A career in the mechanical engineering industry is considered to be the most exciting given that it enhances the problem-solving and project management skills. In addition, the skills gained from the occupation can be applied in a variety of careers, such as Business, Medicine, and Law. Mechanical engineers can work in engineering related fields, such as the aerospace industry, the automotive sector, the manufacturing sector, and the biomedical industry. In such industries, there exist a number of factors that require the insight and technical expertise of engineering personnel. The processes in the firms within the industry usually involve the conversion of energy and motion through the elaborate process using sophisticated mechanical devices. The most common activities carried out by the manufacturing firms are fuel generation and manufacture of semiconductors. Mechanical engineers play a significant role in the whole production process due to their technical expertise and operational knowledge. Given the important role than mechanical engineers play in the organization's long-term profitability and sustainability, most professionals in the industry are part of the top level management of the companies. The mechanical engineering career requires from individuals high level of operational capabilities, problem-solving and critical thinking skills. They are also expected to be very creative given that they are involved in development of new concepts for the products that a firm wishes to manufacture. It also requires good knowledge on fluid, thermal, mechanical parts, and the company's manufacturing activities.
What a Career in Mechanical Engineering Entails
According to Career Cornerstone, the mechanical engineering profession involves the following characteristics: individuality, flexibility, and breadth. The decision to take a career in the mechanical engineering specialization emanates from personal choice and an individual's desire to change the world (Career Cornerstone). The three principal virtues of flexibility, individuality, and breadth have made the profession one of the oldest and largest engineering disciplines. The occupation equips the engineers with problem-solving and critical thinking skills that they can apply in different disciplines and their day-to-day lives. An entry-level position in the mechanical engineering sector is the dream job for any engineering graduate that wishes to lead the process of creating systems and processes that drive changes in industry practices and technology (Career Cornerstone).
Szumski highlights the related fields in the engineering industry that have a close association with the mechanical engineering profession. The related disciplines include aerospace engineering, manufacturing engineering, and automotive engineering. The concrete foundations of mechanical engineering are energy, mechanics, heat, manufacturing, and design (Career Cornerstone). The mechanics process involves the movement of fluids, such as particles, hypersonic gasses, and still water, to and from a complex structure. The professionals within the mechanical engineering develop products, such as engines, mechanical devices, machines, and highly sophisticated tools. Herweck points out that mechanical engineering personnel carry out research on automated tools, they design and develop concepts, test tools, and manufacture different mechanical devices (Career Cornerstone).
In the United States, there were 258,100 registered mechanical engineers in 2012 (Bureau of Labor Statistics). In addition to this, there was a 5% job outlook rate that was significantly lower than the average rate. By 2022, the mechanical Eengineering career will have an employment change of 11,600 (Bureau of Labor Statistics). The US Department of Labor approximates that the 2012 median compensation for mechanical engineers as at 2012 as $80, 580 per annum. The rate of pay is significantly high when compared to other professions in such fields as medicine, business, education, and law. The annual salary of $80, 580 translates to $38.74 per hour (Bureau of Labor Statistics). The adequate remuneration acts as a motivating factor to new entrants into the profession. The career also requires no working experience in a related discipline thus removing all the possible barriers that can impede the entry into the prestigious career.
The Day-by-Day Activities of the Mechanical Engineering Career
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mechanical engineering discipline involves the design, building, testing, and successful operationalization of thermal and mechanical devices (Bureau of Labor Statistics). The mechanical engineers conceptualize and invent highly-sophisticated devices, such as engines, tools, and machines. The primary duty of a mechanical engineer within an organizational setting is to design and supervise the production of elaborate automated devices. In addition to this, Herweck identifies another critical role of a mechanical engineer within the firm's manufacturing department. Herweck stresses that the mechanical engineering staff are the personnel who design power-producing devices, such as electric generators, combustion engines, as well as steam and gas turbines. Working in mechanical engineering requires a high level of technical competence, excellent problem-solving and design skills (McAlpine). Moreover, mechanical engineers develop and oversee the manufacturing process of power-consuming mechanical devices, such as air-conditioning equipment and manufacturing machinery (Career Cornerstone).
The other main activity carried out by mechanical engineers is the design of complex machines that are installed in buildings. Such complex machines include elevators, escalators, automated transfer stations, conveyor systems, material handling systems, and elaborate plants. In carrying out their design work, mechanical engineers rely on specific design software tools. The software helps the design personnel in proper conceptualizing and eliminating flaws that may occur in the design process. The computer software is also used in creating and analyzing various designs, conducting simulations, and testing the output in order to determine the functionality of new systems developed (Herweck). The modern complexities in the business environment require heavy reliance on computers for solving numerous problems. However, the technical competence and expertise of design personnel is essential when developing new machines and generating specifications for the company's products. The system-level design process is an important component of the mechanical engineer's roles.
