulfil a broad range of roles, from design and engineering through to operation and maintenance.
Working as a mechanical engineer calls for strong analytical skills and extensive scientific and technical expertise that can only be acquired through many years of study.
The profession is both very versatile and well-paid, with even junior positions typically attracting relatively high salaries, which subsequently rise with experience.
Finally, mechanical engineers are very much in demand on the job market, with excellent opportunities available both nationally and internationally to take part in projects involving professionals from all over the globe.