What Is Mechanical Engineering?

Two women in safety vests discussing mechanical engineering of a piece of equipment

Earning a degree in mechanical engineering can enable you to pursue a lucrative job in a sought-after STEM industry. Your mechanical engineering degree program will combine hands-on experiences and lab work with classroom instruction in topics such as control systems, heat and power generation, fluid and thermal transport, strength of materials and manufacturing techniques. If you love figuring out how things work and how to make them work better, then a career as a mechanical engineer could be the right fit for you.

The Basics of Mechanical Engineering

Mechanical engineering is the design, development and fabrication of mechanical systems and equipment. Mechanical engineers apply the principles of engineering (like motion, energy and force) to design things that make everyday life better, safer or more comfortable. In essence, mechanical engineers use the tools of physics and mathematics to change the world around them. A mechanical engineer could work on anything from air conditioners to medical devices to athletic equipment and so much more. This is an exciting field because of the diverse range of career paths and because what mechanical engineers do can directly affect the world around them.

The Range of Mechanical Engineering Specialties and Careers

Mechanical engineers can go to work in a number of different industries. These include:

  • Energy
  • Electronics
  • Robotics
  • Nanotechnology
  • Construction
  • Consumer products
  • Automotive
  • Aerospace
  • Bio-technology
  • Computers

A mechanical engineer can choose to specialize in a subfield. For example, within the automotive industry, an engineer may focus on autonomous systems. Within the bio-tech field, an engineer could focus on prosthetic devices. And within the aerospace field, an engineer may specialize in designing probes intended to land on Mars. No matter where your particular passions lie, you’re sure to find a subfield in mechanical engineering that will suit them.

The Personality Traits of Successful Mechanical Engineers

Arguably, the main characteristic of successful mechanical engineers is an enduring curiosity about the world around them. This curiosity drives engineers to create inventive designs intended to make life better. Mechanical engineers tend to be both highly analytical and intensely creative. They tend to love puzzles and brainteasers that require abstract thought. Mechanical engineers love a good challenge and enjoy thinking logically, but they aren’t afraid to think outside the box when a situation calls for it.

The Leaders in the Mechanical Engineering Field

If you still aren’t sure whether mechanical engineering is the right field for you, you can take a closer look at some case studies. See if you can picture yourself in any of these individuals’ shoes:

  • Jonathon Cedar, the CEO and chief product design engineer of BioLite Stoves, founded BioLite to provide access to clean energy appliances to off-grid communities in developing nations. His BioLite HomeStoves can cut dangerous indoor smoke by up to 95 percent (while generating usable electricity!).
  • Lorenzo Moroni, a principal investigator at MERLN in the Netherlands is working with his team to develop bioprinting techniques aimed at generating “smart scaffolds” to create synthetic cartilage in the lab.
  • Laurence Kemball-Cook, the CEO of Pavegen Systems, built the first energy-harvesting tile, which converts the downward force of walking pedestrians into rotational energy which can be stored for later use.

Set the foundation for a rewarding career in mechanical engineering with a degree from Grand Canyon University. Our College of Science, Engineering and Technology offers many modern degree programs, including a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering Technology. Look for the Request More Information button on this page to get started!

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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