There are also a number of general challenges that will be faced by all MEs, regardless of discipline.
► Our world is increasingly becoming computerized, and so MEs need ever-improving tech skills to interface with and control their mechanical contraptions. It's no longer enough to just be good at the mechanical stuff.
► Building mechanical hardware takes a lot of time to fabricate and assemble, and making revisions is time-consuming and difficult, so doing a good job the first time requires a lot of insight and attention to detail. Young engineers seem to be at a disadvantage after having grown up in a world where they have little hands-on experience working with or on mechanical stuff, because most items are either disposable or require little maintenance (e.g. modern cars).
► Keeping up on the all the technological advances that affect our field is daunting. You will invest significant time and money to stay on top of it, if you want to be really innovative.
A bachelor's degree will provide a good foundation for these sub divisions and later allow for specialization towards the final year.
It is a practical oriented field of study.
This allows you to be invaluable to many sectors from sciences to building design and management, construction and automation. This versatility I find to be the greatest strength.
In this field, you can be everything you want to be, with the commitment and dedication which is required to complete any four year degree, and a little more.
Oghenemena recommends the following next steps:
Sometimes the molds get damaged due to the steel being fatigued because of age or the resin (plastic) is very abrasive and wears out the steel.
We will need to replace the steel that happens to be worn out and do this quickly without compromising our production orders. This is Challenging. Other times the Molding Machine gets damaged and we need to repair that, on machines that are older and parts are not readily available we get to remove the old parts and reverse engineer them and have them made by local machine shops.
So problem solving is a great part of our job/career but this isn't to say it is always BAD or BROKEN problems we have. On new projects people come to us and want us to make things out of plastic. Our challenge would be to help them select the best type of plastic for their particular project and make sure the end user will be happy with it as well.
Saul recommends the following next steps:
Rosa G’s Answer
But one thing that is common to the main purpose of solving problems and that will help you in any field of ME you work on is statistics, I've found that knowing how to analyze data and turn this analysis onto actionable activities reduces time and improves your analytical skills
Presumably, you will have a fruitful career during the next 30 years or so. During that time and beyond, people will continue to need food, transportation, shelter, and entertainment. To satisfy that need today, we use prodigious amounts of energy, primarily from fossil fuels, but also from the sun, wind, nuclear and ?? Almost everything we do, everything we build and use - has an impact on the environment. Also, people will be going into space to explore Mars; perhaps create a colony on the moon or Mars. There are many opportunities to make things better within that framework.
Do you like to know how things work? Do you feel like, if you understood how a machine or system works, you could make it better....more efficient, lower cost, longer life....whatever? The key to making something better is (first) understand how it works, and (second) using your technical skills and ingenuity to come up with a better way.
How did US astronauts land on the moon in 1969? A lot of people solved a myriad of problems. Many of those people were ME's, but there were also physicists, EE's, mathematicians, metallurgists, etc. Basically, they broke one Great Big Problem into many little problems that they could solve.
As an ME, you can participate in solving some of the pressing problems of today and tomorrow, Depending on the specific discipline you choose (more about that later, perhaps), you could solve problems in manufacturing, transportation,agriculture, artificial intelligence, energy production or conversion, space travel or colony building....it's a pretty long list.
Engineering Disciplines - Think about an Accountant - he/she analyzes where money goes relative to an organization or a persons's activities. In Engineering, the focus is sometimes on money, but we start with a physical quantity first - such as Force, flow, pressure, Heat and temperature, Current, voltage and so on. So, we do the accounting (according to certain physical laws). Then we assess whether we can make things better, and what physical quantities must change by making some change to the physical system. To do so, we might model all or parts of the system to understand it. WE might do controlled tests that allow us to measure the physical quantities. we might create an analog model of the system. All of this takes lots of math and imagination.
Some people call this the Information Age. Very true, but, physical systems still do all of the useful work in the world (or space). Computers are used to control machines, but somebody has to know how to design and build those machines and understand what needs to be
controlled. The ME is that person.
To sum up - the Challenge for you as an ME is to gain a reportoire of technical skills; develop and hone your insight and ingenuity; and then apply them to problems that have not yet been solved (or possibly even not foreseen, yet).
