What is a Mechanical Engineer? (And How to Become One)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 20 December 2022

Published 1 November 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A mechanical engineer plays a critical role in developing and producing modern technologies. Mechanical engineering can be an interesting and rewarding career with plenty of room for specialisation and future growth. If you enjoy maths, physics and hands-on work, then mechanical engineering may be the right career for you and learning more about this role could help you determine your next steps. In this article, we answer the question 'what is a mechanical engineer,' discuss how to become one and explore some specialisations within the career.

Related: 10 Highest Paying Engineering Jobs

What is a mechanical engineer?

If you're exploring engineering careers, you may wonder, 'What is a mechanical engineer?' These professionals work with complicated mechanical problems and develop solutions to fix them. This often involves creating new devices and taking apart existing designs to study the movements and motion systems. Since technology is so prevalent across modern society, you can find mechanical engineering jobs in many areas and industries. Whether you are passionate about health care, communication, energy, or mobile technology, there can be mechanical engineering roles for you to fill.

What do mechanical engineers do?

There can be a wide range of roles for mechanical engineers across a diverse range of industries. These roles tend to share certain responsibilities and tasks that may include:

  • determining what problems a mechanical system has

  • working and communicating with a diverse team

  • creating solutions to mechanical problems

  • testing designs to make sure they are safe, efficient and effective

  • working within a strict budget when designing and implementing solutions

  • applying force, motion, energy and temperature principles when creating mechanised systems

  • understanding how to design heavy mechanisms for large systems

  • considering the climate impact of your designs and working with renewable technologies

  • analysing data and mathematical equations

  • taking environment and location into account when creating designs

  • making designs on a small scale for compact mechanisms

  • using computer-aided systems to build engineering solutions

How to become a mechanical engineer

Once you've decided to become a mechanical engineer, it can be important to carefully research and understand the requirements for education and training. Job postings and employment websites may list the education and qualification requirements for engineers in your field. Below you can find a step-by-step guide on how to become a mechanical engineer:

1. Get a relevant bachelor's degree or similar qualification

Most mechanical engineering jobs require candidates to hold a bachelor's degree. Many engineers may choose to pursue a master's degree to increase their specialised knowledge. You can gain more opportunities and earning potential by upskilling and attaining further qualifications.

2. Gain work experience in the industry

Job experience can sometimes be more important for employability than your level of education. It may be helpful to get substantial work experience in the field as you undergo your training. If you cannot work in your field without qualification, you can seek jobs with similar skill set requirements to help prepare you and potentially impress future hiring managers.

3. Become licensed by the National Professional Engineer Register

Becoming licensed as a professional engineer can allow you to work on more projects and can increase your income. The National Professional Engineers Register requires candidates to have an engineering degree and have their competency tested by fellow engineers. A strict code of ethics that licensed engineers must abide by known as the Engineers Australia Code of Ethics also exists.

5. Applying to relevant job postings

Once you obtain the necessary qualifications and licensing requirements, it can be a good time to begin your job search. You can visit the Indeed Job Board to look for mechanical engineering roles. Before you start applying, it can be beneficial to make sure your resume is up to date.

Related: 12 Key Engineer Skills for Your Resume

Mechanical engineering specialisations

If you have a particular interest in an industry or type of technology, you can choose an area of mechanical engineering to specialise in. Here are some of the subfields that you can choose from:

Health care

Mechanical engineers have become a crucial part of the medical field. Devices have sprung up across the industry, with ultrasound technology, artificial organs and heart monitors constantly improving. There can be great potential for further improvement in this subfield, as medical experts strive to find more technological cures for human ailments.

Robotics

Robots have become increasingly important in the manufacturing industry and innovations in artificial intelligence suggest the potential for other industries to become automated. As a mechanical engineer, you may be responsible for designing, building and maintaining robots. This involves working with electrical and computer engineers in a dynamic and interesting subfield.

Related: What Does a Robotics Engineer Do? (And How To Become One)

Aerospace

Without aerospace engineers, there may be no astronauts. Working as a mechanical engineer in this subfield often involves creating vehicles, devices and buildings to reach space safely. These creations can also include products that have to survive in space for a prolonged period of time, such as satellites or rovers.

Automotive

There are over a billion cars in use all around the world. There is a great market for talented automotive engineers who want to design, build and improve cars. Car manufacturing has also seen growing automation, increasing this subfield's need for mechanical engineers to maintain the robotic workers.

Energy

There are many different methods of energy conversion on the market these days, and it can be important to get talented mechanical engineers who specialise in advanced energy systems. These engineers may analyse and alter how these energy technologies operate, working to optimise efficiency and cost-effectiveness. This can be particularly important in the current climate crisis, suggesting a growing need for talented mechanical engineers specialising in energy technologies.

Jobs for mechanical engineers

Most engineers travel between work sites and work full-time. Due to the scale of the industry and its diversity, there may be many different job types for mechanical engineers to choose from. Here are some of the mechanical engineering jobs that you can get:

1. Mechanical engineer

National average salary: $89,869 per year

Primary duties: Working as a mechanical engineer usually involves designing and fixing mechanised systems. You may need to work with a multidisciplinary team and follow client requirements. To get a job in this subfield, you may require a relevant bachelor's degree and experience in the field. Mechanical engineers often work on building prototypes, testing designs, customising designs and products, designing for specific thermal environments, analysing system malfunctions and supervising the manufacturing process.

Related: What Does an Entry-Level Mechanical Engineer Do? (A Guide)

2. Electrical engineer

National average salary: $94,422 per year

Primary duties: If you want a more specialised mechanical engineering career, then becoming an electrical engineer may be a good idea for you. This career often involves creating and testing electrical systems and equipment. Most electrical engineers require a bachelor's degree for entry-level positions and to obtain a master's degree for supervising roles. Electrical engineers often work on creating specialised motors, designing navigation systems, researching new applications, testing prototypes, applying principles of electricity and electromagnetism, performing risk assessments and ensuring compliance.

3. Hardware engineer

National average salary: $154,769 per year

Primary duties: Hardware engineers normally focus on the physical structure of mechanical systems, such as designing or adapting computerised designs. You typically require a bachelor's degree in mechanical or computer engineering to get this job. Hardware engineers usually perform a wide range of tasks. These often include working on designing the structure of computer systems, testing prototypes, researching computer and circuitry development, developing parts such as memory cards, networks, routers, and circuit boards, following client specifications and considering user requirements.

4. Systems engineer

National average salary: $98,985 per year

Primary duties: This is one of the most specialised engineering jobs, which requires advanced mechanical engineering skills to design and oversee automated products. This can include making hardware updates and looking for potential malfunctions that could put users at risk. Normally, you are required to have a bachelor's degree in systems engineering for this career. Systems engineers complete a wide range of tasks. These can often include designing safety protocols and cyber security policies, providing technical assistance, working with domestic appliances, vehicles and military tools, making hardware and software updates, stabilising control systems and analysing data and presenting it in a report.

Related: What Is Control System Engineering? (With Job Requirements)

5. Structural engineer

National average salary: $113,934 per year

Primary duties: Structural engineering involves applying your mechanical engineering skills to design building structures. These structures can include skyscrapers, houses and bridges. Structural engineers usually require a relevant bachelor's degree to get hired. This field focuses on designing enduring structures, considering the weather and thermal environment, using complex mathematical and scientific calculations, evaluating materials for stress resistance and following appropriate building codes and expectations. Structural engineers may also recommend changes to existing structures and test relevant computer software.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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