Having made it to this page, if there’s one thing you’ve probably learned so far about the field of Engineering, it’s that it’s pretty darn specific.
There are a few broad categories of the engineering field, like electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, civil engineering, and chemical engineering, along with more recent additions like geotechnical engineering and management. But these divisions are just the tip of the iceberg, as each of these groups contains dozens of subgroups, each of which tend to be the subject of their own individual major.
In particular, Mechanical Engineering is one of the oldest of all Engineering-related disciplines, and itself is now broken up into numerous sub-disciplines like mechanics, thermodynamics, and structural analysis. No matter the specifics, the job of a Mechanical Engineer is to design and maintain mechanical systems relevant to their chosen Engineering subset.
But the question remains: where are you going to do it? And how do you get a position in your chosen Engineering discipline?
Well, that’s where we come in. We literally created a map, just for Mechanical Engineering Majors such as yourself, to navigate your way through the choppy waters of recent graduation.
Feel free to focus on the map alone — it’s pretty cool, if we do say so ourselves. But for those of you who prefer step by step navigation on your path, keep reading. We’ll give you the rundown on:
- What skills you’ll need
- How to begin
- What jobs you can expect to find as a Mechanical Engineering Major
- Some quick interview tips
- Consider graduate school
- External resources
First thing’s first: what skills you’ll need to get started.
1. SKILLS FOR MECHANICAL ENGINEERING MAJORS
Skills for engineers tend to be similar to other majors that fall under the broad umbrella of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). All of these majors require an ability to remain precise on the smallest pieces of colossal projects, acting as impartially as possible while making use of provable, observable information in your day-to-day work life.
Let’s take a a look at what this means for engineering in particular:
Attention to detail.
You have a head for numbers, and spotting and correcting mistakes at every step in the process is second nature to you. This is certainly a skill that other professions can lay some sort of claim to, but when it comes to the practice of engineering, you’re playing with live ammo (possibly literally, if you’re an Ammunition Engineer). When people’s lives are occasionally dependent on your ability to make precise measurements, you tend to become a little detail-oriented.
Team skills/interpersonal skills.
It’s not often that you get to pull the lone ranger act during the practice of engineering. Typically, you’ll be working as part of a team while completing projects, and your ability to play nicely with others is integral to your capacity for succeeding in the field at large. It’s also integral to getting anything at all accomplished on a day-to-day basis.
Problem-solving and analysis.
This is the big one. As an engineer of any stripe, the majority of your work will be on projects that, in a nutshell, require you to find a solution to some sort of problem based on the skills you’ve developed. While most jobs can (at a basic level) be broken down to that description, with engineering you tend to have a much clearer idea of whether or not your solution works, as the problem you’re solving is often clear.
2. WHERE TO BEGIN YOUR CAREER AFTER GETTING A MECHANICAL ENGINEERING DEGREE
When you’re just getting started in the Mechanical Engineering field, there’s two things you’re going to want to keep an eye on: I) internships, and II) placements.
Most people are aware of what an internship is — you work with a company on a provisional (and typically, but not always, unpaid) basis, and attempt to parlay that experience into either a job at the same location or as the basis for your full employment at a different location. These are usually short affairs, often no longer than a month but sometimes stretching to half a year depending on the difficulty and competitiveness of the position/company.
Placements are the same basic concept with a few small changes. For one thing, they’re typically longer, lasting for about 1 year. They can be either paid or unpaid, but either way they typically make up the third year of a four year degree — a change from internships, which are usually part-time and completed either alongside or immediately following a degree.
At this point we like to list the kind of internships available to people with this degree, but there’s not much point to that when it comes to Mechanical Engineering. Placements and internships exist in essentially every subgroup of engineering, provided that there is a company around to offer them. So whatever your engineering specialty, there’s almost certainly a placement or internship available to you somewhere out there — depending on how specific your chosen discipline is, it’s more just a matter of how far you’re willing to move for it, and how qualified of a candidate you are.
Before you settle on an internship or placement, though, you’ll want to make sure it’s the right fit for you. Ask yourself these questions:
- Where (in the state/the country/the world) do you want to work?
- What size and type of organization do you want to work for?
- Do you need compensation in an internship, or might you be able to consider alternative compensation (experience, work samples, references, networking, etc.)
- Is relocation an option?
3. AVAILABLE JOBS FOR MECHANICAL ENGINEERING MAJORS
In addition to being extremely employable and handsomely compensated, one thing that’s pretty great as far as Engineers go is that they’re rarely at a loss for how they should use their degree. An Engineer’s skillset is so particular that you can pretty much expect, for example, an Electrical Engineering Major to go on to become an Electrical Engineer.
Likewise, a Mechanical Engineering Major can reasonably expect “Mechanical Engineer” to be a solid option once they get to the job market. Even so, there are still a ton of other careers available to any Engineering Major, and deciding which one to choose can be quite the process.
With our map, you can click the Job Titles and learn more specific information for each position (what their responsibilities are, how much they get paid, etc.) But here, we wanted to call out some of the most common jobs for recent Mechanical Engineering Major grads.
Here are a few of the most interesting jobs for recent grads such as yourself:
It makes sense that you’d be able to use your degree in Mechanical Engineering to become a Mechanical Engineer. Mechanical engineers research, design, develop, build, and test mechanical and thermal sensors and devices, including tools, engines, and machines.
Project Engineers help develop and design products for a variety of purposes and needs. They’re responsible for providing technical leadership, tracking project construction progress, assisting with project development and maintenance, and preparing, reviewing, and submitting project proposals.
Manufacturing Engineers are responsible for improving the manufacturing process itself, analyzing the the assembly, quality, safety, delivery, and other systems that make up the manufacturing process in order to suggest (or even create) possible alternatives in order to optimize manufacturing efficiency.