Mechanical Engineering

Job Description:

Mechanical engineering deals with the design, construction, and use of machines.

Job Category:
Engineering & Construction

What you will do:

You’ll spend much of your time researching, designing, and experimenting in an office or laboratory. You might do the research and calculations in the office before building and testing a prototype machine in a laboratory or out in the field to see if your design does what you expected it to.

The rest of your time will be spent helping to produce many copies of your new device. Once you’ve created a useful component or machine (for example, a powerful hydrogen fuel cell or myoelectric prosthetic hand) using mechanical principles, you need to set up and oversee a manufacturing plant to produce the device.

In other words, you could:

  • turn research ideas into technical plans, using computer aided design/modelling (CAD/CAM)
  • carry out surveys of mechanical systems and equipment
  • research and assess new products and innovations
  • present design plans and data to managers and clients
  • produce other technical documents
  • support the contract team when bidding for new work
  • oversee maintenance programmes and quality control
  • manage and lead a project team of technicians, designers and other engineering professionals (leadership and teamworking skills)



You’ll need:

  • maths knowledge
  • knowledge of physics
  • knowledge of engineering science and technology
  • design skills and knowledge
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently

As well as:

  • the ability to use, repair and maintain machines and tools
  • analytical thinking skills
  • adaptability skills
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • the ability to come up with new ways of doing things (creative skills)
Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

To pursue a career in mechanical engineering, you’ll typically need a strong educational foundation in science and mathematics. While specific subject requirements may vary depending on the university or college you plan to attend and their entry requirements, here is a general list of recommended subjects that can help prepare you for a mechanical engineering degree:

  1. Mathematics (Required): Mathematics is a fundamental subject for engineering. It’s usually required at a high level, such as Mathematics at Grade 6 or higher. Strong math skills are essential for solving engineering problems and performing calculations.
  2. Physics (Recommended): Physics provides the foundational principles of mechanics, which are central to mechanical engineering. A good understanding of physics concepts can be highly beneficial.
  3. Chemistry (Recommended): While not always required, chemistry can be helpful, especially if you plan to specialize in materials science or a related field within mechanical engineering.
  4. Design and Technology (Useful): This subject can provide insights into design processes and practical skills related to engineering projects.
  5. ICT (Information and Communication Technology) or Computing (Useful): These subjects can be helpful for learning computer-aided design (CAD) software, which is commonly used in mechanical engineering.
  6. English Language (Communication Skills): While not directly related to engineering principles, strong communication skills are essential in any engineering field, so English language proficiency is valuable.
  7. Additional Sciences (Optional): Additional science subjects such as biology may be useful in some engineering specializations, but they are not typically required for general mechanical engineering.

Post School

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • a college course
  • an apprenticeship
  • working towards this role

You could do a higher national diploma or degree in subjects like:

  • mechanical engineering
  • electromechanical engineering
  • mechatronics
  • engineering manufacturing

In the UK, The Engineering Development Council has information on accredited courses.

You should try to get some work experience during your course through things like:

  • internships
  • summer or Easter vacation schemes
  • a year placement in industry
  • a science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) ambassador scheme

This will help you to make contacts and gain work skills that will be useful when you start applying for graduate jobs.

You could do a Higher National Diploma in Mechanical Engineering at college before looking for work (Level 4 and 5 in the UK)

You can get work experience and make contacts in the industry, through year in industry schemes like those run by the Engineering Development Trust.

You could do a higher or degree apprenticeship to become a mechanical engineer.

Some relevant apprenticeships include:

  • Manufacturing engineer degree apprenticeship
  • Electro-mechanical engineer higher apprenticeship
  • Power and propulsion gas turbine engineer higher apprenticeship

You could start as a mechanical engineering technician and do further training on the job to qualify as an engineer.

Working Hours and Environment:

You could work in an office, in a factory or visit sites.

Your working environment may be outdoors in all weathers.

Career Path & Progression:

All engineers start out in entry-level positions. Depending on your qualifications, this might be more on the design side or more on the practical side.

As you gain knowledge and experience, you may choose to specialise and focus on a particular area of mechanical engineering. You could progress to a more senior position, managing a team or overseeing an entire factory. You could move into consultancy and provide expert advice to a number of different companies.

All engineering careers involve problem-solving using maths and science, so any sector that uses these skills would be suitable to move from or into. Examples include careers like mechanic or science teacher or any other engineering sector – many of the skills are easily transferable.