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  • Two men, one wearing overalls and the other a suit and tie, are standing next to a car.  They are looking at paper documents.

    Talking with a technician in one of the workshops.

  • A man, wearing a suit and tie, is standing in a workshop, next to a car.  He is using a computer.

    Making adjustments to test criteria.

  • A man is sitting at a desk, using a computer.  Some television monitors are also on the desk.

    Using computers and closed circuit television (CCTV) to analyse vehicle performance.

  • Two men, one wearing overalls and the other a suit and tie, are looking at a car engine.  On the wall behind them is a sign saying 'Lotus'.

    Mechanical engineers need good interpersonal skills as well as technical knowledge and ability.

  • Mechanical Engineer

Mechanical Engineer

Introduction

Mechanical engineers apply their knowledge of mechanics, hydraulics, thermodynamics and materials to design and make machines and their parts. They are involved in many industries, including manufacturing, process industries, aerospace, defence, oil and gas, biomedical engineering and food processing, etc.

Also known as

  • Engineer, Mechanical

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Work Activities

As a Mechanical Engineer, it will be your job to research, design and develop all types of machines and their parts.

If you specialise in design, you will use computer-aided design (CAD) technology to design anything from a car to a toaster. You'll take into account safety, efficiency, environmental impact, and also the way a product looks.

Many Mechanical Engineers work on continuous production, where you may be responsible for designing, developing and managing computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) technology and robots.

For example, in industries that produce food, pharmaceuticals, paints and detergents, you will be responsible for mechanical processes such as filling, mixing, packaging, and labelling equipment. You may also install, operate and maintain the systems used to manage waste.

In manufacturing industries, you'll organise the installation of new equipment, and plan schedules for regular servicing and overhauling of all the machinery and equipment involved.

In agriculture and food processing, you may design harvesting machinery, deep freezers, canning plant and industrial ovens, for example.

You'll also use your knowledge and experience to tackle global problems, for example, developing ploughing equipment that doesn't damage fragile soils.

In the offshore oil and gas industries, you could be responsible for designing, constructing and operating offshore platforms. These are essentially villages supported above the sea, complete with a power supply, processing and drilling equipment, staff accommodation and communication systems.

Mechanical engineering plays a vital role in transport. For example, you might be researching ways to make cars safer and more fuel efficient, and use computer-aided design (CAD) techniques to design and test jet engines. You could help to make safer, quieter vehicles that produce less air pollution.

Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.

Personal Qualities and Skills

To become a Mechanical Engineer, you need:

  • to enjoy solving problems through science
  • to be able to develop strong technical skills and knowledge, as well as keep up to date with changes in technology
  • good communication skills - you may be working in a team with other specialists, for example, Geologists or medical professionals
  • excellent management skills to organise resources such as people, money and equipment
  • the ability to encourage other people's ideas
  • to be flexible and able to compromise
  • good computer skills
  • strong communication skills to write reports and to explain complex engineering information to people from non-technical backgrounds
  • good organisational skills - you may be responsible for planning budgets and co-ordinating resources
  • to work well to deadlines
  • to be able to stay calm and work well under pressure
  • a willingness to take on responsibility, and to lead and motivate others

Pay and Opportunities

Pay

The pay rates given below are approximate.

  • Starting: £22,000 - £25,000
  • With experience: £28,000 - £34,000
  • Senior Mechanical Engineers earn £37,000 - £42,500

Hours of work

Most Mechanical Engineers work around 35-40 hours a week, Monday to Friday. However, early starts, late finishes and weekend work may be required.

Where could I work?

Employers are firms across a wide range of industries, including manufacturing and processing, medical engineering, aerospace, automotive engineering, nuclear power and electricity generation.

Opportunities for Mechanical Engineers occur with employers throughout the UK.

Self-employment

Opportunities occur for experienced Mechanical Engineers to work independently as consultants.

Where are vacancies advertised?

Vacancies are advertised in local/national newspapers, trade industry publications, at Jobcentre Plus and on the Find a Job website.

Vacancies can also be found through specialist engineering recruitment agencies, internet job boards and the websites of professional engineering bodies.

GreenJobs is a job board aimed at people interested in green careers:

www.greenjobs.co.uk/browse-jobs/engineering

Entry Routes and Training

Entry routes

Mechanical Engineers usually complete a relevant engineering degree, foundation degree or HND.

A great way to get into this career is through an internship. Take a look at our information article 'Internships', for more details.

An Advanced Level or Degree Apprenticeship is also a great place to start.

There are a large number of courses in mechanical engineering. Some courses are combined, for example, with manufacturing engineering.

It's essential to check college/university websites carefully to make sure the course you choose is relevant to the branch of engineering you want to follow.

Training

Some graduates join graduate training schemes, which offer structured training and learning.

Depending on their level of entry, engineers can gain Chartered Engineer (CEng) or Incorporated Engineer (IEng) professional status. Both are highly regarded by employers throughout industry.

To register as a CEng or an IEng, you must join a relevant, professional engineering institution licensed by the Engineering Council, such as the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

To become a CEng or an IEng, you need to demonstrate the appropriate competence and commitment. The standards for this are set out in the Engineering Council's UK-SPEC document, which can be downloaded from their website.

UK-SPEC and the engineering institution you've joined can tell you which qualifications are accredited or approved towards CEng or IEng status. Your engineering institution will also advise you on, and process, your application.