In addition to these two principal roles, mechanical engineers analyze particular problems facing the organization. The assessment is geared towards determining the manner in which thermal and mechanical devices can be employed in solving the identified problems (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Professionals in the mechanical engineering industry also design and redesign the thermal and mechanical devices by using various computer-aided design and analysis tools. The computer-aided design results in efficient thermal and mechanical devices that can function and solve the problems that occur in the manufacturing firms (Bureau of Labor Statistics). The computer-aided design (CAD) has revolutionized the work of mechanical engineers. The increased use of technology has been widely accepted because of its product management integration features. The design methodology also enables the engineers to carry out product modeling and develop products easily (The Talley Group).
Another critical role performed by mechanical engineers is CAD drawing. Other than conceptualizing ideas about the products that can be used to solve the firm's problems, the engineering personnel design and draft drawings of sophisticated mechanical devices. The mechanical engineering professionals also draw hand blueprints of the thermal and mechanical devices which are later scanned and uploaded to the design software. The process enables the personnel to create 3-D drawings that allow the company to develop enhanced products in a quicker, safer and easier way (The Talley Group). Additionally, the mechanical engineering professionals are involved in project management activities. The experienced professionals often take leadership roles in large organizations where they guide strategy and policy making. Herweck notes that the mechanical engineers undertake a comprehensive communication and documentation process in a complex product management environment (Herweck).
Other roles performed by the personnel in the mechanical engineering field include the development and testing of prototypes of various thermal and mechanical devices designed. The testing of the prototypes must be done in order to ensure that flawless products are developed. In addition, the design staff also analyze the test results from the prototypes tested. Following results from the CAD-design process, the mechanical engineers undertake the redesign of the products to fit the new requirements and any anticipated changes (Bureau of Labor Statistics). The final critical role performed by individuals in the mechanical engineering profession is overseeing the whole manufacturing process. The individuals monitor the manufacturing process for firm's products in order to ensure that the products specifications are adhered to and all production standards are followed.
What the Mechanical Engineering Career Offers Society; How the Job Affects the Society and Why There Exist Interest in the Profession
The mechanical engineering profession has significant societal interests given that it has among other things a strong relationship with the community. It is due to this relationship that the conduct of the engineers and their responsibility to the society becomes essential (Nicholas and Weldon). Engineers have a social responsibility to various stakeholders. The mechanical engineering occupation has a significant impact on health, safety and wellbeing of the whole community. The engineers design and supervise the manufacture of widely used automated products. According to the National Society of Professional Engineers Board, the whole society is affected by the decisions made by mechanical engineers. It, hence, requires the personnel to provide their services in disciplines of their competency.
The mechanical engineering profession has a vital and direct impact on the quality of life of the whole society. It thus requires from the professionals within the engineering profession to be of the highest level of ethical conduct. In addition, the mechanical engineering services require fairness, equity, impartiality, and honesty from the practicing professionals. The profession plays a significant role in the society given that it is essential for maintaining public health, social welfare, and safety (National Society of Professional Engineers). The mechanical engineering profession also offers the society high-quality services that help various clients to solve particular problems. The society hence requires the personnel to conduct themselves lawfully, ethically, honorably, and responsibly. The ethical behavior of the professionals ensures that the engineering profession enhances its reputation, honor and reputation (National Society of Professional Engineers).
The Effect of the Mechanical Engineering Profession on the Society
The work of professional mechanical engineers has a significant impact on the whole society (Nicholas and Weldon). The interaction between between the engineering professionals within the occupation and the society leads to professional responsibility for the professional engineers. Engineering education has lately emphasized creating professional responsibility amongst engineers. Professional responsibility is a critical factor that influences societal development. It affects a number of factors such as professional ethics, quality assurance, communication, and environmental responsibilities. Other focus areas include safety and welfare of the clients and the general public and professional liability for practicing engineers. The above mentioned factors relate to the engineer's interaction with different stakeholders, such as employees, clients, employers, society, and engineering profession (Nicholas and Weldon). For this reason, the licensed professional engineers owe a professional duty to the society of monitoring the production of safe and efficient automated devices. It is as a result of the professional responsibility that the professional engineers owe the community that leads to better health standards, safety standards, and the societal welfare.
