Mechanical engineering is a broad profession creatively engaged in the design, production and operation of devices, machines, and systems which extend our physical abilities. These may be on a scale as large as a space shuttle or so small as to only be visible under a microscope. Mechanical engineers are involved in activities such as research and development of composite materials, materials science, energy conversion and utilization, machinery design, manufacturing processes, automatic control, biomechanics, and transportation of all forms. Mechanical engineers study the response of materials to forces and energy flows. They are concerned with the motion of solids, liquids, and gases, and the heating and cooling of materials, structures, and systems. The flow of fluids and the transport of heat are fundamental to the manufacturing technologies, the environment, and the aerospace industry. Using their understanding of these basic processes, mechanical engineers design space vehicles, aircraft, automobiles, robots, medical equipment, prostheses, and the multitude of mechanical devices which we depend on every day but often take for granted. The successful design, manufacture and operation of machines of every type is within the broad scope of today's mechanical engineer.
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One of the frequent tendencies that students in technical disciplines have is to inextricably link their career possibilities with their academic major. They seldom realize that a major is largely an administratively convenient tool used by a college or university to categorize students.
There is not always an obvious parallel between your engineering major and an occupational field. In the same way that accountants are used as computer information systems analysts along with those having computer science backgrounds, engineers work in capacities other than hands-on engineering. Said in another way, just as the same job can be filled with individuals from a variety of academic backgrounds, so individuals with the same major can qualify for many different jobs.
While the realization that more career options are open to you as a technical major than you previously were aware of can be uplifting, it also poses the dilemma of identifying and narrowing down the appropriate options. To remedy this confusion, it is helpful to approach your career selection in terms of the types of functions you wish to perform within an organization. An example might be a mechanical engineer who determines that he/she would like to function in a sales or marketing capacity instead of in a manufacturing role due to his/her interests, persuasive skills, and outgoing personality.
Job titles differ from industry to industry and company to company. Because job classifications are not standardized, trying to determine your fit among seemingly endless lists of titles can be very confusing and frustrating. Thinking of jobs in functional terms provides a way of organizing the multitude of job titles you will encounter in company literature and employment ads. Thinking in terms of functions will, therefore, allow you to clearly indicate to potential employers exactly what you want to do regardless of what the job title is.
Design Engineer: Designs products or systems such as instruments, controls, robots, engines and machines.
Test Engineer: Plans and directs engineering personnel in fabrication of test control apparatus and equipment. Supervises the development of methods and procedures for testing products or systems.
Plant Engineer: Plans, directs and coordinates the activities concerned with design, construction, modification and maintenance of equipment and machinery in an industrial plant.
Applications Engineer: Develops and writes equipment specifications, performance requirements, cost analysis, and proposals for integrating machinery and equipment into the manufacturing process.
Check the Dictionary of Occupational Titles under section 005 for additional related careers.
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