Mechanical engineering is one of the most popular and highest in demand of all the engineering specialties out there. But, are there other things a mechanical engineer can do with their degree? The answer is yes, and I’ll show you the best jobs for mechanical engineers.
What Is Mechanical Engineering?
Basically, mechanical engineering starts with an idea. We live in an innovative world where new things are invented all the time. Mechanical engineering deals with creating things that are movable in our society.
Many things, such as machine tools, aircraft engines, automotive parts, prosthetic devices, computers and electronics, solar energy, air conditioning, and more come from the genius minds of mechanical engineers.
All of these things were once just an idea conceived by an engineer. A mechanical engineer also has to know about the materials that go into design, the mechanics of how they work, the way heat and energy work together, the design process itself, and the manufacturing of the product.
In essence, the mechanical engineer takes a product from its conception as an idea all the way to manufacturing it and its place in the market.
There’s a lot of expertise going on to make that happen. Not only does the mechanical engineer have to do the things mentioned before, but they need to understand the forces at work, while analyzing the various elements that the product will be exposed to.
A mechanical engineer needs to design their product with functionality in mind. With everything under consideration, they will need to figure out the best way to produce a product so that it’s a successful product that lacks flaws and does the thing it's designed for.
Mechanical engineers have designed everything from batteries to electric generators to MRI machines and everything in between.
Skills Learned in Mechanical Engineering
Because so many skills are necessary and useful in mechanical engineering, one can see that a mechanical engineer can operate in capacities of jobs inside and outside the engineering field.
The education and experience they gain as mechanical engineers gives them a broad range of skills, including creative design and thinking, analytical skills, perseverance, and the ability to work with others in accomplishing a goal.
A mechanical engineer also becomes a great problem solver as there can be many hiccups on the road to product design and development. They also have to be master mathematicians, often using calculus and trigonometry in their work.
When you think about it, there are jobs in other fields, such as management, finance, law, medicine, and more that require these skills.
Mechanical Engineering Outlook
There are nearly 300,000 mechanical engineers in the United States. The field of mechanical engineering is expected to experience good growth. The areas that are most affected by technology are expected to grow the most and provide the best opportunities.
Beyond that, more growth is expected as advanced technology involving those that develop hybrid-electric cars and diesel powered automobiles become more popular.
In addition, the popularity and use of nanotechnology is expected to soar and put more mechanical engineers to work. Nanotechnology is manipulating the smallest matter and aids in developing devices and machines for healthcare and computer chips.
Also, jobs which entail using the latest software devices and focus on configuring designs and simulation will also offer greater opportunities for mechanical engineers as this is the type of tools needed to take a project from the idea stage to the completed product.
Moreover, with the advent and rising popularity of 3-D printing, mechanical engineers who get training or experience in this area will also see a rise in opportunities.
The more skills and added training a mechanical engineer learns, the more valuable they become in the workplace and will naturally earn higher pay grades.
The Best Jobs in Mechanical Engineering
A typical mechanical engineer will research avenues that lead to building and testing mechanical devices or tools. They will be involved in both the design and development process and understand how various systems and machines complement each other and work together.
Mechanical Engineers work across many sectors and industries and their salaries are often represented in the industry they choose to work in. They can earn as little as $55,000 or as high as $120,000 a year.
There are jobs for mechanical engineers who graduated at the undergraduate level and for those who are graduate-level engineers. Most entry-level jobs require at least a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering, but there are ways to gain experience and earn money while working towards your degree.
For instance, you can aim for a pre-engineering degree, which is only two years of school. Later on, you can go back to school to get your Bachelor’s Degree, but in the meantime, you can work as an intern or a drafter.
Once all your schooling is completed, most mechanical engineers have to be licensed before working in projects that involve new products. In the U.S., you have to pass the Fundamentals of Engineering exam.
In addition to your licensing, becoming certified is recommended in order to have a chance for the best jobs out there. It’s not mandatory like licensing is, but it’s advantageous and will be helpful in getting a better salary.
In addition to basic mechanical engineering, there are other options open to those earning the degree. Let’s see what they are:
1. Materials Engineers work primarily with the materials used to create many types of products, like the wings of an airplane, medical devices, sports equipment, and computer parts.
They make and process materials and test them to see if they meet the standards for electrical, mechanical, or chemical requirements. They also study various materials, like plastics, metals, and others.
Materials Engineers earn around $91,000 a year on average
2. Mathematicians use the advanced math skills that mechanical engineers usually have as well as their statistical and analytical abilities. Mathematicians develop theories and concepts in advanced maths, such as geometry, algebra, calculus, and trigonometry.
They put mathematical formulas to work to either prove or disprove hypotheses. They are able to use these theories and other analysis to solve business problems, engineering hiccups, and other things.
While many mathematician jobs require a graduate degree, many only require a bachelor’s. The average pay for mathematicians is around $110,000 a year.
3. Mechanical Design Engineers work in the same capacity as mechanical engineers, however, they hold more of a managerial role. In fact, they are often thought of as the project manager in the department.
They manage the resources available to a project, which includes both the workers, and the equipment suppliers. They also manage the budget and design equipment layouts.
You can earn up to $93,000 as a mechanical design engineer.
4. Mechanical Drafters are more involved with the technical aspect of manufacturing machinery, robotics, and other mechanical devices.
They use a lot of computer-aided design(CAD) to achieve the technical drawings they do, while they do simulations which often entail changes to the mathematical elements and algorithms of the design.
Mechanical Drafting is a great option for the mechanical engineer who prefers to be more focused on the technical part of the industry. It’s also another option for the mechanical engineer want-to-be that didn’t quite earn their bachelor’s degree.
Mechanical Drafters can earn up to $57,000 a year.
5. Mechanical Engineering Technicians assist mechanical engineers by helping them design and develop machines, engines, tools, and more. They help with sketching product and concept ideas, do layouts, record data, calculate and estimate data, and more.
This might be a good position who didn’t finish earning their degree in college. Sometimes, employers will train for the position as well.
The average yearly salary is around $50,000 a year.
6. Natural Science Managers oversee the work of various scientists, including biologists, physicists, chemists, and others. They are also in charge of many projects involving research and development of products and ensure that testing, quality control, and production meet the standards that they should.
A mechanical engineer’s knowledge of product development and the materials used can come in handy in this position.
Natural Science Managers can earn up to $120,000 a year.
7. Sales engineers sell scientific and technical products. Who better to do this than the engineers who've designed them? Engineers understand product parts and functions and the scientific process in making the product themselves.
Sales engineers can earn nearly $100,000 a year.
I’ve given you seven great options for alternative careers to mechanical engineering. They all complement in one way or another the various aspects involved in mechanical engineering.
Some other options outside the engineering field where your degree could be helpful is corporate investment banker, patent attorney, and production manager. These use some of the knowledge and skills that are transferable from mechanical engineering.
One thing for sure is that jobs for mechanical engineers are interesting and rewarding for those who choose to go into the field.
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