What does a mechanical engineer do?
Mechanical engineers are responsible for designing, developing, building and maintaining machinery. They work across the entire product or process lifecycle of components, machinery or plants.
Exact responsibilities can vary depending on the industry and type of company, but mechanical engineers will generally be required to:
- Analyse problems to determine how a mechanical device may solve them
- Research, develop, design and manufacture new products
- Design and implement improvements and modifications to existing products to improve safety and efficiency
- Develop project specifications alongside other engineering colleagues
- Produce technical documents such as specifications and design plans
- Oversee maintenance and quality control to ensure continuous running
Where do mechanical engineers work?
Mechanical engineers can work across a wide range of industries, as mechanical engineering plays a role in almost everything around us. Typical employers include:
- Pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies
- Manufacturing companies
- Automotive and aerospace organisations
- Energy companies
- Oil and gas businesses
- Research institutions
To find out who’s hiring right now, search mechanical engineer jobs here.
Qualifications and experience required
You will likely be required to hold a university degree in a relevant subject to become a mechanical engineer. Relevant subjects include mechanical engineering, electromechanical engineering or manufacturing engineering. Although a Masters or other postgraduate qualification may not be essential, it can be useful and some employers may require one for certain opportunities.
Achieving chartered status (CEng) with the Engineering Council – the UK regulatory body – will demonstrate your professionalism and commitment to the engineering field. To become chartered, you will need to undertake an accredited bachelor’s degree and appropriate master’s degree (MEng).
Employers will look for graduates with prior work experience and value those over graduates without it. This can be undertaken during university either through a placement year or summer work programme, and can be a great opportunity to build on the knowledge learned during teaching. It will also offer the chance to learn about the different areas of chemical engineering as well as gain some essential project management experience.
Find downloadable CV and cover letter templates here.
How to become a mechanical engineer
To become a mechanical engineer, you will need to have:
- Excellent communication skills, both written and verbal, and a high level of confidence
- The ability to work well within a team as well as independently
- Organisational skills
- IT and technical skills
- Problem-solving and analytical skills
Alongside these basic skills, you will also need to be familiar with concepts such as CAD (computer-aided design), CAM (computer-aided manufacturing) and computational fluid dynamics (CFD) as well as have a deep understanding of electricity, mechanics and dynamics. Depending on the industry in which you are working, you may also need to have experience with material-handling systems or power-using machinery, or knowledge of engineering economics.
Within an interview, you are likely to be asked questions that explore your mechanical engineering knowledge. For example, an employer may want to know about a time you used certain techniques to solve a mechanical engineering problem, or ask you to describe your understanding of machinery and components. You should always use the STAR technique when answering interview questions, which you can find out more about here.
There are a variety of ways to search for chemical engineer jobs. Job sites such as New Scientist, Just Engineers and Indeed are a great place to start, as well as professional networking sites such as LinkedIn. Specialist recruitment agencies like CK Technical are one of the most effective ways to find engineering and IT roles, as they are able to offer tailored advice and support as well as speak with employers directly to provide candidate recommendations.
Sign up for CK+ to apply for roles at the click of a button and receive job alerts here.
The starting salary for a mechanical engineer usually ranges between £20,000 and £25,000. It may be possible to begin your career as a mechanical technician (a lower level role) before moving into an engineer position, or undertake a graduate training scheme.
With some experience, this can rise to an average of £37,500 or higher for senior management roles.
Careers in mechanical engineering are not restrictive, and there are a range of opportunities that can be presented. You could:
- Move into a management position, which will involve taking on responsibility for teams of staff members and leading projects
- Develop skills and move into other commercial areas of a business, such as business or finance
- Move into other industries with transferrable mechanical engineering skills or other types of companies, such as consultancies
- Maintenance Engineer – responsible for undertaking continuous routine maintenance on plants and machinery to ensure they run smoothly and reliably.
- Chemical Engineer – designs and develops useful products by changing the physical or chemical state of raw materials. Sometimes also known as process engineers, they are responsible for the industrial processes of making the products we use every day, such as food and beverages, cosmetics and oil.
- Production Manager – responsible for the planning, management and supervision of industrial manufacturing processes, to ensure that projects are completed on time and within budget.