What Do Mechanical Engineers Do? Mechanical Design Engineering Career

  • Engineering is everywhere you look, and mechanical engineering affects most aspects of the modern world
  • Mechanical engineers have many options when it comes to career paths
  • Mechanical design engineers spend much more time on CAD software than mechanical engineers
  • Mechanical design engineers will have average growth for employment over the next 10 years
  • Aspiring mechanical design engineers must have at minimum a bachelor's degree

Difference Between the Various Types of Engineering

“Engineering” is defined as the type of technology and science that includes the design, creation and use of machines, engines and buildings/structures. It is also one of, if not the most lucrative STEM disciplines in the world. Engineering is a very broad term and it covers a vast array of fields, like automotive, biomedical and chemical engineering.

The engineering term is applied to a huge amount of fields in the modern world, and it seems that engineering roles are everywhere, however, engineering is normally divided up into five main categories. Each of these main categories acts as another blanket field covering more specific areas of engineering.

The five main branches of engineering are:

  1. Chemical engineering
  2. Civil engineering
  3. Electrical engineering
  4. Industrial engineering
  5. Mechanical engineering

They are classed as the original engineering categories that all other engineering field grew from. Naturally, these fields don’t cover absolutely every engineering field, as there are also hundreds of specialized engineering fields and also interdisciplinary fields, which take some characteristics from multiple engineering disciplines.

What Do Mechanical Engineers Do?

Mechanical engineers create machines and come up with solutions to solve mechanical issues and conflicts. They are known to design engines and other car components, systems like HVAC systems and they also create products that are used in the medical and chemical fields like medical devices and instruments.

Virtually everything in the modern world is touched by mechanical engineers, from the mobile phone in our hands to the airplanes that we fly all over the world in. Even in industries like the food industry where it might not be immediately apparent what the influence of mechanical engineers is, it is the tools that are used to cook and the methods that exist to produce the food is where mechanical engineers have a part to play.

A select few mechanical engineers are even involved in the marketing and selling of products, where they have carried their design all the way through to production and then decide to sell the product themselves, although this is rare in most cases.

Everything in the world has some influence from mechanical engineers, just look at what you’re reading this on right now!
Everything in the world has some influence from mechanical engineers, just look at what you’re reading this on right now!

Where Do Mechanical Engineers Work?

Those equipped with a mechanical engineering degree have a vast array of career paths available to them. Mechanical engineers are very versatile and that gives them plenty of options when it comes to the industries that they can choose to work in, and these options can range in the responsibilities and the different roles may be in stark contrast to one another. Some example of roles that mechanical engineers can fulfill are:

Automotive engineer: Mechanical engineers working in the automotive field will have a hands-on part to play in the creation and maintenance of the automobiles we see and use every day. They may work as a research engineer on aerodynamics or maybe the suspension systems, among many other components that need a mechanical engineer’s touch.

Biomedical engineer: When working in the biomedical field, mechanical engineers are expected to create and maintain life-saving medical equipment used to treat patients. These can include: artificial arms/legs, stents and even robot surgical assistants.

Construction engineer: A mechanical engineer in the construction field would be expected to take care of the fine details involved in a construction project like the HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning), plumbing or sprinkler systems.

Robotics engineer: Working in the robotics industry, mechanical engineers are expected to build, design and maintain robotic equipment. They are involved in making technology fit into a robots design, and determining how a robot will react in certain situations.

Mechanical design engineers spend the majority of their time in the office, sitting at their desk using CAD software.
Mechanical design engineers spend the majority of their time in the office, sitting at their desk using CAD software.

Differences Between A Mechanical Engineer and Mechanical Design Engineer

Simply put, the main difference between a mechanical engineer and a mechanical design engineer is the time that they spend using CAD software and creating designs on a computer. Mechanical engineers are known for their ability to have an in-depth understanding of their designs and their know-how on how to make their design operate and work safely and efficiently.

Mechanical design engineers, sometimes referred to as “mechanical designers”, prioritise their skills in order to create representations of a design. This is used to give a customer an idea of the final design or product before any construction or manufacturing has been commenced. That being said, both mechanical engineers and mechanical design engineers both use CAD (Computer Aided Design) to convey their designs.

