energy and heat, mathematics, engineering sciences, design and
manufacturing form the foundation of mechanical engineering. Mechanics
includes fluids, ranging from still water to hypersonic gases flowing
around a space vehicle; it involves the motion of anything from a particle
to a machine or complex structure.
Analysis, design, and synthesis are the key functions of mechanical
engineers. The question is often how devices and processes actually work.
The first step is to visualize what is happening and clearly state the
problem. A mechanical engineer will then use computer-based modeling,
simulation, and visualization techniques to test different solutions.
Design is one of the most satisfying jobs for a mechanical engineer. To
design and build a new car, you must reckon with power, weight, size and
shape, materials, reliability, and safety. "Synthesis" is when you pull
all the factors together in a design that can be successfully
manufactured. Design problems are challenging because most are open-ended,
without a single or best answer. There is no best mousetrap -- just better
field is notable for emphasizing versatility. A mechanical engineering
education is an excellent foundation for work in other fields. Some
mechanical engineers work on medical problems, such as the mechanics of
bones and joints, or the fluid dynamics of the circulatory system.
Mechanical engineers deal with economic issues, from the cost of a single
component, to the economic impact of a manufacturing plant. M.E.'s
can be found in sales, engineering management, and corporate management.
Versatility is a decided asset in a world that is undergoing constant
economic, political, industrial, and social change. Mechanical engineers
are educated and positioned, not only to adapt, but to define and direct
The diversity of the field
of mechanical engineering is represented in the following areas of
Fundamentally, mechanical engineers are involved with the mechanics of
motion and the transfer of energy from one form to another or one place to
another. Mechanical engineers design and build machines for industrial and consumer use --
virtually any machine you find, had a mechanical engineer involved with
its development and production. They design heating, ventilation, and air
conditioning systems to control the climate in homes, offices, and
industrial plants, and develop refrigeration systems for the food
industry. Mechanical engineers also design heat exchangers, key components in high-tech
mechanical and electronic computer equipment.
We live in a world of dependent on the production and conversion of energy
into useful forms. Mechanical engineers are involved in all aspects of
the production and conversion of energy from one form to another. We
design and operate fossil fuel, hydroelectric, conventional, nuclear and
cogeneration power plants. We design and develop internal combustion
engines for automobiles, trucks and marine use and also for electrical
Mechanical engineers are experts on the conversion and
use of existing energy sources and in developing the equipment needed to
process and transport fuels . At the same time, mechanical engineers are
active in finding and developing new forms of energy. In that effort,
deal with the production of energy from alternate sources, such as solar,
geothermal, and wind.
& Technology Management
Working in project teams is a way of life for mechanical engineers.
Deciding which projects to undertake and leading those projects to a
successful conclusion is the job of experienced engineers who move into
management. On the safety front, all projects involve safety issues. By
its very nature mechanical engineering involves the harnessing and
channeling of the forces of nature, forces which are often extremely
powerful. Consider the contained "explosion" that inflates an automobile
air bag or the mechanical forces involved in bringing an airplane
load of people to a safe and comfortable landing, or the safety and
reliability of an elevator, a power plant, or an incubator for
pre-maturely born infants.
Transportation is a large and growing field for mechanical engineers.
Existing modes of air and surface transport require continuous improvement
or replacement. Mechanical engineers work at the cutting edge of these efforts. Wherever
machines are made or used, you will find mechanical engineers. They are
instrumental in the design, development and manufacturing of machines that
transmit power. They are also critically involved with the environmental
impact and fuel efficiency of the machines they develop and with any
by-products of the fuels used
to power those machines.
In contemporary manufacturing companies, mechanical engineers play a key
role in the "realization" of products, working closely with other
engineers and specialists in corporate management, finance, marketing, and
packaging. Mechanical engineers design products, select materials and processes, and
convert them to finished products. They design and manufacture machine
tools -- literally the machines that make machines and design entire
manufacturing processes, aided by the latest technologies in automation
and robotics. Finally, the finished products are transported in equipment
designed by mechanical engineers. This is the largest area of employment
for mechanical engineers, especially when the process and textile
industries are included. A finished product requires the right materials,
a viable plant and equipment, and a manufacturing
system. This all comes within the purview of mechanical, manufacturing and
In order to arrive at the best design for a product, mechanical engineers
use a wide variety of metal, plastic, ceramic materials. They also use
composites made up of more than one type of material. Once designed, built
and in service, elements like pipeline welds and sections, gears and other
drive-train elements may need inspection for structural integrity or the
effects of mechanical wear. Non-Destructive Evaluation, as its name
implies, allows mechanical engineers to use X-ray, magnetic particle, ultrasound and other
techniques to examine the internal condition of structural and machine
parts, without causing them to fail or without removing them from service.
This analysis is particularly important in assuring the reliability and
safety of pressure vessels and
Most mechanical engineers work in the design and control of mechanical,
electromechanical and fluid power systems. As a mechanical
engineer functioning as a design engineer it is likely that you would be
involved with one or more technical specialties, for example: Robotic
System Design; Computer Coordinated Mechanisms; Expert Systems in Design;
Computer-Aided Engineering; Geometric Design; Design Optimization;
Kinematics and Dynamics of Mechanisms; Cam Design/Gear Design; Power
Transmission; or Design of Machine Elements. Design engineers take into
account a truly wide number of factors in the course of their work, such
as: product performance, cost, safety, manufacturability, serviceability,
human factors, aesthetic appearance, durability, reliability,
environmental impact and recycleability.
Note: Some resources in
this section are provided by
and the US Department of Labor, Bureau
of Labor Statistics.