Routes to CEng status include completing:

  • an accredited honours degree in engineering or technology, plus either an appropriate Masters degree or Engineering Doctorate (EngD) accredited by a professional engineering institution, or appropriate further learning to Masters level
  • or, an accredited integrated MEng degree

Routes to IEng status include completing:

  • an accredited Bachelors or honours degree in engineering or technology
  • or, an HNC, HND or foundation degree in engineering or technology, plus appropriate further learning to degree level
  • or, an NVQ level 4, which has been approved by a licensed engineering institution

However, you can still become a CEng or an IEng if you don't have these academic qualifications. Further information about the assessment process can be found in UK-SPEC.

Work Experience

Previous experience working as a Mechanic or an Auto Electrician would be useful for this career.

Progression

Depending on their qualification, Mechanical Engineers can progress by taking on more responsibility for the management of engineering projects and teams of Engineers.

Some Engineers choose to become self-employed or take contract work on a freelance basis.

Qualifications

To get onto an Advanced Level Apprenticeship, you'll usually need 5 GCSEs at grade C/4 or above, including English and maths, or to have completed an Intermediate Level Apprenticeship.

To get onto a Degree Apprenticeship, you will usually need at least 2 A levels.

For entry to a degree in mechanical engineering, the usual academic requirements are:

  • 2/3 A levels, usually in maths and a science or technology subject, often physics
  • GCSEs in your A level subjects at grade C/4 or above
  • a further 2/3 GCSEs at grade C/4 or above
  • English, maths and a science subject are usually required at GCSE at grade C/4 or above

Other qualifications are accepted, such as:

  • BTEC level 3 - mechanical engineering
  • City & Guilds level 2 and level 3 - mechanical manufacturing engineering
  • the International Baccalaureate Diploma

Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A level.

Adult Opportunities

Age limits

It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.

Courses

If you don't have the qualifications needed to enter your chosen degree or HND course, a college or university Access course (eg, Access to Engineering) could be the way in.

These courses are designed for people who have not followed the usual routes into higher education. No formal qualifications are usually needed, but you should check this with individual colleges.

Distance learning

The Open University offers undergraduate degrees and postgraduate qualifications in Engineering.

Training

Information on pathways to registration as a Chartered (CEng) or Incorporated (IEng) Engineer can be found on the Engineering Council's website.

Scholarships

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) offers a range of scholarships and awards. Please contact IMechE for details.

Further Information

Semta

Skills for science, engineering and manufacturing technologies

Address: 14 Upton Road, Watford, Hertfordshire WD18 0JT

Tel: 0845 6439001

Email: customerservices@semta.org.uk

Website: www.semta.org.uk

The Engineer

Engineering technology news

Email: customerservices@theengineer.co.uk

Website: www.theengineer.co.uk

Tomorrow's Engineers

Publisher: EngineeringUK and Royal Academy of Engineering

Email: contactus@tomorrowsengineers.org.uk

Website: www.tomorrowsengineers.org.uk

Queen's University Belfast

Irish enquiries

Website: www.qub.ac.uk

Open University (OU)

Tel: 0845 3006090

Website: www.open.ac.uk

Inside Careers

Specialists in graduate careers

Address: Unit 6, The Quad, 49 Atalanta Street, Fulham, London SW6 6TU

Tel: 020 7565 7900

Website: www.insidecareers.co.uk

University of Ulster

Irish enquiries

Tel: 028 7012 3456

Website: www.ulster.ac.uk

Construction Industry Training Board (CITB)

Address: Blue Court, Church Lane, Kings Langley, Hertfordshire WD4 8JP

Tel: 01923 260000

Email: ecitb@ecitb.org.uk

Website: careers.ecitb.org.uk

Engineer Jobs

Publisher: Venture Marketing Group

Email: ner@vmgl.com

Website: www.engineerjobs.co.uk

Getting into Engineering Courses

Author: James Burnett Publisher: Trotman

Website: www.mpw.ac.uk/university-guides/getting-into/engineering-courses/

Scottish Engineering

Scottish enquiries

Address: 105 West George Street, Glasgow G2 1QL

Tel: 0141 2213181

Email: consult@scottishengineering.org.uk

Website: www.scottishengineering.org.uk

Engineering Council

Address: 246 High Holborn, London WC1V 7EX

Tel: 020 3206 0500

Website: www.engc.org.uk

Engineering Training Council Northern Ireland (ETC NI)

Northern Ireland Enquiries

Address: Sketrick House, Ards Business Park, Jubilee Road, Newtownards BT23 4YH

Tel: 028 9182 2377

Email: info@etcni.org.uk

Website: www.etcni.org.uk

Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET)

Address: Michael Faraday House, Six Hills Way, Stevenage, Hertfordshire SG1 2AY

Tel: 01438 313311

Email: postmaster@theiet.org

Website: www.theiet.org

Teesside University Open Learning (Engineering)

Address: School of Science & Engineering, Teesside University, Middlesbrough, Tees Valley TS1 3BA

Tel: 01642 342740

Email: tuole@tees.ac.uk

Website: www.tees.ac.uk/schools/sse/tuol/

Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE)

Address: 1 Birdcage Walk, Westminster, London SW1H 9JJ

Tel: 020 7222 7899

Email: enquiries@imeche.org

Website: www.imeche.org

Careers Wales - Welsh Apprenticeships

Tel: 0800 028 4844

Website: ams.careerswales.com/

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