What is Mechanical Engineering?
Mechanical engineering is the oldest and one of the broadest engineering disciplines. It combines principles in engineering, physics and material sciences for research and analysis, designing, building, testing and operating machinery.
More specifically, the study of the field requires an understanding of core areas including:
- Mechanics – an area of science concerned with the behavior of physical bodies subjected to force and their subsequent effects to their environment
- Kinematics – the study of the geometry of motion
- Thermodynamics – the study of the relationship between energy and entropy, which deals with heat and work.
- Material science – focuses on the discovery and design of new materials with an emphasis on solids
- Structural analysis – the determination of the effects of loads on physical structures and their components
- Electricity – the phenomena associated with the presence of an electric charge. It involves understanding the efficacy of circuits for current to pass through and energize equipment.
Essentially, mechanical engineers are concerned with controlling the principles of motion, energy, and force and their application through mechanical solutions.
History witnessed the impact of mechanical engineering on time. Tools and processes designed and created at those periods were used to satisfy the needs of every society.
From building basic mechanisms like crankshafts used in pulleys to the birth of steam and gas turbines for engines than automobiles to today’s power tools, air-conditioning equipment, and other power-using or power-generating machines.
The 10 Best Mechanical Engineering Schools / Programs in the country are:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.)
M.I.T. located in Cambridge, Massachusetts is recognized as the best university in the world for subjects including, but not limited to, engineering and technology, information systems, architecture, chemistry, and mathematics.
M.I.T. offers undergraduate, master’s and doctorate mechanical engineering degrees. Courses offered range from fundamentals of mechanical engineering to specializations on energy and ocean science, bioengineering and micro and nanoengineering.
All coursework is centered on transforming insight into the positive progress that changes lives for the better. M.I.T. encourages its students to not only study but rather impact the world.
The only detriment with M.I.T. so far is the expensive tuition fee and relatively low aid assistance percentage, especially for undergraduates. The cost of education negates the relevance that M.I.T. adds to the field of study.
Stanford University Mechanical Engineering Info
California has 4 of the top mechanical engineering schools in the country. Stanford is the highest-ranking university of the four. Their department of mechanical engineering’s mission is to address the most pressing needs of human society with emphasis on the study of energy, health, and transportation.
Stanford offers bachelor’s, masters, and doctorate for mechanical engineering. Their courses focus on product design and sustainability that aids students to pursue a wide range of fields after graduating.
Although tuition is high, Stanford has a well-grounded financial aid program even for undergraduates. Students are expected to cover at least 5% of the cost through personal assets and a portion can be covered by earning through over the summer jobs and part-time employment within the school year. With this kind of support, students graduate with little to no debt.
Harvard University Mechanical Engineering Info
The Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) is a fairly new addition to Harvard. With this school, Harvard underscores its commitment to spreading its name and credibility to the reality of engineering and applied sciences.
Harvard remains to be one of the top schools in the United States. The same goes for the field of mechanical engineering. Students receive a foundational education in a discipline central to challenges in energy, transportation, manufacturing, robotics, and the development of public infrastructure for their undergraduate degree. Specializations, masters, and doctorates are also available in the school.
The Paulson School offers solid programs and support to students who require financial assistance. They also open doors that lead to opportunities to get to the highest levels of professional success. The school carries Harvard’s commitment to financially aiding its well-deserved students to cover all documented needs of the student. 4.
The University of California, Berkeley (UCB) Mechanical Engineering Info
In quality, UCB’s mechanical engineering program rivals M.I.T. and Stanford’s. UCB’s reputation is built on its commitment to research, entrepreneurial and out of the box thinking.
UCB has bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees in mechanical engineering. The program seeks to provide students with a solid foundation on engineering fundamentals. Students are prepared for advanced studies with constituencies in the industry, national agencies and laboratories, and academia.
Earning a master’s degree typically takes 2 years at Berkeley but students can opt to undergo the accelerated Berkeley Engineering Professional Master’s program which graduates students in just one year if study. Graduate students are required to have two minors to complete.
One of the advantages of being a state university is that tuition fees are more manageable than regular private schools. State residents have additional discounts if residency is proven.
Georgia Institute of Technology Mechanical Engineering Info
The Georgia Institute of Technology’s undergraduate mechanical engineering is broad and flexible. It aims to arm students with solid, fundamental concepts, real-world problem-solving experience and professional design and practice that can be applied to a wide range of industries and businesses.
Some of the course concentrations are automotive, nana-, and nuclear engineering. Further studies in graduate school in both post-graduate and doctorates are offered in the school.
