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What Does it Take to Become a Mechanical Engineer?

  • Publish Date: Posted 9 days ago

​Mechanical engineering is one of the most in-demand professions in the UK engineering sector. And it’s because there are so many industries that rely on mechanical engineering skills. But what does it take to become a mechanical engineer? And what sort of opportunities are available? In this blog post, we’ll share more about what a mechanical engineer does and the pathways open to becoming one.

According to Statista, around 71,700 mechanical engineers are working across the UK. And since mechanical engineering requires a combination of science, engineering, maths, and computing skills, successful candidates need to have skills and knowledge in many areas.

So, let’s take a deeper look into what a mechanical engineer does.

What Does a Mechanical Engineer do?

Mechanical engineers are responsible for developing, designing, and testing things like machinery, devices, and components across many sectors and industries. They’re creative individuals found in transport, construction, telecommunications, automotive design, manufacturing, and the armed forces.

A typical day for a mechanical engineer could include servicing mechanical devices, monitoring energy systems, designing machines, and working with artificial intelligence tools. They’re involved in every stage of a process, from research and design to development and launch.

Other areas within a mechanical engineer’s job description include: 

  • Leading a device manufacturing process: A mechanical engineer analyses problems and meets with stakeholders to understand their requirements and expectations.

  • Developing and testing: These individuals also work on developing and testing prototypes. And they’ll use the results from their findings to improve mechanical designs.

  • Designing and redesigning: Mechanical engineers often design blueprints and test prototypes.

  • Computer modelling: A mechanical engineer may use software tools like CAD, much like a design engineer, to devise and build plans.

  • Planning and researching: Their role may include coming up with solutions to improve machinery performance or designing it to solve a problem.

  • Carrying out surveys: Mechanical engineers can carry out surveys of systems and equipment to ensure functionality and correct maintenance.

Salary Expectations

With the right level of experience behind them, a mechanical engineer can earn a good salary. According to the national careers service, the average annual salary ranges from £26,000 to £52,000.

Mechanical engineers have many routes to entry. But they do need a well-rounded mix of skills, experience, and aptitudes to achieve the higher end of salary levels. They may have to study towards chartered status to earn higher salaries.

Career Progression

There are several ways to progress a career as a mechanical engineer. But achieving incorporated or chartered engineer status is more likely to lead to higher demand for your skills and better salary expectations. Mechanical engineers can use their skills across a wide range of public and private sectors including construction, manufacturing, and energy and utilities. Mechanical engineers can also work in a people, business, or project-management roles, or specialise in a certain field. Many will start out in research or development and end up in a consultancy role.

What Do You Need?

So, which experiences, skills or types of education do you need to become a mechanical engineer?

Qualifications and Experience

Becoming a mechanical engineer often requires a university or college course. But you can also get into the job through apprenticeships or work experience. You’ll usually need 2 or 3 A levels including maths and physics. And at university, you may consider either a higher national diploma (HND) or degree in subject areas such as:

  • Mechanical engineering

  • Mechanical design engineering

  • Engineering manufacturing

  • Electromechanical engineering

  • Mechanical engineering technology or Mechatronics

  • Civil or Structural engineering

  • Physics

If you do already have an idea of the industries you’d prefer to work in as a mechanical engineer, you may find a specific degree course that suits you better. For instance, a degree in automotive engineering or industrial design and technology may be good, specialist routes. Also, make sure to check that course accreditation by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers or a similar professional body.

When you embark on a Higher Education course, it’s a good idea to get some work experience too. Doing so will help you make contacts and gain work skills that could be useful when applying for graduate jobs. You might consider embarking on a holiday scheme, a year’s placement in industry, an internship or a STEM Ambassador scheme.

Skills and Interests

Some of the key attributes you’ll need to become a mechanical engineer include:

  • Strong maths skills

  • Knowledge of physics

  • Knowledge of engineering, science and technology

  • Analytical thinking skills

  • Good attention to detail

  • Innovation and ideation

  • Design skills

  • Problem-solving skills

  • Solid computer skills

  • Ability to use and fix machinery or tools

  • An interest in mechanical engineering or civil engineering

What Opportunities are Available?

Many opportunities exist for strong mechanical engineering candidates. Those with training or qualifications in niche areas may also stand out from the crowd, particularly if they can show expertise in their chosen area.

Some of the disciplines you could expect to choose from as a mechanical engineer include:

  • Mechanical design

  • Automotive engineer

  • Aerospace engineer

  • Structural engineer

  • Contracting civil engineer

  • Maintenance engineer

  • CAD technician

  • Product designer

  • Nuclear engineer

  • Control and instrumentation engineer

From improving the design and efficiency of tools and systems to building models or conducting system-level testing, a huge number of sectors need well-qualified and talented mechanical engineers:

  • Construction

  • Aerospace

  • Defence

  • AI and Robotics

  • Marine

  • Oil and Gas

  • Pharmaceuticals

  • Chemical manufacturing plants

  • FMCG

  • Renewable energy

  • Automotive

  • Railway industry

  • Utilities and Water Treatment

How Can You Find Work as a Mechanical Engineer?

Regardless of which industry you end up in, as a mechanical engineer you’ll need to bring a wide range of creative and analytical skills to every project. Work will vary depending on the field or sector you end up in.

Some specific types of work include:

  • Designing heating, cooling, or ventilation systems for commercial buildings

  • Creating blueprints for new machinery or technology for sustainable power plants

  • Conducting surveys of mechanical systems and ensuring they run well

  • Using CAD or CAM software to support new machinery designs

  • Producing technical documents, blueprints, and prototypes

  • Researching innovative products or approaches to improve railway systems

If you want to find your next opportunity as a mechanical engineer, look no further than Metalis. Our team has a wealth of experience working with manufacturing and engineering candidates. Plus, we have a wide range of job roles based with sector clients who need skilled and talented mechanical engineers.

To find out more, head over to our live jobs board where you can find a long list of opportunities and roles for mechanical engineers.