Mechanical engineering is a large and extremely diverse field, and mechanical engineering jobs are equally diverse as a result. As an industry, it therefore provides a wide range of employment opportunities and is a popular option among people considering the direction in which they want to take their career.

Mechanical engineering jobs.

As mechanical engineering is perhaps the broadest and oldest of all engineering disciplines, jobs in this field are similarly diverse in range. Speaking in general terms however, mechanical engineering jobs typically include responsibilities that centre around the analysis of problems – for example, identifying mechanical solutions, designing and redesigning mechanical devices, developing and testing prototypes of mechanical devices, then overseeing their manufacturing processes. Mechanical engineers or mechanical technicians often find themselves utilising a range of tools, techniques and machinery, depending on their area of speciality and the industry or field in which they are working.

Day-to-day activity.

Mechanical engineering is believed by many to be one of the largest engineering occupations, and as a result, day-to-day activity can vary enormously from role to role. However, there are a number of common themes. The nature of the role means that mechanical engineers are typically office-based and tend to work either from home offices or within the premises of their employing organisation.

That being said, the results of their work are rarely office-based, and mechanical engineers often find themselves visiting worksites and other specific locations in order to understand issues around a particular piece of equipment that requires their personal attention. Most mechanical engineers work full time, either as permanent employees or on a contracting or freelance basis, while working hours will depend very much on the demands of particular projects.

Typical projects.

Mechanical engineers will typically find themselves working in engineering services, research and development, manufacturing and public sector organisations. There are also significant numbers employed in general purpose machinery manufacturing, automotive parts manufacturing, testing laboratories and the armed forces.

Becoming a mechanical engineer.

A degree in a relevant engineering subject is a general starting point, though it may be possible to enter the profession via an apprenticeship route. Prospective employers will be looking for people with a strong academic background in science, technology, engineering and maths subjects. They will also be looking for candidates with a flair for problem solving and attention to detail that, at the same time, does not preclude them from seeing the bigger picture. Mechanical engineering jobs also require people to be able to work effectively either as an individual or within a team.

Salary and pay scale.

Given the size and diversity of the industry, salaries and packages can also vary hugely and depend on a range of considerations such as geographical location, individual skills, experience, length of service, the employing organisation, specific requirements of the role and many others. With that in mind, the figures here should be viewed as a guideline only. According to industry statistics, mechanical engineering jobs tend to fall within the range of £45,000 to £50,000, though there is of course significant movement in either direction from this, depending on the factors mentioned previously. It is also interesting to note that salaries in the industry have generally increased, even against the backdrop of the recent global economic crisis.

Career development.

Although the engineering industry has suffered along with almost every other industry because of the recent global economic downturn, the demand for mechanical engineers has not gone away, and a general shortage of skilled engineers in the UK means that this demand is still healthy. Continued professional development should be a priority for anyone in the sector, and membership with a professional organisation such as the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) is expected and can provide a range of benefits such as training and networking opportunities for those just starting out in the profession.

Working towards chartered status is also something that should be seriously considered, as chartered engineers tend to have more senior strategic roles within the areas of planning, research and management. Given its diversity, scope and opportunities for advancement, the mechanical engineering industry is an understandably popular career route for many people. The financial rewards are potentially large, and mechanical engineering jobs can be among some of the most satisfying from a personal and professional development point of view.

With this in mind, the engineering job market, despite being large and active, can also be very competitive. However, potential candidates with an interest in this area should not be discouraged.