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Careers in mechanical engineering

Mechanical engineering career information including example roles of mechanical engineers.

Mechanical engineer at work Mechanical engineering technicians work in many sectors including:

  • Manufacturing - constructing engine and gear components, building and maintaining conveyor and packaging equipment, servicing robotic machinery on a production line;
  • Power and processing - designing and making industrial plant machinery, such as valves and pumps for utility companies;
  • Building services - servicing lifts and escalators, installing heating and air conditioning systems;
  • Transport - repairing mechanical components on rail engines and signalling equipment.

Mechanical engineering technicians work on projects with other engineering craftspeople and technicians under the supervision of an engineer. They cover a variety of skill areas including welding, hydraulics, pneumatics, fluid mechanics, computer-aided design (CAD), computer numerical controlled (CNC) machining, and measurement and inspection. Increasingly, they need a broad knowledge of other disciplines such as electronics and electrical engineering.

Typical areas of work for a mechanical engineering technician

  • Design - using computer-aided design (CAD) software to draw up plans for new prototypes, or to investigate potential performance enhancements by modifying existing designs;
  • Research and development - investigating and testing possible solutions to overcome machinery or process problems;
  • Construction, installation and operation - fabricating components, and installing, testing and adjusting instruments and machinery to ensure they are running smoothly and meeting performance targets;
  • Repair and maintenance - carrying out preventative maintenance schedules, diagnosing and rectifying faults in equipment and machinery. Technicians may also have responsibility for supervising craftspeople and undertaking production planning, purchasing, estimating and quality control duties.

Working hours and environment

Mechanical engineering technicians work 37 to 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday, however, they may have to work overtime or shifts if the work relates closely to production. Technicians in a factory environment are likely to work shifts and be on call.

Work environments can vary from a quiet office; if involved in CAD work, to a noisy factory production line carrying out essential maintenance. Some work may be on outdoor sites. Protective clothing is usually provided where necessary.

Skills and interests

To be a mechanical engineering technician, you should:

  • have good practical and technical skills;
  • have an aptitude for maths, science and IT;
  • have good communication skills;
  • understand engineering drawings and principles;
  • be able to work methodically and precisely;
  • be able to manage a varied workload in an efficient manner;
  • have good analytical skills;
  • work well as part of a team;
  • have initiative and be able to take responsibility.

How to get started in mechanical engineering

If you are aged under 24, you may be able to gain an apprentice technician position with an engineering, manufacturing or transport operating company. You will need four or five GCSEs (A-C) / S grades (1-3) in subjects such as maths, science, english, and design and technology. Some employers may require one or two A levels / Highers in maths and science or equivalent qualifications.

If you are aged between 16 - 24, you can contact Tomorrow's Engineers [new window] about careers in this field.

Alternative qualifications open to all ages include the Edexcel (BTEC) National Certificate / Diploma in Mechanical Engineering and National Certificate / Diploma in Operations and Maintenance Engineering (Mechanical). City & Guilds also offers a range of courses covering skills required in this role:

  • Progression Award in Applying Engineering Principles (6983) Levels 1 and 2;
  • Progression Award in Engineering Maintenance Level 2;
  • Progression Award in Production Engineering Levels 2 and 3;
  • Certificate in Engineering (2800) Level 3.

These courses are available at local colleges. Check with your local college for details.

Opportunities for mechanical engineering technicians

There are opportunities for mechanical engineering technicians across a wide range of industries. Employers include local and central government departments, the armed services, manufacturers in all industries, research and development companies and public utilities such as water, gas, and electricity. There are also opportunities with manufacturers in materials development and design, marketing, selling and customer support.

Progression routes normally involve taking on supervisory and management duties. There may also be options to specialise in a particular aspect of the role, for instance, CAD work.

 

Reproduced from The Apprenticeship Guide [new window].

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