Are you a natural-born problem solver who enjoys tackling new challenges? Perhaps you like working with computers, but also enjoy taking things apart and figuring out how they work. If that sounds like you, a career in mechatronics engineering may be a great fit.
What is a mechatronics engineer? What do mechatronics engineers do? Read on to learn more about a typical pathway toward pursuing this rewarding career.
In This Article:
- What Do Mechatronics Engineers Do?
- A Look at a Typical Mechatronics Engineer Job Description
- What’s the Difference Between a Mechanical Engineering Technology Degree and a Mechatronics Emphasis Degree?
- How To Become a Mechatronics Engineer
- Are Mechatronics Engineers in High Demand?
What Do Mechatronics Engineers Do?
Mechatronics is a subfield of engineering. It is often considered to be a fairly new, emerging subfield, yet the term originated in 1969 when a Japanese engineer decided to combine the words “mechanical” and “electronics” to describe the new electronic functions of emerging manufacturing equipment.1 However, the term didn’t gain much popularity until recently — now, mechatronics is widely recognized as its own unique subfield within the engineering discipline.
So, what exactly is mechatronics and what is a mechatronics engineer? Quite simply, mechatronics is a multidisciplinary subfield that combines elements of mechanical and electrical engineering, along with control systems and robotics. Mechatronics can also encompass telecommunications, computer and systems engineering.
In other words, a mechatronics engineer is a highly skilled professional who brings together diverse knowledge and skills and applies them to solve complex challenges involving modern machinery and systems. Mechatronics engineers are increasingly valued by employers, as fewer devices and systems these days are either purely mechanical or purely electrical.
Rather, modern products tend to blur those lines (e.g., robotic surgical equipment and Internet-connected window treatments). Because modern systems and machines tend to demand the attention of an engineer with a multidisciplinary, diverse skill set, mechatronics engineering is increasing in popularity.
A Look at a Typical Mechatronics Engineer Job Description
Mechatronics engineers can work in almost any industry, including automotive, industrial automation, aerospace and information technology services. Their day-to-day schedule will largely depend on their employer and the project they’re working on. In general, however, you can expect to find the following items on a typical mechatronics engineer job description:
- Evaluate industrial or consumer problems, and develop innovative solutions using engineering principles
- Design and build new products that merge physical systems with electronics, robotics, artificial intelligence or automation
- Evaluate existing products and processes, such as assembly line processes, and look for ways of improving or automating them
- Execute modeling and analysis of mechatronics systems
All the tasks you see in the mechatronics engineer job description are meant to make life a little easier, better or safer for people. Like all engineers, mechatronics engineers are true problem solvers and tinkerers at heart who enjoy tackling the complex challenges hindering societal progress.
What’s the Difference Between a Mechanical Engineering Technology Degree and a Mechatronics Emphasis Degree?
If you’re thinking of pursuing a career in engineering, you’ll first need to earn a bachelor’s degree. But should you earn a mechanical engineering technology degree or a mechatronics degree emphasis, and what’s the difference between them?
A traditional mechanical engineering technology degree will prepare you to design, develop, evaluate and improve upon mechanical systems and machinery. These can range from internal combustion engines to HVAC systems to escalators. In your classes, you’ll learn about the principles and applications of natural laws, such as the laws of force, motion and energy. You may also study some facets of electrical engineering, but this subfield won’t be your focus.
In contrast, a mechatronics degree emphasis will focus not only on the principles of mechanical engineering, but also on electronics, computer design and electrical engineering. As a mechatronics student, you will develop a diverse skill set that reaches across engineering subfields. Although the more traditional mechanical engineering field is still going strong, mechatronics skills are increasingly valuable in today’s job market.
How To Become a Mechatronics Engineer
If you’re still in high school and are excited to pursue a career in this dynamic subfield, talk to your high school guidance counselor about adding more relevant courses to your schedule. These include engineering 101, pre-calculus, and advanced physics or chemistry. Courses in circuits, electronics and computer science may also be helpful for you.
After high school, you’ll need to earn a bachelor’s degree in engineering. Although not all universities offer a degree specifically in mechatronics, it’s a good idea to look for one that does. For example, you may earn a mechanical engineering degree that has a concentration in mechatronics.
