Mechanical Engineering Career Guide
Mechanical engineer majors hone their skills in researching, developing, building, and testing mechanical and thermal devices. Use this guide as a way of learning how to adapt your education to various career paths.
Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Designer
Average Salary: $59,386
Computer-aided designers, or drafters, convert designs from engineers and architects into technical drawings using CAD software. You can choose to specialize in architectural, electrical, civil, or mechanical drafting. The resulting technical drawings aid in refining designs for everything from skyscrapers to microchips.
Typical duties for drafters include:
- Using CAD software to design plans
- Relying on engineering and manufacturing techniques to develop products
- Coming up with specifications for dimensions, procedures, and materials needed for new products
- Filling in the details of architectural plans based on knowledge of building techniques
CAD designers must have a solid math foundation and be able to solve complex mathematical calculations while drafting their technical drawings. Drafters must also be able to work with database tools and follow strict deadlines. The job also requires working closely with architects, engineers, and other fellow designers to ensure accurate plans.
Average Salary: $96,066
Mechanical engineers perform analysis of problems and look for ways to resolve them using a mechanical or thermal device. They also oversee the manufacturing of products like batteries and medical devices.
Mechanical engineers may also come up with designs for machines capable of producing power, like electrical generators or steam and gas turbines. You can also find them creating material-handling systems like conveyors and automated transfer stations.
Typical duties for mechanical engineers include:
- Using CAD tools and analysis skills to design and redesign mechanical and thermal devices and subsystems
- Developing and testing prototypes based on their designs
- Analyzing test results and changing models or systems based on the outcomes
Mechanical engineers make extensive use of computers and find ways of integrating sensors, controllers, and machinery synchronously.
Average Salary: $90,000
Piping designers create plans and drawings needed for constructing, operating, and laying out piping systems. These systems move utility resources like water, petroleum, sewage, and natural gas. The piping designer must map out a system designed for efficiency. Most of the work of piping designers is done at a computer using CAD tools.
Other duties for piping designers include:
- Making sure other staff members comply with project standards
- Reviewing the parameters of the project concerning piping requirements
- Actively participating in project meetings and providing status updates
- Drafting and managing project schedules
- Preparing initial bills of materials for piping designs
Students interested in becoming a piping designer should have a keen interest in design, an active imagination, and a willingness to learn. It is best to take courses in piping design during or after completing your degree.
Average Salary: $85,880
Manufacturing engineers are responsible for the design and operation of manufacturing systems for products. They make decisions on the technologies best suited for their desired outcomes. They plan and design the factory settings for producing products and assume responsibility for management, maintenance, and improvements in the manufacturing process.
Duties often required of a manufacturing engineer include:
- Using robotics to automate facility manufacturing processes
- Coming up with ways to reduce costs while improving the quality of products
- Designing optimal layouts for machines and equipment
- Designing and creating tools needed for an optimal manufacturing process
- Installing new equipment
- Troubleshooting issues arising within the manufacturing process
Those interested in pursuing a career in mechanical engineering may find it helpful to take courses specializing in production. It is also beneficial to have sound analytical, quality assurance (QA), and communication skills.
Average Salary: $102,160
Process engineers design, implement, control and optimize the industrial process. They can be found within chemical, agricultural, mineral processing, food, pharmaceutical, food, advanced material, biotechnical, and petrochemical industries.
Many process engineers assume responsibility for creating, developing, implementing, and monitoring equipment and methods used as part of the manufacturing system. They also set the specifications around various processes within the system.
Process engineers can involve themselves in designing innovations and equipment to improve the manufacturing process. Their duties may also call on them to look for ways to modify and optimize processes and equipment already in place.
Other duties for process engineers include:
- Completing documents that show and ensure compliance with all internal and external protocols and regulations
- Working with process technicians to troubleshoot issues
- Collecting data and creating reports
- Interpreting information for presentation to colleagues
- Performing risk assessments of processes and equipment in use
The job calls for the ability to work with various types of personnel. That can include R&D staff, production, and management.
Average Salary: $80,129
The responsibilities of instrumentation engineers include planning, installing, monitoring and maintaining machinery and control systems in a manufacturing environment. They tend to work with control processes, using sensors to gain feedback.
Instrumentation engineers can be involved with planning, designing, developing, and installing new processes or those already in place. Tasks can vary depending on the control systems being monitored and the resulting products.
Typical tasks for instrumentation engineers include:
- Installing new control processes
- Working in tandem with stakeholders in designing and developing control processes
- Developing testing protocols for instrumentation
- Conducting routine maintenance
- Troubleshooting problems
- Optimizing methods for improved system efficiency
- Collecting data and performing analysis
- Creating reports
- Training as needed
Instrumentation engineers must have strong verbal skills and the ability to work within a team. They must be detail-oriented and organized. It pays to have a strong interest in keeping up with new technology and the ability to apply problem-solving skills to complex situations.
Average Salary: $67,439
Project engineers are responsible for overseeing technical or engineering projects. They must work with all levels of stakeholders and control budgeting, project planning, and personnel. This job requires interpreting the needs of different stakeholders and understanding the constraints and expectations of each. They must then bring everyone together and communicate a cohesive vision aimed at ensuring successful delivery of the project.
Duties often asked of project engineers include:
- Planning and forecasting projects
- Communicating with suppliers, contractors, and any internal stakeholders
- Gathering materials, equipment, and staff for a project
- Reporting on the progress of projects
- Making sure their projects consistently adhere to established SOPs and existing laws and regulations
- Maintaining project documentation
- Finding practical solutions to problems as they arise
The job calls for prioritizing issues to be addressed and the distribution of workloads. Project engineers must be able to juggle a variety of tasks simultaneously while maintaining strict attention to detail. They must be willing to make decisions by assessing all underlying facts and recognize they will be accountable for the outcome of those choices.
Average Salary: $87,040
Industrial engineers look for ways to eliminate wastefulness from production processes. They also come up with efficient ways of integrating machines, workers, information, materials, and energy in the creation of products and services.
Industrial engineers use their skills in everything from manufacturing to business administration. They design systems for moving heavy parts in manufacturing plants, getting goods delivered on time to customers, creating job performance evaluations, and getting payments to workers.
Other duties of industrial engineers include:
- Reviewing production schedules
- Coming up with engineering specifications and process flows needed to understand the methods and activities that are part of services and manufacturing
- Reducing or eliminating production problems by implementing quality control procedures
- Coordinating production planning and operations in design control systems to make sure products meet established quality standards
Industrial engineers are often called upon to confer with various types of personnel. That could include going over product specifications with clients, purchases with vendors, and the status of a project with their staff.