A mechanical engineer designs and plans how to construct machines, tools, engines and other types of mechanical equipment. A mechanical engineer might also be responsible for the installation and maintenance of certain types of equipment such as heating, air conditioning, gas systems and water systems. To be qualified for these job duties, you'll have to obtain at least a bachelor's degree. To advance in the field, you'll most likely need to seek a graduate degree.
If you plan to become a mechanical engineer, you can choose mechanical engineering as your undergraduate major, but you'll still have to take a series of core classes to graduate. Most colleges require you to take intro level courses in English, humanities, communication and public speaking. Certain colleges might also require writing, composition and health as part of your undergraduate degree requirements.
A mechanical engineering degree requires certain math and science classes. Math classes usually include algebra, geometry, trigonometry and calculus, starting with introductory courses followed by more advanced applications of the concepts. Science classes usually include biology, chemistry and physics. In terms of mechanical-focused classes, you'll be required to take classes that cover numerical computation, differential equations, mechanics and materials, energy consumption and optics.
Since mechanical engineering requires you to understand the design process, you'll take several courses that teach you to understand and interpret complex elements of design, such as robotics, energy conversion, ocean systems, heat transfer, electrical systems and computer science. Most mechanical engineering programs also require courses in thermodynamics and machine design.
Most mechanical engineering programs require you to take classes in theory, research and problem-solving. Not only do these prepare you to get and keep a job, but they also prepare you to work in a field that is highly technical. You might also be required to take hands-on courses, which are similar to an internship, that allow you to get up close and personal with the field of mechanical engineering and help you hone your skills before you start looking for your first job.
- U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Mechanical Engineer
- TryEngineering.org: Become an Engineer
- North Dakota State University: Mechanical Engineering
- Massachusetts Institute of Techonology: Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering/Course 2
- U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics: Mechanical Engineers
Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.