After earning your bachelor’s degree, you’ll need to take two professional exams. You’ll be eligible to take the first after graduation and the second after acquiring some professional work experience.
Earn Your Mechatronics Degree Emphasis
After high school, your first step toward becoming a mechatronics engineer is to earn your mechatronics degree. For example, you could enroll in a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering Technology with an Emphasis in Mechatronics degree program. Although the specific curriculum depends on the school you choose, you can generally expect to study the following topics:
- Fundamentals of electric circuits, with a look at node analysis, mesh analysis, series and parallel load combinations, transient analysis and operational amplifiers
- 2D and 3D forces on systems in a static state, with real-world applications for static analyses
- The control of electrical mechanical systems with the use of lumped parameter models via advanced control software
- The use of sophisticated computer-aided design (CAD) software for design and manufacturing
- Automation of the manufacturing, assembly and material handling processes
You’ll also study essential core subjects for engineering students, which include calculus, physics and chemistry. You’ll likely take one or more capstone courses, which are project-based classes that give you the opportunity to put what you’ve learned to use. For instance, you’ll conduct research, develop project proposals and feasibility studies, establish a timely workflow with other group members, and design a prototype.
A bachelor’s degree — plus industry credentialing — is generally the highest level of degree needed to pursue a rewarding career in this field.
Earn Your FE Credentials
After earning your bachelor’s degree in mechatronics, you’ll be prepared to sit for the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, which is administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES). While the FE exam is not required to become a professional mechatronic engineer, it can be a beneficial credential for your career growth. However, passing this initial exam does not confer licensure — you’ll need to pass a second exam to acquire licensure after gaining some work experience.
The FE exam is a lengthy test that includes one scheduled break. Different versions of the FE exam are available for seven different engineering disciplines. As of now, there is no FE exam specifically for mechatronics engineering. Nevertheless, many inspiring mechatronics engineers take the FE exam in mechanical engineering. You could also opt to take the electrical and computer FE exam.
Acquire Professional Work Experience
Once you pass the FE exam, you’ll be known as an “engineer intern” (EI) or an “engineer-in-training” (EIT). You cannot yet call yourself an “engineer” until you pass the second exam and acquire your engineering license. To qualify to take the exam, you’ll first need to gain several years of full-time work experience. (It’s not necessary to be a licensed engineer to work in an engineering role as an EI or EIT.)
Earn Your PE Credentials
After completing the necessary work requirements, you’ll be eligible to sit for the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam. Like the FE exam, the PE exam offers different versions for various engineering disciplines. Although there isn’t yet a mechatronics exam, you could choose to take the PE exam in electrical and computer, control systems, industrial and systems, or mechanical engineering.
After passing your PE exam, you can officially call yourself an engineer. Some states may require mechatronics engineers to periodically renew their license, so be sure to check the requirements for the state where you plan to work.
Are Mechatronics Engineers in High Demand?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn’t track data specifically for mechatronics engineers, but it does offer data for the overlapping mechanical engineering technology profession. Taking a look at these employment trends can offer some insight to aspiring mechatronics engineers.
According to the BLS, the job growth rate for mechanical engineering technologists and technicians is expected to be about 2% from 2021 to 2031 — employers are expected to hire at a robust pace. The BLS predicts that employers will hire about 4,200 new mechanical engineering technologists and technicians each year through 2031.2
The College of Science, Engineering and Technology at Grand Canyon University stays on the cutting edge of industry trends, offering a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering Technology with an Emphasis in Mechatronics degree program. GCU students benefit from instructors who are experts in their fields — as well as hands-on learning activities — as they work to earn a highly valuable, modern skill set. Click on Request Info at the top of your screen to learn more about our rigorous engineering programs.
1 Retrieved from Springer Link, International Conference on Automation, 45 Years of Mechatronics — History and Future in November 2022.
2 COVID-19 has adversely affected the global economy and data from 2020 and 2021 may be atypical compared to prior years. The pandemic may impact the predicted future workforce outcomes indicated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as well. Accordingly, data shown is effective September 2022, which can be found here: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Mechanical Engineering Technologists and Technicians, retrieved on Feb. 14, 2023.
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.