Mechanical engineers design, develop and install machinery. This can range from the components in artificial heart valves to heating systems for multi-storey buildings and robotic instruments for use in space.
Although mechanical engineers’ work varies greatly, it tends to be driven by problems that need solving. Mechanical engineers will use their knowledge of maths, physics and technology to understand the problem, and to research, design and deliver solutions.
Typical duties include:
- Assessing project requirements.
- Measuring the performance of mechanical components, devices and engines.
- Agreeing budgets, timescales and specifications with clients and managers.
- Modifying and maintaining products and the processes that support them.
- Using computer-aided design/modelling software.
- Liaising with suppliers.
- Undertaking research.
- Producing and implementing designs and test procedures.
- Carrying out risk assessments.
- Presenting designs to managers and clients.
- Testing, evaluating, modifying and re-testing products.
- Writing reports and documentation.
- Providing technical advice.
- Analysing and interpreting data.
- Managing projects, costs and people.
As a mechanical engineer, you’re likely to work standard office hours (9.00 am–5.00 pm) with some occasional evening and weekend work.
Graduate mechanical engineer salaries
Graduate mechanical engineers have starting salaries of around £20,000 to £25,000, according to the National Careers Service. Chartered and incorporate engineers can command higher salaries.
Typical employers of mechanical engineers
Self-employment via consultancy and contract work is possible once you’ve built significant experience.
Graduate engineering jobs
are advertised on targetjobs.co.uk and by careers services. You can also find vacancies on job sites run by the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers and the Institution of Engineering and Technology.
For help with applying for engineering jobs and internships, take a look at our engineering CV and covering letter tips and our advice on filling out online applications.
To find out how much money you could earn as an engineer, head to our engineering salary round-up
Qualifications and training required for mechanical engineering jobs
There are routes into this profession for both school leavers and university graduates. Graduates need a degree in a relevant subject such as mechanical, automotive or aeronautical or manufacturing engineering. A list of accredited courses is available on the Engineering Council’s website. Some employers will ask for a 2.1 degree but others will accept candidates with a 2.2 classification. Take a look at our list of engineering employers that accept 2.2 degrees.
If you are a school leaver, you may be able to enter the profession via an apprenticeship or a higher national diploma (HND) in a relevant subject such as mechanical engineering. If you are aiming for a technician role, you can achieve this with an advanced or higher apprenticeship in an appropriate subject such as manufacturing or mechanical engineering.
Relevant work experience is essential for your job application. Many employers offer final-year project work, degree sponsorship, vacation work and industrial placements which can provide valuable experience and a useful insight into the profession. Take a look at our list of engineering employers who offer industrial placements and summer internships.
Achieving chartered (CEng) status with the Engineering Council can help to demonstrate your professionalism and commitment to your field. To become chartered, you will need an accredited bachelors degree in engineering or technology, plus an appropriate masters degree (MEng) or doctorate (EngD) accredited by a professional engineering institution such as the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE). You will also be eligible with an integrated MSc or a bachelors degree plus validated on-the-job learning. To find out more, take a look at our guide to chartership.
Key skills for mechanical engineers
- Excellent technical skills, including computer-aid design experience
- The ability to work under pressure.
- Problem-solving skills.
- Interpersonal and teamworking skills.
- Excellent verbal and written communication skills.
- Commercial awareness.