Innovative and technologically advanced industrial machines significantly increase the production efficiency of a manufacturing or processing plant. Mechanical engineering designers, or mechanical design engineers, are the professionals who design these industrial machines, including their systems or components. If you are an innovative person with excellent problem-solving skills, this is a career that can suit you.
1. What Do Mechanical Engineering Designers Do?
In detail, mechanical engineering designers perform the following tasks:
- Meeting with clients to discuss their requirements or specifications
- Designing new machines, including shafts, clutches, housings, flanges, couplings, and other components
- Submitting design proposals to clients for approval
- Estimating the cost of designing, developing and maintaining the new machines
- Examining the performance of existing industrial machines to identify features that limit performance and designing suitable modifications
- Developing technical instructions, installation or assembly guides for the products they design
- Providing technical assistance during the assembly of industrial machines
- Performing research
- Presenting their designs in engineering seminars or conferences
2. Work Environment
Mechanical engineering designers usually work from 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday. However, since some factories may choose to implement system upgrades during the night or weekends, you should be prepared for occasional odd working hours.
When designing, these professionals spend their time in mechanical design labs, where they work with computers and other engineering professionals.
When providing technical assistance in the assembly or installation of systems, they must wear fitting protective gear, such as hardhats, to prevent injuries.
According to PayScale, mechanical engineering designers earn an average annual salary of $62,926.
4. Entry Requirements
Pursuing a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering technology will give you the academic preparation you need to become a mechanical engineering designer. The program provides training in areas such as:
- Engineering analysis
- Elements of machine design
- Fluid power technology
- Engineering design and management
- Quality systems and tools
- Geometric dimensioning
- Strength of materials
- Computer aided design
Some of the institutions offering the program include:
- Indiana State University, Indiana
- Ferris State University, Michigan
- Globe University, Minnesota
- Penn State Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
A bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering without any concentrations can also prepare you for this job.
Before going out to hunt for a job, it is important to build a portfolio of some of the machines or systems you designed while in college or during an internship. This will help employers to evaluate your innovative ability.
5. Important Qualities
The skills you need to excel as a mechanical engineering designer include:
- Creativity and imagination
- Visual awareness
- Strong analytical and problem-solving skills
- Proficient in 3D computer design modeling
- Strong drawing skills
- Strong project management skills
- The ability to exercise independent judgment
- Good communication skills to write clear manuals
- Good teamwork skills
- A mechanical aptitude
- Good technical skills
- Good client service skills
- Good organizational skills
- Good time management skills
6. Career Advancement
After getting hired, focus on developing your skills on the job and pursuing advanced qualifications. If you can design innovative systems that can increase production efficiency and reduce costs, then you are set for greater things.
The American Society of Mechanical Engineers offers the Certified Systems Engineer credential that you can obtain to demonstrate your competence.
If you want to access continuing education opportunities and network with other designers, join the American Design Drafting Association.
To take part in government or public projects, be sure to obtain a Professional Engineer license from your state’s engineering board (you will need at least four years of professional experience to qualify for licensure).
To prepare yourself adequately for a management position, pursue a master’s degree in mechanical engineering technology, like the one offered at Purdue College of Technology in Indiana.
7. Job Opportunities
The employers of mechanical design engineers include:
- Processing and manufacturing plants
- Design engineering firms
- Government agencies, like NASA
- Oil and gas extraction companies
As an experienced engineering designer with a professional certification and an advanced degree, nothing will stop you from advancing to become a design engineering manager.
Citing the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Penn State Harrisburg notes that mechanical engineering technology graduates have strong employment prospects. In 2016 alone, there will be 35,000 new jobs for them.
So if you have a mechanical aptitude, and you are a problem-solver, the manufacturing industry needs you to design improved machines and systems.