Investing in your education is the first step toward a successful career. For engineering majors the field is wide open, as there are job opportunities across many industries. Here, we explore the many careers you can pursue with a mechanical engineering degree. But first, let’s discuss what mechanical engineers actually do.
The role of mechanical engineers
Look around you. Nearly every machine or process you see has been influenced in some way by a mechanical engineer. As one of the broadest engineering disciplines, mechanical engineers perform tasks that range from the planning and designing of tools, engines and mechanically functioning equipment to the generation, distribution and use of energy—and so much more. Even your refrigerator and microwave are possible thanks to mechanical engineers. (Who knew?) Today’s industry trends have opened up a world of exciting career opportunities. Here are our picks of the top five mechanical engineering careers:
1. Biomedical engineer
If you’ve ever had an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) or a dental implant, then your life has been touched by the work of a biomedical engineer. This fascinating area of engineering is diverse as it combines biological sciences with engineering design. The role of biomedical engineers is to improve the quality of human life while advancing healthcare. Their work has aided the efforts of doctors in the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of a scope of medical conditions. Here are just some of the products biomedical engineers create:
- Prosthetic limbs
- Wearable technology
- Implantable drug delivery systems
- Dialysis machines
- Injectable nanorobotics
- Large full-body imaging
In addition to the broad scope of jobs performed by biomedical engineers, the area of working with biomaterials is just as critical to today’s healthcare. Here are some examples of engineered materials that are changing the lives of patients:
- Artificial organs
- Dental products
Read more about this exciting topic in our blog: How Medical 3D Printing is Advancing the Healthcare Industry.
2. Sustainable engineer
In a time when sustainable energy is at the forefront of our environmental agenda, the demand for sustainable engineers is on the rise. The role of sustainable engineers is to redesign and retrofit existing systems by applying the principles of engineering and design, and analyzing current operations, production quality and deficiencies. The goal is to accomplish this in a way that has a positive effect on social and economic development balanced with limited impact on the environment, and without depleting materials for future generations. Some examples of sustainable design include:
- Geothermal construction
- Solar and wind-powered lighting, heating and cooling systems
- Waste, heat and water recovery systems
3. Automotive engineer
There’s so much more to automobiles than filling the gas tank and checking the oil and tire pressure. Most of us don’t think twice about the design and inner workings of our cars; we just want to get to where we’re going. Automotive engineers are the professionals “behind the scenes” who work in all aspects of vehicle design and performance. They design the systems and mechanisms of prototype cars and also ensure that these vehicles are built within the parameters of quality and cost-effective materials. Automotive engineers are responsible for analyzing and resolving any design problems and overseeing their manufacture. Here are some other key skills and requirements that aspiring automotive engineers need in order to land the job:
- Work with computer-aided design programs
- Machine welding and tooling
- Design software systems
- Bachelor’s degree*
A special shout out is in order for Vaughn graduate, Niki Taheri ’19, for landing her dream job at Volvo Trucks Technology in Greensboro, NC. Way to go, Niki! In addition, the automotive industry will continue to generate new engineering jobs with advancements in electric cars and autonomous (self-driving) vehicle technology.
*It is advised to consider an institution, such as Vaughn College, that offers a mechanical engineering program that is ABET-accredited, since few institutions offer bachelor’s program specifically for automotive engineering. ABET accreditation ensures that programs meet standards to produce graduates ready to enter critical technical fields that are leading the way in innovation and emerging technologies.
4. Construction/structural engineer
Did you ever cross a bridge and wonder: “How did they build that?” These marvelous structures are possible thanks to the ingenuity and amazing design, problem-solving and analytical skills of construction or structural engineers. These professionals possess excellent communication and leadership skills, and must pay close attention to detail. Construction engineers play a key role in the successful design, execution and maintenance of load-bearing structures including:
- Drainage and sewer systems
Construction engineers specialize in particular types of projects. These specialties include:
- Building commercial housing or buildings
- Electrical systems
- Mechanical systems such as plumbing, heating and cooling systems
- Highway or heavy projects that include bridges, airports, highways or water-waste systems
5. Civil engineer
A civil engineer may seem similar to a construction engineer, as the two careers involve the design and construction of buildings, roads and bridges. The difference between the two is that a civil engineer works in a more STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics)-focused field that involves environments where people live. In addition, the civil engineer does more of the designing where the construction engineer specializes in on the on-site implementation of the plans created by the civil engineer. A civil engineer ensures that the design meets federal, state and local building codes.
There are several specialty areas of civil engineering, all of which require a solid foundation and knowledge in math, physics, design, economics and even materials science. Some examples of these specialty areas include:
- Architectural engineering
- Water resource engineering
- Transportation engineering
- Geotechnical engineering
Civil engineers typically design large projects. Some examples of these projects include:
- Subway systems
- Water supply networks
As you can see, engineering is all around us. What field of mechanical engineering interests you? Discover how a mechanical engineering degree from Vaughn College can set you on a futureproof path to success. Apply today!