what is a mechanical engineer?

As a mechanical engineer, you are tasked with designing, building and testing mechanical devices. You construct and modify a variety of machines and systems. You also install and maintain motors, equipment and industrial systems based on their desired uses. As a mechanical engineer, you develop specifications for designing and creating tools and systems. That means you assess a project's requirements and plan and develop mechanical designs for the new products. You also ascertain the performance of mechanical components by creating testing processes and conducting tests.

Mechanical engineers work in various industries. They use their knowledge of engineering concepts to develop machines used in the healthcare, power, transport and manufacturing sectors. Some also work in research facilities to develop and test advanced technologies like nanotechnology and biotechnology. The roles of mechanical engineers vary as different industries apply unique engineering concepts to create products and mechanical components. Since mechanical engineering is needed in all sectors, you can secure a job in your desired industry.

A mechanical engineer requires technical knowledge and problem-solving skills to modify existing machine designs. You should also demonstrate the scientific and numerical ability to solve complex mechanical issues.

Would working as a mechanical engineer suit your interest in working with machines? Then read on to find out what competencies and qualifications you need to thrive in a mechanical engineer role.

mechanical engineer jobs

average salary of a mechanical engineer

According to National Careers, the average compensation package for mechanical engineers ranges from £20,000 to £52,000 annually. The starting salaries for mechanical engineers usually range from £20,000 to £28,000 per year for recent graduates and entry-level workers joining the field. The compensation package increases with experience; you can earn £25,000 to £35,000 annually with three to five years of experience. In mid-level positions like lead or principal mechanical engineer roles, you earn around £35,000 to £50,000 yearly. Senior-level positions attract a compensation package of £45,000 to 60,000 per year.

what factors affect the salary of a mechanical engineer?

Due to the diversity of mechanical engineering roles, the compensation package varies depending on your industry; the complexity of the tasks and specialised skills required in each sector are the main influences. For instance, a mechanical engineer working in robotics earns more than automobile mechanical engineers. The types of machines you manufacture also influence your salary. If you work in the pharmaceutical industry manufacturing medical devices, you are likely to earn more than someone working in the food industry. 

Your location may also dictate your earnings since it determines demand. If you work in large cities and industrialised areas, the demand for mechanical engineers is higher, which increases your salary prospects.

female mechanical engineer
female mechanical engineer

types of mechanical engineers

Some of the mechanical engineering fields and specialisation options include:

  • manufacturing engineering: as a mechanical engineer, you play a vital role in manufacturing industries as you design the machines and technology used to create various products. Some mechanical engineers design equipment and machines for food production or medical devices for diagnosis and medicine production. You also design specifications for manufacturing automobiles and household appliances like air conditioning systems.
  • process engineering: as a mechanical engineer, you assess mechanical processes and develop modifications to improve efficiency and safety. You investigate the functions of machines and develop modifications to improve the systems. After testing, you install the systems to improve industrial processes.
  • robotics engineering: as a mechanical engineer, you can specialise in building and maintaining robots. Your job is to develop the robot designs based on their functions and technology. You determine their performance, such as how the robots react to stimuli. You also create modifications and perform regular maintenance on the robots.
  • automotive engineering: as a mechanical engineer working in the automotive industry, you play a role in designing and manufacturing vehicles. You also participate in auto research to develop modifications that improve the performance of vehicles. For instance, you develop alternatives for powering and fuelling mechanisms.

working as a mechanical engineer

Working as a mechanical engineer involves creating solutions for everyday problems in various industries. If the role sounds intriguing, check out the specific tasks, work environments and job outlook in the profession.


education and skills

Some of the routes for becoming a mechanical engineer include:

  • university course: to become a mechanical engineer, pursue a degree or higher national diploma in electromechanical or mechanical engineering. The courses equip you with the engineering techniques and knowledge necessary for the role. During your training, ensure you gain experience through summer vacation schemes, work placement and internships.
  • college: courses like a Level 4 or 5 higher national diploma in mechanical engineering also prepare you for the role. The courses require relevant experience or previous training in a relevant subject.
  • apprenticeship: if you don't meet the entry requirements for college courses, start with an apprenticeship programme that requires 4 or 5 GCSEs. Some of the higher degree apprenticeships available for mechanical engineers include manufacturing engineer degree apprenticeships and electromechanical higher apprenticeships.

skills and competencies

Some of the transferrable skills that a mechanical engineer requires include:

  • problem-solving skills: as a mechanical engineer, you should be good at analysing and solving real-world problems. Problem-solving skills help you develop solutions and product modifications.
  • creativity: as a mechanical engineer, your creative powers enable you to invent and design products and solutions for different industrial processes. Artfully-designed mechanical components usually rely on your creativity.
  • maths skills: becoming a mechanical engineer requires a strong aptitude for mathematics and numerical skills. Maths skills are useful for analysing data and applying mathematical concepts to design.
studying mechanical engineer
studying mechanical engineer


FAQs about working as a mechanical engineer

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