What is Mechanical Engineering?


The mechanical engineering is a field that attempts to offer education and sharpen your skills on a broad range of technical, social, environmental, and economic problems. In general, mechanical engineers are concerned with utilization of the principles of motion, energy, materials, and force towards engineering design of mechanical devices.

Mechanical engineers design the tools, processes, and develop technologies to be used for satisfying the needs of societies through utilization of a combination of material, human, and economic resources.  For example, they might work on electric generators, internal combustion and aircraft engines, shock absorbers and vibrations issues,  control systems for variety of machines and systems, air pollution and other environmental issue, micro and nano-systems, ground-based steam or gas turbines for electric energy generation, other power-generating machines, space shuttle for space exploration, liquid rocket engines, and others. They might also  be involve in design (as designers or design engineers), or technical management pertaining to the design of machines such as refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment, power tools, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), robotics and robots for manufacturing and human services, artificial human organs and other biomedical devices, micro mechanical systems (MEMS),  nano-machines, and more.

What Do Mechanical Engineers Do?

The diverse mechanical engineering field can be categorized in a variety of manners in terms of work functions. Some of the most common ones relate to areas of technologies in which engineers work (but not all do). Among these fields are:

In most of the above-mentioned areas, the mechanical engineers are concerned with heat transfer, fluid mechanics, or machine design in order to harness or convert energy from one form to the other. For example, heat utilization techniques are employed in boilers, air conditioners and refrigeration systems, and computer component (especially CPU) cooling systems. Machine design is more concentrated on hardware items such as automobile engines, computers, washing machines, fuel injectors and combustion chambers for cars, etc.

Mechanical engineers are constantly in a position of making decisions. The dimensions, shape, and material of each component in a (mechanical) product must be decided by a mechanical engineer.  Mechanical engineers also play key roles in the best and most efficient way of manufacturing such components. Often those decisions are made in multidisciplinary teams consisting of other types of engineers. Some of these decisions are of critical importance and is a matter of life and death. For example, the failure modes of parts of a product and safety features / implications, for example of aircraft engines, are among the key responsibilities of mechanical engineers.

Mechanical engineers may also be involved in marketing endeavors.  For example, determining the need for a new or modified product, and calculating product availability, market size, cost structure, profitability, specifications, and distribution channels.

Mechanical Engineering Careers

Nearly every company or organization that designs and manufactures a product employs mechanical engineers. But these engineers can also be found in research laboratories, the military, government, and in other professions such as medicine, law or teaching.

Most mechanical engineering professions require engineering design experience and competency. When a new or improved product is needed, companies resort or hire mechanical (design) engineers to do the job. Mechanical engineering is never a dull profession as mechanical engineers often find themselves pushing beyond the limits of their previous work experience and use innovative technologies to meet project requirements effectively and efficiently. Some may even be working on racing cars such as Formula One, high-speed racing boats, or  super light-weight racing bicycle engineering designs.

Another important area of employment for mechanical engineers is manufacturing. Manufacturing occupations cover almost everything involved in developing a product, from selecting the appropriate materials for different components of a product to choosing the correct/best machinery to manufacture them. Most mechanical engineers in this industry work for equipment manufacturers, aerospace companies, utilities, material processing plants, transportation companies, and petroleum companies. They also work with small firms, consulting practices, universities, and government research labs.

Specific assignments might involve research and development, design of equipment or systems, supervision of production, plant engineering, administration, sales/application engineering, the testing and evaluation of machines and entire plants.

Emerging fields such as biotechnology, materials science, and micro- and nano-technology are projected to create new professional opportunities for mechanical engineers. In particular, medical biotechnology (pertaining to design of artificial limbs and organs) seeks mechanical engineers who specialize in design mechanics. In such cases, mechanical engineers must work along with medical doctors to develop products that will withstand stress and yet be biologically compatible with the human body.

Finally, it is important to know that the knowledge and skills learned through a degree in mechanical engineering are also very close, and with a few courses can often be applied, to other engineering titles, such as manufacturing engineering, aerospace engineering, or systems engineering.

We hope that the information provided here is useful to understand what mechanical engineering is all about. Wishing you success in engineering education.

If you like to learn more about our program please contact us at:

Carla Terry
Administrative Specialist
Corley Hall 111
1811 N Boulder Ave
Russellville, AR 72801-8803
Phone: (479) 964-0877
Fax: (479) 964-0882
Email: cterry@atu.edu