What is mechanical engineering?

Mechanical engineers contribute to many of the foundations of the modern world, from automotive and transportation systems to health care to the energy that powers our everyday essentials and conveniences.

Mechanical engineering is a creative, wide-reaching and innovation-oriented discipline. Its primary goals are to convert energy into productive forms; design, develop, produce and test machines; and understand and apply the interactions of solids, liquids and gasses.

What do mechanical engineers do?

You may be wondering what you can do with a mechanical engineering degree. The answer: a lot.

Mechanical engineers are researchers, designers and developers. They plan, build and test mechanical and thermal prototypes, sensors and devices for use in fields like automotives, autonomous vehicles, manufacturing processes, nanotechnology, alternative energy, advanced materials, medical devices, aerospace and patent law.

Mechanical engineers analyze the efficiency of conveyor systems, design internal combustion engines, prototype medical devices and troubleshoot refrigeration systems. Prepare to work in various sub-disciplines, including:

  • Fabrication
  • Fluid mechanics
  • Fuels and combustion
  • Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC)
  • Refrigeration
  • Thermodynamics

Is mechanical engineering right for you? 

Do complex problems invigorate you? Are you excited by the prospect of making a process or system more efficient? Do you want to pursue innovative growth and long-term stability?

Mechanical engineers desire all this and more. To thrive in this field, you should be curious yet practical, a thinker and a problem-solver. You will need robust math, science and communication skills to innovate and effectively share your ideas.

This versatile career path can lead you to all kinds of career placements, from factories to doctor’s offices to highways — and just about anywhere else in between. With opportunities to explore new specialties and transfer your experience to new venues, a career in mechanical engineering can be dynamic and engaging throughout your life.

Career outlook - What can you do with a mechanical engineering degree?

Mechanical engineers do a wide range of tasks and take on responsibilities in many industries, including automotive, aerospace, energy and manufacturing. As a mechanical engineer, you’ll research, design, prototype and maintain models and machines that transform and improve how people interact with the world. 

Reflecting the demand for this profession, mechanical engineering careers average a median salary of $96,000 per year, and demand for mechanical engineers is projected to grow by 10% over the next decade — much faster than the average across all occupations.

A degree in mechanical engineering also prepares you for further study at the graduate and postgraduate levels. You may choose to advance within mechanical engineering, shift gears to another engineering field or rise to new challenges in related professions such as natural sciences, education or health care.