3 answers

How does mechanical engineering work?

Updated Lynn, Massachusetts

I´m really into automotive engineer but there are other things that I´ve seen that are related to mechanical engineering and I´m also interested in them, for example designing visual characteristics or doing things related to aerodynamics, but I don´t know how it works out exactly. Do I have to look for other types of engineering? #engineer #mechanical-engineering #engineering

3 answers

G. Mark’s Answer


In an engineering position, you will generally be given a project task. You may be involved in the planning stage and work with the team to divide the tasks. The first stage will be defining the problem to be solved. This is where working with the team and effectively communicating is essential. You may be working independently, but most often not, since projects are tending to get larger and more complicated, not less. A mechanical engineer will be working on defining the requirements of the project. Unless you're a novice or you focus on the design and implementation phases. Obviously, a mechanical engineer will be working on designing the mechanical aspects of any solution or project. One thing I recommend to my students is to get involved in a class that focuses on projects, preferably a team project. This is an excellent way to get familiar the the "global engineering process", which defines these stages. This can be a tremendous amount of fun and very, very educational. You might want to check for internships or co-op positions wherein you will actually work at the company in a mechanical engineering capacity. All the things I'm tell you now will become second nature. Plus, you'll get a better idea of what sorts of things fit your personality and preferences. In so many questions of this type, I recommend taking a personality occupational assessment survey, like RIASEC. I could tell you more about global engineering process and the day-to-day life an engineer, but it's always a great idea to start with seeing how closely your personality fits with people who are already successful and enjoy it.

Cheryl’s Answer


Vehicle aerodynamics is a really interesting field. I have a Bachelors and Masters in Mechanical Engineering and did not focus on aerodynamics howeverI did have the opportunity to to work in this area for a few years as I was working on the EPA greenhouse gas rulemaking and investigating road load improvements that would result in a raise in vehicles fuel economy. Based on research and conversation I became proficient in the area and I helped design an aero test program which was then conducted at NRC in Canada and I traveled to Germany to attend a technical conference at FKFS and I had the opportunity to talk with the minds at Mercedes and they gave me a tour of their wind tunnel. I also attended the SAE World Congress in Detroit MI (April each year - they have presentations in the field of vehicle aerodynamics). If you think you are really interested in aerodynamics then I suggest you read up on the many changes that have happened over the past 10 years or so as vehicle manufacturers work to improve the fuel economy of their vehicles. In addition to the resources mentioned, the Society of Automotive Engineering has a lot of papers you can buy. There are also YouTube videos by auto mfrs. Checkout the ones by Mercedes (their concept car) and Nissan (Murano). I believe a University in Stuttgart Germany specializes in this field. The University of Michigan also has an aerodynamics program. There may also be a public report by National Research Council Canada that describes some of their testing on vehicle aerodynamics. Overall, go with your gut...if you think you are curious then read and visit what places u can and inquire at universities about their programs. Good luck!

Cheryl recommends the following next steps:

  • Read SAE papers on aerodynamics and lookup YouTube videos as well. Call and visit universities that have programs in this area.

Glenn’s Answer

Mechanical engineering is the broadest of all engineering disciplines. I work in product development and have supported consumer electronics and medical devices. It is some what unusual to move back and forth between these to. Medical is heavily regulated and therefore has a lot more paperwork, so to speak. Product cycles in consumer electronic are generally from 10 months to 2 years, where in medical devices, it is 10 months to 5 years.

As in all design, we go from concept phase, to feasibility phase, to engineer/design, to production. This means that what we do depends on the phase. We work closely with EE, ID, manufacturing, procurement, product management, project management ... We design, prototype, test, iterate on the design.

I work on the final product. There are people that just design the components as well.

In the end, MEs also work for automotive manufacturers. But the key is to find the education that aligns with your passion. If you are unsure, ME offers more flexibility in your career options.

Glenn recommends the following next steps:

  • Co-Op or intern if possible
  • visit companies when they come to campus. Ask them about what opportunities are like with their company
  • do informational interviews with people in the field you are considering. You may want to reach out on LinkedIn to find them and put the reason for contacting them.