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What Can You Do With a Mechanical Engineering Degree?

September 25, 2020
Man sitting at a desk in front of a computer monitor in an office image
Curious, creative engineers often gravitate toward mechanical engineering because they want to apply their math skills to solving problems and figuring out how things work. Mechanical engineers research, design, develop, build, and test various devices. To do their jobs well, they must possess an innate curiosity about what makes a process or machinery work.

In addition, they must also be creative in order to determine the best solution for an engineering problem or the most suitable concept for a design. A mechanical engineering degree along with advanced licensure will prepare a student for several different engineering jobs; it is one of the broadest engineering disciplines.

Mechanical Engineering Job Opportunities

Aerospace Industry
Mechanical engineers can work on parts of—or wholly on—engine design. They may be assessing the capabilities of existing designs or coming up with concepts from their drawing boards. In addition, mechanical engineers might be tasked with optimizing the components for cost or weight or for determining the best manufacturing process to use in production.

Defense Industry
Mechanical engineers working as defense contractors design instruments, controls, and robots, as well as engines, machines, and heat transfer systems that can be used in the defense of the United States. But such firms also take on aeronautical projects, such as the Hubble space telescope and the Mars Rover.

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Military Industry
Within the armed forces, mechanical engineers manage the teams that repair and maintain military hardware, vehicles, and aircraft. Mechanical engineers service helicopters, tanks, trucks, and armored personnel carriers, as well as radios, radar, artillery guns, and missile systems. Working locations can vary from an army barracks to a mobile field unit.

Power Generation Industry
Power plant engineers are frequently mechanical engineers by training. They work to ensure that the power is produced without interruption as required. They oversee operations, as well as maintenance of power plants. Thermal, hydraulic, and nuclear power plants all require power plant engineers. Engineers in this discipline work on power-producing machines, including electric generators, internal combustion engines, and steam and gas turbines. Examples of mechanical systems in a nuclear plant include reactor coolant or recirculation, steam generators, chemical and volume control or reactor water cleanup, circulating water, feedwater, turbine-generator, and spent fuel storage cooling.

Steel Industry
Although metallurgical engineers work with the metals and ores that comprise steel in order to change or improve its properties or to find new applications for it, mechanical engineers are often found in supervisory or management jobs within the steel industry, searching for answers to mechanical problems on the production line.

Oil and Gas Industry
Mechanical engineers in this area are responsible for many different aspects of the oil mining and refinement process, which includes designing and installing equipment, planning and managing large projects, and researching and developing new technologies. Far-reaching projects, such as pipeline design and construction, require understanding and training in engineering basics, including thermodynamics, fluid dynamics, and kinematics, as well as fundamental leadership and management principles. Familiarity with the big-picture science of oil helps engineers advance to bigger roles in project management, but it's also necessary for them to clearly communicate with their teams.

Chemical Industry
These companies hire mechanical engineers to work on chemical processing. Mechanical engineers help determine what materials are appropriate for use, as well as provide input for designing the mechanical equipment and other related processes.

As you can see, there are a lot of career paths you can take with a mechanical engineering degree. Across all industries, mechanical engineers design and implement cost-effective equipment modifications to improve safety and reliability. In addition, they are responsible for developing project specifications with their team members, which often requires working with those from other engineering disciplines. Mechanical engineers create, test, and evaluate theoretical designs, test hypotheses, and work to provide efficient engineering solutions.

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