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Mechanical Engineering

Program Description

Just the Facts

Mechanical Engineering. A program that prepares individuals to apply mathematical and scientific principles to the design, development and operational evaluation of physical systems used in manufacturing and end-product systems used for specific uses, including machine tools, jigs and other manufacturing equipment; stationary power units and appliances; engines; self-propelled vehicles; housings and containers; hydraulic and electric systems for controlling movement; and the integration of computers and remote control with operating systems.

This program is available in these options:

  • Certificate / Diploma
  • Associate degree
  • Bachelor's degree
  • Graduate Certificate
  • Master's degree
  • Doctoral degree

High School Courses

See the high school courses recommended for programs in this career cluster:

See the high school courses recommended for programs in this pathway:

Additional Information

Mechanical engineering is all about designing something new. Imagine a motor smaller than the period at the end of this sentence, or an airplane that will carry 500 people.

Larry E. Banta says mechanical engineers make it happen. He is a professor in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department at West Virginia University (WVU).

Mechanical engineering degrees can cover a variety of subjects. Thermodynamics is the study of energy. Materials science is a blending of mechanical engineering with chemistry, physics and mathematics. Mechatronics mixes mechanical and electrical engineering to produce cool new products like cell phones, MP3 players and HDTVs.

Other courses could include solid mechanics, fluid mechanics, and kinematics (the science of pure motion).

Because the program offers such a broad education, mechanical engineers can work in many different fields.

"In addition to traditional 'mechanical' things, mechanical engineers work in the chemical industry, the electronics industry, the construction industry, the aerospace industry, medicine, even Disney World and Hollywood," says Banta.

Mechanical engineers need at least a bachelor's degree. To be licensed as an engineer, you must attend an accredited program.

In the U.S., the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology accredits about 1,830 engineering programs. Students can continue their studies in graduate and post-graduate work.

Most programs include co-op terms to give students experience working or researching in the field.

Mechanical engineers do a lot of research into ways of reducing energy and creating more efficient materials.

"We must make our power plants, our factories, our homes and our means of transportation more efficient -- and we can -- in order to slow and eventually reverse the global warming trend that now threatens our planet. Mechanical engineers are at the forefront of the research in this area," says Banta.

Women are a minority in engineering, but they shouldn't be. Banta says that the mechanical engineering program at WVU is about 10 to 15 percent women, which is typical nationwide. "We need more women engineers to solve the challenging problems that face our world today," he says.

Engineers need a broad range of technical and non-technical skills. Well-rounded students can excel in engineering programs.

"It is important to be involved in interesting activities which support the development of complementary skills in communication, time management, working in teams and financial management," says Moyra McDill. She's a full professor of engineering at a university.

Engineering programs are often very competitive to enter, so you must have very good grades in high school. Take as much math and science as possible.

"You should also take lots of English and, if possible, a foreign language. I say this because many of our students who do well in math and science have surprisingly poor reading and writing skills," says Banta.

To further improve your skills, Banta recommends researching fun projects for you and your friends. "There are tons of magazines, books and websites about how to build robots, make catapults, build model rockets or turn your toaster into a satellite antenna (just kidding about the last one)," he jokes.

New engineering books can cost from $100 to $140 each. "Multiply that by five or six each semester, and you can see that the cost of textbooks is a significant expense," warns Banta.


Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Mechanical Engineers

ABET-Accredited Programs
A list of accredited engineering programs in the U.S.

Engineering: Your Future
Fantastic pre-college site from the American Society for Engineering Education


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