Mechanical engineering involves the design, development and operation of machines and systems. It is one of the broadest engineering disciplines as it involves anything with moving parts. As a mechanical engineer, you can work across all stages of product development, from research and design to installation and commissioning.
Many industries rely on mechanical engineers, including:
A mechanical engineer’s responsibilities vary depending on where you work and your specialism. These are likely to include:
More senior mechanical engineers may also:
Where do mechanical engineers work?
Mechanical engineers can work in offices, laboratories, workshops, factories, oil rigs, research facilities and building sites. As a result, an engineer’s dress code can range from business attire to a hard hat on a construction site. Travel during the working day is common as you may need to visit client sites or suppliers.
The working hours for mechanical engineers are usually full-time (37 to 40 hours a week), Monday to Friday. Depending on your role you may work shifts over weekends and evenings.
A mechanical engineering job description might include some or all of the following skills:
Mechanical engineers write technical reports and apply mathematical and scientific principles to design machines and systems.
Designing and developing new products and components requires a high level of creativity and innovation.
Engineers need to find logical solutions to problems and have a natural curiosity for how things work.
Part of a mechanical engineer's job is to present designs and data to clients and managers. Strong communication is needed to explain technical ideas clearly.
It is important to be able to work with different teams and specialists, including technicians, designers, architects, computer scientists and other engineers.
IT skills are required to turn designs into technical plans using computer aided design/modelling (CAD/CAM).
Testing products and analysing how different systems work is a key part of a mechanical engineer’s role.
Engineers need to carefully consider costs and timeframes when designing and commissioning mechanical modifications.
Engineers work to industry standards and ensure projects meet safety regulations.
To study mechanical engineering at university you will need to achieve good grades in three or four A Level subjects, including Maths and at least one science. Relevant A Levels to choose include:
If you did not study A Levels you will need to study an Engineering Foundation.
To qualify as an engineer, you should study an undergraduate degree (BEng) in engineering, which is usually three years. Choose a subject like mechanical, electromechanical, mechatronics or mechanical/manufacturing engineering.
Alternatively, study a Master of Engineering (MEng) for four or five years, which combines the foundations of a BEng and further specialist knowledge. This level of education gives you the opportunity to apply for Chartered Engineer status.
Degrees should be accredited by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers or Institution of Engineering and Technology.
The ability to speak another language can also be helpful as many employers operate internationally with clients around the world.
Work experience is a great way to demonstrate to future employers that you are passionate about your chosen career. It will deepen your knowledge and help you find out what the role involves. Many degrees include work placements, and university careers services can support students who want to arrange their own.
The National Careers Service provides guidance on the average mechanical engineer salary:
So, what qualifications do you need to be a mechanical engineer?
Graduates with mechanical engineering degrees are awarded a BEng or MEng qualification.
Find more information on how to become an engineer.
Find out the qualifications and training you need to become an engineer in the UK.
Many companies offer graduate training programmes with structured progression and development opportunities. With experience, you can work towards professional accreditation to demonstrate your knowledge as you aim for more senior positions. You could also work towards management and consultancy roles.
You can work towards Chartered Engineer (CEng) status with the Engineering Council. You will need to complete an accredited bachelor’s and master’s degree.
As you progress in your career you may choose to become a manager, leading projects and teams of engineers and technicians.
Those who want to work for themselves may progress to setting up their own business.