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Article: Mechanical Engineering


This article covers the following jobs:

  • Engineering Craft Machinist
  • Engineering Draughtsperson
  • Engineering Machine Operator
  • Maintenance Fitter
  • Mechanical Engineer
  • Mechanical Engineering Technician.

The job descriptions are only a brief summary. It is recommended that you do further research on jobs that interest you.


Mechanical engineering involves the design, construction and operation of machines, engines and power plants. As well as things that move, mechanical engineering includes boilers, refrigerators and air conditioning systems.

Some of the careers in this area

Mechanical Engineer

Mechanical engineers design, develop, install and maintain all types of machines and their parts.

They are involved in many industries, including all types of manufacturing and process industries, aerospace, defence, oil and gas, and food processing.

Those that specialise in design use computer-aided design (CAD) technology to design anything from a car to a toaster. They take into account safety, efficiency, environmental impact, and also the way a product looks.

Many mechanical engineers work on continuous production, where they 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, engineers are responsible for developing, testing and installing the equipment used to carry out mechanical processes such as filling, mixing, packaging, and labelling.

The usual requirement for this career is a relevant degree or HND, such as mechanical engineering.

Mechanical Engineering Technician

Mechanical engineering technicians are involved in the design, development, maintenance and operation of all types of machines and their parts.

For example, they help mechanical engineers to design and develop cars that are more economical on fuel, test jet engines, develop agricultural equipment and maintain the systems used on offshore oil and gas platforms.

They also help to develop and test the latest IT and telecommunications technology.

Many mechanical engineering technicians work in manufacturing industries, where they develop, operate and maintain the mechanical processes that control activities such as mixing raw materials and labelling finished products.

Entry into a trainee technician post is usually with at least four GCSEs at grade C or above, including English, Maths and a science, technology or engineering subject.

Engineering Craft Machinist

Engineering craft machinists set up and operate engineering machines. They use the machines to shape metal for engineering parts, for example, by cutting, grinding or boring.

They work from drawings that give the exact details of the parts they need to make. From these drawings, they decide which machinery and tools are needed. They may operate both computer- and hand-controlled machines.

Accuracy is essential both in setting up and operating machinery. Engineering craft machinists work to very fine tolerances (precise dimensions), for example, skimming 1/100th of a millimetre from a metal part.

The usual entry requirements are four GCSEs at grade C or above, including English, Maths and a science, technology or engineering subject.

Engineering Machine Operator

Engineering machine operators control the machines that are used to make engineering parts, such as lathes, borers, drills and presses.

This involves switching on the machine, keeping it supplied with raw material, watching the controls while it's running and switching off the machine if anything goes wrong.

Some jobs involve setting up the machines, selecting the right cutting tools and speed to run the machine at, and following instructions and diagrams to carry out the task.

There are no formal academic entry requirements for engineering machine operators. However, employers may expect applicants to have GCSEs in Maths, English and a science, technology or engineering subject.

Maintenance Fitter

Maintenance fitters make sure that equipment used in the manufacturing and processing industries works properly.

When a machine or piece of equipment stops working properly, maintenance fitters repair it. They use technical diagrams of the machinery to work out problems, or they follow written instructions from a call-out sheet.

They may have to take the machine to pieces to reach the faulty part, using tools such as spanners and screwdrivers. They then mend the part or replace it if necessary.

Maintenance fitters need to be multi-skilled; they don't just deal with mechanical machinery but also with electronic, pneumatic and hydraulic equipment.

Entry is usually with at least four GCSEs at grade C or above, including English, Maths and a science, technology or engineering subject.

Engineering Draughtsperson

Engineering draughtspeople produce detailed drawings and instructions, which production workers use to make products and equipment.

Traditionally, a draughtsperson would use a drawing board and technical drawing equipment such as stencils. These days, they will usually have computer-aided design (CAD) technology.

There are two main types of draughtsperson: design and detail.

Design draughtspeople examine designs. They calculate the number, size and weight of the required parts. They then produce a 'scheme' (a general outline) drawing.

Detail draughtspeople produce the final accurate drawing for use by the production workers. They break the drawing down into a series of smaller drawings for each stage of the production process.

Both detail and design draughtspeople use mathematical calculations, and need to be happy working with calculators and computers.

Entry into a trainee technician post is usually with four GCSEs at grade C or above, which should include English, Maths and a science, technology or engineering subject.

Further Information

Engineering Council

Address: 246 High Holborn, London WC1V 7EX

Tel: 020 3206 0500


Inside Careers

Specialists in graduate careers

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

Tel: 020 7565 7900


Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE)

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

Tel: 020 7222 7899



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