1. The pay is great. According to payscale.com, 7 of the top 10 starting salaries in the US are in engineering (with mechanical engineering coming it right at number ten). This means that, as a mechanical design engineer, you can expect to bring in a pretty hefty salary.
2. You will be consistently challenged. The gift and curse of the technical disciplines…if you’re the type of person who likes to go on auto-pilot or slack off all day, this job’s not for you. As a mechanical design engineer you will be expected to develop systems and products that meet picky customer specifications, while meeting tight timelines and budgets as well as manufacturing limitations. And when you’re finished, the next product iteration is already started…not a job for the lazy or faint of heart!
3. You’ll learn a variety of skills. To succeed, you will need to have a solid knowledge of all the basic engineering disciplines. You will have to learn how to manage complex projects and meet timelines and budgets. You will need to master a range of software programs including solid modeling and CAD software, FEA and CFD tools, PLM systems, and statistical analysis programs, in addition to normal business systems like Excel and Powerpoint. You’ll need to learn all the specifics of the systems and products your company makes, how the business works, and how to communicate all your technical ideas to everyone involved with them. In other words, you’ll need to be a complete martial artist of business and technical skills to succeed.
4. You will push the boundaries of technology. Mechanical design engineers are hired to create new products and solutions for the world. Whether your industry is gas turbines, spacecraft, or tablet computers, you will be at the forefront of developing new technology, creating new tools, products, and systems to solve the world’s problems.
5. You’ll work with the smartest people. Engineers are some of the smartest, most tech-savvy people out there. During your career, you will have the ability to work with experienced mentors, other smart young engineers, and a variety of different disciplines during your career. There are also a ton of conferences, groups, and associations available for any industry you may be working in, allowing you to connect and network with all brightest people.
6. You’ll get involved in many different areas of your business. Mechanical design engineers don’t operate in a vacuum, or in a room alone. To be successful you will work in teams with other engineering disciplines, customers, suppliers, manufacturing, management, logistics, testing, marketing, and probably many more functional groups. You will learn to understand and work with all of these different functions, developing a broad knowledge of how your company and industry functions.
7. You’ll have lots of opportunity for career growth. As you work on different tasks and projects you’ll naturally gain lots of skills and insight in different areas, both specialized technical areas like FEA and widely applicable categories like project management. All of these new skills will be highly prized by your business, giving you leeway to choose your career path. Whether you want to specialize highly and really dive deep into the wormhole of one technical niche, or make the leap into management or another business function, your experience in mechanical engineering will give you the necessary experience and skills.
8. Your coworkers are awesome. Being a creative technical person puts you right at the hub of the technical and creative areas of your business. You will have the opportunity to work with and learn from all the talented engineers and creative folks in your area. The range of specialties and knowledge in any given engineer pool leads to a mix of interesting personalities, mentors, and quirky characters that you will learn to love. You may get to know salty old machinists, mad scientists, computer geniuses, slick businessmen, and any other number of interesting people.
9. You will use every skill you have (and some that you don’t have yet). Think that mechanical design engineers sit behind a computer all day? Think again…to be successful, you will have to develop speaking and presentation skills to communicate your ideas to a range of personalities and positions, persuasion skills to get support for your project plans, project management skills to execute complex projects on time, and an artistic intuition to turn technical requirements into a functioning system or product, not to mention all the obvious technical requirements that you will have to master. You might use calculus, fluid dynamics, and a second language in one working meeting!
10. You’ll have access to powerful tools. You will have lots of incredibly powerful technology at your disposal, from solid modeling and FEA software to 3D printers to fully instrumented testing labs, to name just a few. However, with great power comes great responsibility, as you will have to learn to understand and use all of these incredible tools to get the most out of them.
11. You’ll get to show off how smart you are. Everyone likes to get credit for their good ideas, and you will have plenty of opportunities. You may have the opportunity to apply for patents, set the technical direction for your company’s projects, and lead complex projects. When there are technical questions, everyone looks to the engineers to answer them.
12. You could end up running a huge company. According to businessinsider.com 33% of CEOs on the S&P 500 are former engineers. Engineers are logical, organized, and results-oriented, all good qualities for a head honcho. So if you think you might like running a company someday, starting in an engineering discipline is a good way to go.
13. You will be able to merge your creative and technical skills. Mechanical design engineers work at the intersection between the creative and technical worlds. You will need to develop artistic flair to create elegant and attractive products and solutions, while having the engineering chops to meet technical requirements. Long gone is the time when designers and engineers existed in separate departments, throwing projects “over the wall” to each other to complete separate tasks on the same project. You will need to do the job of both, allowing you to flex your creative as well as technical prowess.
14. You’ll understand how everything works. The great thing about being an engineer is the deep fundamental understanding that you will develop about how the world works. From your automobile to your television to the local power plant, you will understand how everything functions, how to fix it when it breaks, and how to design it better!
15. You will have a high status in the company and in society. When engineers talk, management listens. You have the authority to make or break projects, products, and ideas. Due to your rare combination of technical skills and competence, you will demand high pay, interesting projects and responsibilities, and a comfortable status in your company and your community.
16. You’ll have international opportunities. Rare is the company that designs, manufactures, and sells everything in one country. Most likely, you will be working with suppliers, customers, and even co-workers in a variety of countries and cultures. This will require you to develop good communication skills and learn about other cultures in a professional setting. You will probably have the opportunity to travel and work in other areas of the world as well.
17. You’ll never stop learning. As the pace of technological change accelerates, engineers have to keep up. They are the ones enabling the advance of the world, which requires a constant drive to push the envelope of their own knowledge and technical comfort zones. As an engineer, you will always have new things to learn, new applications for different ideas and technologies to test, and new tools to master.
18. You’ll be able to take inspiration from anywhere and everywhere. Many of the best solutions in one industry are adapted from existing solutions in another industry, or from somewhere else entirely (like nature). As a mechanical design engineer, you are only limited by your own creativity. When you encounter a difficult problem, you will be able to look to other industries, specialties, or tools to solve it.
19. You and your work will inspire others. How many modern engineers were inspired by the Tesla Roadster, the Google self-driving car, or the iPad? As a mechanical design engineer, you will have the ability to create amazing products and solutions that inspire others in different industries and locations. You will also have the ability to teach and mentor others as you gain experience, passing on your knowledge for the next generation of new engineers.
20. You will redefine what it means to be a mechanical design engineer. In five or ten years, the profession will have evolved. Maybe design engineers will be more like artists, using the exponentially increasing computational power of design tools to “outsource” the rote technical problems to computers while creating amazingly beautiful products. Maybe they will be bridging the gaps between industries, using the new technological power to adapt biological solutions to mechanical systems. As you begin your career, you will have a growing set of tools and skills at your disposal. It will be up to you to decide how to use them to shape the world.