Francisco Javier’s Answer
When talking about a Mechanical Engineer, she or he is a person who uses the principles of physics by using the mathematical language to solve particular problems in branches of statics, kinematics, dynamics, fluid mechanics, thermodynamics and have as well, knowledge about material properties to design machine elements that will be used to build machines, such as motor powered vehicle; even a computer would not exists if there was not Mechanical Engineering. And the reason being, is because in order to build a computer you need mechanical simulation of heat transfer of its electronic components, it is needed, as well, to calculate whether the computer´s carcass is able to withstand the weight of the components the computer is made of, therefore you need to calculate mechanical stress by using strength of materials, or better finite element analysis. By the other hand, if you need to transfer power from an electrical motor to your car´s tires, you need to design the gear box, shaft, rims, seals, and figure out what lubricant to use, so you need, among other things, to perform a kinematic analysis to check whether the gears are going to provide the speed and the torque you need to move your car to the desired speed and by consuming the lowest energy.
Brian C’s Answer
For a point of reference, electrical engineering is expected to have only 4,110 (or about 2.5 times fewer) openings. Software developers / programmers are expected to only have about 10,790 openings (virtually the same as with ME and CivE). However, for software developers, that roughly 11,000 openings is in a pool of almost 400,000 presently employed people or just over 2.5%. By comparison, mechanical engineers 10,250 openings is compared to 277,500 personnel or about 3.7%. This means that the job market for mechanical engineers is growing at about 150% the rate that software programmers are.
So, ME is basically tied with CivE on terms of the most projected openings among engineering disciplines for a field that is growing 1.5 times faster than programming and software development (a field commonly believed to be the best in terms of university graduate job opportunities) where there are roughly the same number of openings.
Now, there are going to be more jobs available for retail salespeople, cashiers, food service workers, nurses, customer service representatives, stockroom managers, and laborers (for example). However, nursing is the only one of those that would be appropriate for a university graduate.
There are other careers that will have more openings than mechanical engineers, but not within engineering and not in programming. Further, many ME graduates never work as engineers. Many work as managers (10 on the list with 68,800 openings), in sales (22, 29,230), analysts (48, 20,850), business operations (59, 16,990), marketing, inspectors, technical managers, and sales managers.
When you combine these job prospects, mechanical engineering becomes one of the most attractive and in-demand career choices among virtually all university graduates (right next to civil engineers).
Now, this is for the USA, but anywhere in the developed world you can expect very similar numbers and ratios.
Further, mechanical engineering is virtually recession proof and can't be technology-limited (see my other answers on ME for more details and the reasons why…but in a nutshell, it's because humans are largely mechanical systems).
Engineering in general is for problem solving. All engineering disciplines learn to solve problems in school. Each discipline learns the specifics of technology that pertain to that area. For Mechanical, those areas of interest are structural, thermal, dynamic, fluid, materials, and optics (maybe there are some others I'm not thinking of).
One of the most common tasks for Mechanical engineers is to take an idea and make it into a reality. For some, it might be an entire product (like a wrench or a toaster); for others you might be a part of a larger team and each make part of a more complex product (like a car or a plane, for example). The beginning of this cycle is design. Then it moves into the manufacturing of these things. Manufacturing is also a part of Mechanical engineering. There are countless manufacturing processes to make a products parts and assemblies. These manufacturing processes also have their specific equipment associated with it that require engineering knowledge and efforts. You can focus on one aspect of what I have said and become an expert, or be more of a jack of all trades engineer.
You can also use the degree to prove that you can solve problems and move into many other careers such as management, sales, or some other engineering direction (eg. software).
Paul recommends the following next steps:
Preparation and the knowledge will set you apart from others and you will be able to take on even more responsibility as a future Mechanical Engineer!
Another challenge that you run into often, is that there is not a "perfect" answer. Many times a solution is a compromise between differing elements.
Learning to pick the better of a group of poor answers is skill few engineers have. People in general too.
This took me a long time to figure out and is regarding time spent in the classroom .
Sit up front don't talk to anyone, as soon as you have a question ask it and make sure that you understand the answer given.
When I did this I could see from the others in the class that they had the same question.
I found that I did not have to study as much because I left the classroom with a better understanding of the material.
It is a noble profession.