The Existing Interest in the Mechanical Engineering Profession
Baker opines that a number of high school students consider undertaking the mechanical engineering profession and other related courses. The increasing interest in the occupation emanates from the great amount of mechanical engineering information available to them (Baker). However, a limited number of high school students have restricted information about what the mechanical engineering profession entails, its job prospects and its remuneration. Most mechanical engineers earn high incomes thus making the career attractive to the potential students. The increasing interest in the profession is evident in the high enrollment numbers in the engineering departments of most universities and higher learning institutions. Traditionally, the retention rate in the United States for engineering students stood at slightly above 50% (Baker). The increased interest has hence resulted from the provision of adequate career preparation at high school level and the provision of sufficient background information for new students pursuing the profession in higher learning institutions.
In addition to this, the state, the federal government, and responsible agencies offer clearer incentives to students undertaking the technical engineering courses. The early development of interest in science, mathematics, and engineering principles has also resulted in most students taking various courses in the profession at the university and college levels. The high earning potential of mechanical engineers also acts as the motivation for new entrants into the lucrative career. The National Society of Professional Engineers also plays a role in making the mechanical engineering occupation more open and less remote. The transformation has been achieved by giving a professional look at the job, reframing of challenging engineering courses, and uplifting the profession's emotional appeal (Baker). There is also an increased interest in the mechanical engineering career given that most individuals have gained an understanding of what the profession entails. The desire to prevent disasters, generate clean energy, and develop technology solutions also acts as personal drivers that spur interest in the mechanical engineering career.
The Required Education and Degrees
One of the fundamental canons of engineering professional duty is rendering their services only in those specializations or disciplines in which they are competent. An engineer is not allowed to offer a given service unless he/she is qualified within the specified technical subject (National Society of Professional Engineers). In order to practice mechanical engineering, one must complete a Bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering. The Mechanical Engineering Technology Bachelor's degree is also relevant to the career (Bureau of Labor Statistics). In order to secure an entry-level job as a mechanical engineer, the two degrees are a mandatory educational requirement.
The completion of the challenging Mechanical Engineering courses requires knowledge in mathematics and science. The Mechanical Engineering technology degree programs require excellent understanding and profound interest in mathematics, physical sciences, design courses, and engineering background. The degree programs focus more on the practical application of classroom theories and principles. The need for internship experience for inexperienced mechanical engineers is greatly emphasized. Internships ensure that the Mechanical Engineering students have enough job-related exposure in the Mechanical Engineering sector. In order to be licensed as a practicing mechanical engineer, the degree programs in Mechanical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering Technology must be ABET-accredited (National Society of Professional Engineers).
Continuing Education Requirement(s)
The provision of continuous education for professional engineers is a professional responsibility for all practicing engineers. The National Society of Professional Engineers requires all its members to take ongoing training yearly before renewing the PE licenses (National Society of Professional Engineers). The need for ongoing training is essential for the professional development of the mechanical engineers in terms of gaining new knowledge and acquiring additional project management skills.
Required Licenses and the Regulatory Bodies
The mechanical engineering profession is regulated by the relevant state and federal government agencies. Once a graduate has completed the Mechanical Engineering Course, he/she cannot be registered as a practicing engineer until being certified by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. The society plays a significant role in evaluating the competence of engineering students within the particular disciplines of Mechanical Engineering by offering certification exams. Before one can be licensed to practice as a mechanical engineer by the National Society of Professional Engineers, they must first enroll for the ASME certification program. The licensing process also requires one to have at least completed an ABET-accredited engineering degree course. In addition to this, at least four years of work experience are needed before one can be registered as a member of the National Society of Professional Engineers.
There exist stringent legal requirements on the issue of licenses for practicing engineers, annual renewal of licenses, and the conduct of the members in service to their clients and general public. Before being registered as a practicing professional engineer (PE), most states have passed relevant legislation requiring engineers to complete the following four steps. First, it is a legal requirement that one must complete an accredited engineering degree, and then pass the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam. It is then followed by four years of progressive experience in an engineering-related industry under a qualified and experienced PE. Finally, the individuals will be required to pass the Principles and Practice of Engineering Exam before being issued with a practicing certificate and registered with the National Society of Professional Engineers. It is also a legal requirement that only licensed PE's can prepare, sign, seal, and submit engineering drawings and plans for approval and take work from the clients.
The mechanical engineering profession is one of the broadest and oldest engineering specializations. The professionals within this field conceptualize, design, develop, build, prototype, and test a series of mechanical devices. The professional engineers in the mechanical engineering discipline create different devices, such as engines, machines, and tools that are widely used in most industries and homes. Technological development has significantly boosted the quality of work of mechanical engineers given the efficiency and effectiveness of computer-aided design in mechanical engineering. The profession has also significantly impacted the society given that it influences the societal wellbeing, health and safety of the whole community. Even though there exist numerous challenges facing the mechanical engineering profession, its ability to attract bright minds making it stand above other engineering-related occupations.