California Institute of Technology (Caltech) Mechanical Engineering Info
Caltech’s name is synonymous with cutting edge engineering and technology. Being known as one of the most distinguished universities in the world today, an education with Caltech promises high levels of professional success after graduating.
This exclusivity though comes with a price. Being a private institution, the fees are highly expensive and inaccessible to most. To help students pass through this hurdle, Caltech offers a generous financial assistance program to those that require support in funding their studies.
The school recognizes and rewards talent. They provide ample support and programs to not only invite brilliant minds but to retain them as well.
Caltech offers bachelor’s, masters, and doctorates in mechanical engineering. Students can earn a master’s degree in only two years. They also offer part-time programs for working professionals.
Undergraduate courses lay the foundation for understanding and implementing the fundamental principles of engineering. It applies a real-world scenario to learning where team dynamics and collective thinking is practiced.
Purdue University Mechanical Engineering Info
Located in West Lafayette, Indiana, Purdue University is a state university that offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in mechanical engineering. Although well-known in mechanical engineering, Purdue is especially highly ranked in the agricultural, biological and civil engineering fields.
As a public university Purdue’s tuition is kept affordable, where many opportunities for financial aid are available. It is considered as a solid investment as students get significant ROIs from their engineering careers.
The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Mechanical Engineering Info
Like UCB, UCLA fees are lower compared to regular private schools. Aside from the lower fees, residents enjoy further discounts than out-of-state enrollees. Necessary supporting documents of residence need to be shared to avail of the said privilege.
UCLA offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees in mechanical engineering. Different sub-specialties are also offered in the school. Students can choose mechanical engineering partnered with aerospace, civil, chemical or electrical engineering.
Scholarships and financial aids can be given to students after application and review by the school board.
University of Michigan Mechanical Engineering Info
The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor has bachelor’s, master and doctorate degrees for mechanical engineering students. Classes focus on project-based learning and this approach has given them the distinction as one of the best schools for the field of study.
The department, together with its students, pursues efforts that have a significant impact on the current needs of our society. Some of the areas covered are sustainable resources, thermal sciences, and bioengineering.
Being a state-run facility, the fees for this institution are more manageable than its private counterparts. Residents get more discounts after providing necessary supporting documents.
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Mechanical Engineering Info
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is a state-run university that offers bachelor’s, masters, and doctorate degrees for mechanical engineering students.
Being a public entity, fees are significantly cheaper than their private counterparts. Residents get further discounts once residency is established.
Distance students can earn a master’s degree in engineering or computer science online. Other supplementary, professional courses are available online as well.
The University of Illinois is perhaps best known for its Technology Entrepreneur Center that helps students become innovators and entrepreneurs by giving a $30,000 prize annually to a student who has presented the most innovative technological project.
How to become a Mechanical Engineer?
Qualities of a Mechanical Engineer
If you feel that you have a knack for mechanical engineering and find yourself interested in pursuing a career in it, it is best to first evaluate your potential by asking these simple questions:
How are your grades in math and science?
If you struggle with either subject, it is best to move on and choose another specialty. If you do both well and confidently seek for more related challenges – this may be the right choice. Mechanical engineers require mad math skills to use and apply principles of calculus, statistics and other advanced mathematics for analysis and problem-solving. Mathematics is one of the cornerstones of engineering and pursuing a career without a solid background on that can lead to catastrophe.
Are computer games, puzzles and riddles fun for you?
If you can confidently navigate through numeric, visual or abstract puzzles and get answers or diligently go through a video game journey to reach the ending – mechanical engineering may be the right choice for you. Having a level head and good problem-solving skills are critical for mechanical engineers. They need to be able to take scientific problems or discoveries and use them to design or create practical and useful applications or solutions.
Are you curious about how things work?
Have you found yourself breaking things apart and putting them back together? Mechanical engineers have a natural curiosity to the inner workings of devices, breaking it down and understanding the function of one part in relation to another. These mechanical skills are needed by engineers to allow them to apply instinctive know-how and learned engineering concepts to design new systems or devices.
Have you had ideas that you think are better than what is currently available?
Have you had bright ideas? Have you had quick-witted ideas or actions that some people may call unusual or crazy? Do you have the courage to pursue and test these unconventional ideas? If you do, then you have one of the basic requirements in a mechanical engineer – creativity and innovation. These attributes are critical in coming up with creative approaches and solutions to problems and actualizing these solutions to practical and usable devices.
Can you play well with others?
Having mathematical and mechanical aptitude is not enough for mechanical engineers. Keen listening skills are also required to help them succeed in projects that involve specialists in other fields. Engineers often work with architects, scientists, and other engineers and being able to recognize and harmonize different approaches helps complete the task at hand and drives the formed team to success.