Mechanical engineers create and design new machines for various applications, while mechanical design engineers usually work with the mechanical engineer to then produce a detailed model of the system and the different components that it comprises. They can either build on an existing design or create a new design from scratch.

Mechanical Design Engineer Job Description

A mechanical design engineer designs, creates and commissions products and systems like tools, elevators and air conditioners. These designs are created by solving problems and issues using the principles of science, like chemistry, mechanics and physics.

A mechanical design engineer’s work is centered and based around adaptation and testing multiple designs based on their suitability and effectiveness for the respective application. As this can be a demanding role, they must have a certain skill set which will be explored further in the next section.

Some job responsibilities of a mechanical design engineer can include:

  • Adjusting drawings to negate any on-site issues and incorporate design changes
  • Create custom designs using CAD software and produce mechanical, fabrication and assembly drawings
  • Collaborate with other professionals on their team for that project, including architects, other engineers and designers etc.
  • Develop a relationship with customers and clients to product designs to their specific criteria
  • Incorporate mechanical design concepts and electromagnetic influences into designs and functional testing
Collaboration with other engineers is essential for mechanical design engineers. They need to be able to communicate their designs clearly to clients and other professionals.
Collaboration with other engineers is essential for mechanical design engineers. They need to be able to communicate their designs clearly to clients and other professionals.

Skills Required for Mechanical Design Engineers

Designing a system for any purpose is the “bread-and-butter” for mechanical design engineers, however to be successful in this career choice a variety of skills are needed, these can include:

  • Project Management: Mechanical design engineers are expected to be able to carry out a project from start to finish. This includes the initial concept, ensuring that the design is following and satisfying the project’s requirements, and the creation of the product/system down to the fine details.
  • CAD Skills: Mechanical design engineers should have an extensive knowledge of at least one of the most popular CAD programs out there (CATIA, AutoCAD, SolidWorks etc.)
  • FEA Skills: They should also have a decent understanding of FEA (Finite Element Analysis) solutions, including both the pre and post processing options, (ANSA, FEMGEN, ABAQUS etc.)
  • Communication: Communication is essential in all engineering roles, mechanical design engineers are not an exception to this. The ability to communicate designs efficiently and clearly is essential to coordinating properly with customers and other professionals that they work with.
Mechanical design engineers commonly collaborate and critique drawings together to have different perspectives on designs.
Mechanical design engineers commonly collaborate and critique drawings together to have different perspectives on designs.

Are Mechanical Design Engineers in Demand?

Most of the job opportunities that mechanical engineers and mechanical design engineers alike come across is the need to replace older mechanical engineers that are retiring, are promoted to managerial positions or who exit the industry for some reason.

However, other opportunities may arise due to the flexible skill set that mechanical design engineers possess and this opens up options for them in different industries such as the biomedical, automotive or mechanical engineering fields.

Mechanical engineer/mechanical design engineer employment is expected to rise about 4% from 2019 to 2029 according to the BLS.

Mechanical Design Engineer Salary Expectations

In the US, the expected average salary of a mechanical design engineer is about $70,929 per year. The expected salary of an entry-level mechanical design engineer with little experience is about $63,055 per year. This can increase all the way up to about $84,674 with a lot of experience (20 years) in their respective field.

In contrast to this, in the UK the average salary expectation for a mechanical design engineer is £30,041 per year.

How to Become a Mechanical Design Engineer

The minimum requirement to become a mechanical design engineer is to possess a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. The specializations within a mechanical engineering program is at the discretion of the student and their personal career path. Internships should be pursued once the student has graduated to accrue some experience in their desired field.

To then begin the journey towards becoming a licensed professional engineer (PE), the graduate will have to pass the FE (Fundamentals of Engineering) exam first, which is a day-long exam based around engineering fundamentals. Once this is completed, the PE (Principles and Practice of Engineering) exam will have to be taken in order to obtain the title of Professional Engineer.

Once the PE license has been received, the mechanical design engineer is then qualified to provide engineering design services to the public directly. It is important to note that they do not need a PE license to begin a career as an entry-level mechanical design engineer, only if they want to provide engineering services directly to customers.

Are you a mechanical design engineer? If you have anything to add please do not hesitate to share with a comment below!

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