I'm thinking about going back to school to get a mech. eng. bachelors.
I'm wondering what kinds of jobs people get out of college - good and
bad (what the odds are of landing those "cool" jobs everyone covets in
every field). What has attracted you to ME. What it takes to design.
And if I have to love cars and airplanes to be successful in ME.
There are a ton of ME's that just make the world go round. Pretty much all
products have an ME involved at some stage to make sure that things don't
break, they can be built, they can be maintained, etc. HVAC and any kind of
design/production firm needs ME's. The "cool" jobs that everyone covets are
pretty few and far between, but they exist. Unfortunately, a lot of them
are based on prior engineering experience so they're even harder to get
straight out of university.
There are also a lot of non-ME jobs that hire ME's, such as patent lawyers
or oilfield service engineers...good work, if you're interested.
I like planes. But that's just me.
Experience, experience, and more experience. Being a good designer is
something you can really only learn by doing...you can get the process from
school, but actually knowing what's good and what's bad just takes a long
time of seeing what's already been done that's good and bad, and knowing how
to apply new technology to old problems. Good designers are very very
experienced generatlists (within whatever field they're designing in).
Nope. If you're going to work on cars or planes, it can't hurt, but if you
love computer modelling, or engineering analysis, or problem solving, or
just talking technology, you can make any of those things work to allow you
to enjoy what you do. I hated the field I used to work in, but I loved the
job because I got to work with some really cool technology (offshore oil
Get your degree.
What kind of job you get really depends mostly on two things:
what you are interested in (ME is a big field)
where you want to live (don't look for aerospace jobs in Iowa for instance)
A degree is essential, and the better your GPA the more choice you'll
have on your first job. (After the first job, previous experience is more
important than GPA)
Here in SoCal we hire a lot of MEs right out of school and they are involved
in mech design of airborne electronics systems such as radar, electronic
warfare systems, optical systems, etc. No automotive around here anymore
You certainly do not need to love aircraft or cars to be a good ME.
AAMOF a lot of the engineers I deal with have crap cars and don't know
sh*t about the aircraft that they are building equipment for.
By the way, what is the current definition of "cool" jobs?
Straight out of college you are pretty much useless as an engineer. But
that's OK, we were all like that once. Within two years you'll be a
useful and dependable engineer, within 4 years you'll be looking for a
senior engineer's job. Then you either carry on in that job (or
variations thereof) until you peg out, start your own company, or become
The trick (I think) is to carry on learning throughout your career, if
you decide on the technical track, and mech eng certainly provides that.
I design new cars, and am involved typically from the start of the
I design suspensions
I use more difficult maths now than I did at university
Ooops, that's not so cool. More accurately, the maths is not more
difficult, but solving complex real world problems needs a different
mind-set to solving maths problems that you know are solvable.
In order to get this job I would say required 12 years of experience in
technical jobs in the automotive business.
Work in a field /you/ are interested in.
You should be aware that a good engineering degree is difficult and had
the highest workload other than medecine, vet sci, and law(!) at my
This info is great. It's reminded me of a few more questions. What
are you doing currently in ME, do you like it? Is there anything that
frustrates you about the field? How much hands-on work do you do and
how much is sitting on the computer (I like using the computer, but I
don't think I want to be on one all day long) or I guess, what kind of
tasks do you see mech. eng's doing? I know it's diverse, but tell me
what you know. Thanks so much.
I do engineering support for commercial airliners. Yes, I like it, but
there's other jobs at the company that I covet more.
Aerospace, at the OEM end, involves huge companies. You're treated as a
number by everybody except those that know you directly. That can be
annoying, compared to a small company, but there are advantages to a giant
Customer support is also frustrating for me, since I'm a hands-on
personality, because I have to do everything by remote control when I could
fix something more effectively if I had it right in front of me.
It depends what you mean by "hands-on." If you mean walking around the
factory and generally getting away from the computer, quite a lot. If you
mean actually turning wrenches, basically none, but I'm at a unionized
company where the engineers and the mechanics are separate unions and never
the two shall meet. I used to work oilfield where I was the only pair of
hands on site...I've been up to my shoulders in pumps, covered in grease and
cement dust, getting about as "hands-on" as it's possible to be.
Most engineering these days, unless you're working solo, involves
collaboration so you're always going to have some level of meetings, review,
etc. But the computer is going to figure in big no matter what you do
because it's become the standard tool for communication (email), design
(CAD), data access (web apps), and pretty much everything else. Now that
they integrated our phones with our computers, we really don't need a desk
other than as an object to hold up the compute.r
Not sure of where you live Laura but in Alberta Canada there is a
drastic shortage of ME for the oil industry. Whgile your goung to
school you may want to check out work terms and employment there. The
money is good and generally long hours. Only draw back is the housing
Right now, mostly I design automation. I also build said automation
(hands-on). I install it, integrate it to other equipment and I support
it in the field. Currently do 95% with robots, (cool factor there). It
is somewhat amazing what you can do with one or eighty.
Design or redesign machining processes (Process improvements/cost
Design fixturing for machining operations.
Design custom perishable tooling for the above.
Troubleshoot processes, machines, and the aboved mentioned automation.
Program CNC equipment, program robotics.
I also work with the maintenance departments to come up with solutions to
machine problems that cause unscheduled downtime.
Review product designs for manufacturability and work with product design
to reduce costs.
I strongly suggest after you get your degree, you take some night classes
at your local adult vocational education facility in the field of
machining. It is very difficult to design parts that can be made cheaply
and efficiently if you do not know how to make them yourself, how the
machines that will make your parts work, what tooling is available for
them and what the manufacturing process of the parts will likely be.
Along those same lines, it is imperative that you understand what is
functionally important in a part design and what is not.
I've worked with a lot of young ME's that if they designed a paper bag,
it would cost $3000 to make each one.
I also suggest you get some hands-on with fabrication, mechanical,
pneumatic, industrial electrical (PLC) and hydraulic systems. The above
skills will be invaluable in your future and will set you apart from the
An ME that is a very good generalist, knows machining, knows mechanical,
pneumatic, hydraulic and electrical systems and can truely think on the
foot are few and far between, and they command a high price.
Now, not to scare you off, but you do need to know the truth, it isn't
The job is extremely hectic and stressful most times. I have six major
projects on the table right now simultaneously, and this is a slow period
(pretty much out of capital money this time of year). We started the year
with 71 major projects divided among the four of us. I've completed 21 of
those so far, that total will climb to 25 by year end. You have to learn
time and project management. It is not as easy as it seems.
Do I enjoy what I do?..yes, I do. Even with the stress and (more often
than not) long hours, I very much enjoy what I do. The robotics and
process design parts are the most enjoyable.
Good luck to you in the future.
You can't 'idiot proof' anything....every time you try, they just make
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