If you answered, YES to most, if not all these questions – it is best to say that Mechanical Engineering is the choice for you. After conducting a self-evaluation, sourcing for mechanical engineering schools is the next step.
Mechanical Engineering Education
Degrees in mechanical engineering are offered at various universities worldwide. The United States houses over 50 of the world’s top mechanical engineering departments and programs ranging from undergraduate to post-graduate degrees.
Undergraduate degrees usually include courses in mathematics, life, and physical sciences as well as engineering and design courses. Most technical programs focus more on the practical applications of engineering principles rather than learning about its theories. As part of this program, students are required to take internships to prepare them to work in the industry.
Mechanical engineering programs typically run between 4 to 5 years of study to earn a bachelor’s degree. Some schools offer a 5 to 6-year program that allows students to attain both a bachelor’s and a master’s degrees. Some cooperative plans combine school-work with real-world work experience enabling students to both earn money and get the necessary exposure.
In the US, most mechanical engineering programs are accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) to ensure similar course requirements and standards among universities. As of 2014, ABET’s website has over 300 accredited engineer programs in the country.
Professional Licenses and Certifications
Engineers may seek to license by a state or national government after getting a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. This process was created to ensure that engineers possess the necessary technical knowledge, real-world experience, and exposure to practicing engineering at a professional level. Once certified, the engineer has officially titled a Professional Engineer (PE).
To become a licensed Professional Engineer (PE), an engineer must take and pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam. Passers at this level are called engineers-in-training (EIT) or engineering interns (EI). They need to then earn 4 years of related work experience and pass the Principles and Practice exam to garner the PE title.
Most states recognize licensure from other states, as long as that said state’s licensing requirements meet or exceed their own. Engineers are encouraged to take continuing education to renew their licenses every year. The licensing board encourages for engineers’ growth are at par with technology’s advancements.
Job and Advancement Prospects for Mechanical Engineers
Job Outlook and Prospects
Mechanical engineering covers a wide spectrum of math and science fundamentals that can be easily applied to create devices or machines we can use every day. It is this multi-discipline exposure and ability to translate the know-how to practical applications that keep opportunities abundant in this field of study.
Education in mechanical engineering can be applied in any industry but manufacturing is where most mechanical engineers gravitate to. Manufacturing jobs cover the production life-cycle from conceptualization, product development to post-production quality and business continuity checks. Most mechanical engineers in this trade work for equipment manufacturing, utilities and aerospace companies, transportation and petroleum companies to name a few.
Some can choose to be involved in the research and development track. This option is for those interested to pursue the quest for efficient and effective solutions for problems in today’s world. Mechanical engineers can pursue advanced and focused tracks to specialize on. Some of those available and are in constant demand positions are:
- Automotive engineers – design a safer and more energy-efficient vehicle
- Biomedical engineer – work with help professionals to develop better medical equipment, medical aids, prosthetics, and artificial organs.
- Nuclear engineer – work on the design and implementation of effective and safe nuclear-based power plants
- Robotics engineer – design machines to build other machines, for example, creating a device to build automobiles.
Once mechanical engineers have gained significant on-the-job experience and developed a high level of credibility in the field, one can choose to work as consultants or independent contractors. With this, engineers have the control to work on projects of their choosing and with clients that they respect.
If not consulting for projects, some engineers move into academic careers. Driven by their desire to mold the next generation of highly skilled mechanical engineers, these professionals either join colleges, oversee research activities, manage laboratories and publish technical papers on the field of study.
Advancement Opportunities For Mechanical Engineers
With mechanical engineering’s broad offerings, job prospects for engineers are always good. But prospects are better for engineers that keep up with the advancement of technologies.
Innovations on software for design and simulation like 3-D printing has allowed designers and engineers to collaborate successfully and directly take projects from an abstract concept to a tangible, finished product. This shortened turn-around times for project completion and eliminates the need for prototypes. Taking courses on innovation such as this greatly improves one’s job prospects in the future.
For manufacturing, mechanical engineers need to keep abreast of the newest technological pursuits in areas like renewable resources, alternative energies, and nanotechnology. Exposure and contributions to these areas will help propel one’s career.
It is best to keep in mind that mechanical engineering is a continuously evolving study. What you learn this year may already be obsolete by the time you graduate. It is imperative therefore that students, graduates, and professionals in this field are updated on the latest developments and keep themselves well equipped to handle different situations thrown at them.
The times are changing and issues become tougher and more complicated, mechanical engineers need to be prepared and keep ahead. Immobility breeds extinction.