Engineering in any sense of the word is a rewarding and exciting career that plays a vital role within the UK economy. Mechanical engineering is all about designing, developing, testing and manufacturing materials for a wide variety of industries and applications.
A Mechanical Engineer is responsible for anything from building engine components and maintaining industrial equipment to servicing robotic machinery. In this article, we briefly cover aspects of mechanical engineering along with essential tips for graduates seeking a career within the industry.
What Is Mechanical Engineering?
Mechanical engineering is one of the oldest and broadest of the engineering disciplines. It applies to engineering physics, engineering mathematics and materials sciences aiming at the design, analysis, manufacture and maintenance of mechanical systems.
The core principles of mechanical engineering include mechanics, dynamics, thermodynamics, materials science, structural analysis and electricity. In addition, mechanical engineers also use tools such as computer-aided design (CAD), computer-aided manufacturing (CAM), and product life cycle management. They use these tools to design and analyse in several industries and applications:
- manufacturing plants
- industrial equipment and machinery
- heating and cooling systems
- transport systems (aircraft, watercraft)
- medical devices
- weapons and more
Disciplines In Mechanical Engineering
Mechanical engineering has evolved considerably over time and the future looks promising. Today, mechanical engineers work in areas like composites, mechatronics, and nanotechnology while it also overlaps with many other disciplines. Some of these include:
- aerospace engineering
- metallurgical engineering
- civil engineering
- electrical engineering
- manufacturing engineering
- chemical engineering
- industrial engineering
- biomedical engineering
The biomedical engineering field is particularly interesting as it focuses on biomechanics, transport phenomena, biomechatronics, bionanotechnology and biological systems modelling.
Related article: ‘UK Manufacturing: What You Need To Know’
What To Do After You Graduate
A degree in mechanical engineering opens the door to so many unique opportunities. Fact is, mechanical engineering has been the driving force behind some of the greatest modern marvels around the world.
Your mechanical engineering degree puts you in a prime position to form part of an exciting group of people to create more innovative products. That said, getting your job as a mechanical engineer requires more than just a degree as we’ve outlined below.
Get A Graduate Engineering Job
The age-old conundrum of employers preferring applicants with experience hasn’t changed all that much and can be challenging. Many university courses allow time for one-year placements and these often lead to permanent positions. In some cases, a graduate position at reputable engineering companies could even help you achieve better results at when you go back to university.
However, according to the Institution of Engineering and Technology, more than 40% of engineering employers believe that graduates lack the required practical experience. With this in mind, getting a graduate engineering job may not always be possible or practical.
How To Get Mechanical Engineering Experience
While a graduate job may not always be possible, you could ask engineering companies to spend a few days with them to see how things work. From there, try to get a few weeks’ worth of actual work experience or a summer internship. This will help you stand out among other applicants when applying for year-long placements which are considered nearly as competitive as applying for permanent roles. Any sort of experience at a real engineering company will make a difference to your CV and confidence.
Maximise Your Time At Uni
Universities offer much more than just education as they are often a great resource for engineering companies looking to collaborate on exciting new technologies. Speak to your lecturers as they might have information on various engineering companies whether they are working on a project or looking for talented recruits to fill graduate jobs.
Students should keep their ears and eyes open about possible job openings through their universities. Either speak to your lecturers or set up a time to meet with your career advisers. Besides job listings and other information, career advisers can also provide personal advice sessions and coaching including all-important interview skills.
Network To Build Lasting Professional Relationships
Regardless of industry or job role, networking remains one of the most important skills to master. As a future mechanical engineer, your secret to success is to build lasting professional relationships. In addition to having conversations with your professors or lecturers, reach out to former classmates and your alumni connections as well. They could have valuable career insights or information that will help get your foot in the door.
Making connections with like-minded people also provides a great opportunity for informational interviews. This is another way to gain insight into whether a career path or specific company is a good fit for you. You should also consider joining engineering associations or societies to build further relationships. By attending career events you could get access to certain volunteering opportunities which always looks great on your CV.
Don’t Sell Yourself Short
The UK has some of the biggest and best engineering companies in the world while some are also subsidiaries of many international conglomerates. Anyone graduating from a British engineering institution has an incredible opportunity to work with some of the world’s top employers.
Never aim low just because you’re a graduate and don’t be afraid to apply at companies you really want to work for. Some of them may even have an engineering development programme or an internship they haven’t advertised yet. You should also not allow your degree to dictate a particular firm or job even it specialises in a different discipline. Remember, the basic principles of engineering are widely applicable.
According to Mike Grey, head of Coventry University’s Engineering Futures career team, “Students tend to rule themselves out more than the companies do. They might pick mechanical engineering because it’s broad but something else doesn’t necessarily narrow their options.”
Consider Small To Medium Engineering Companies
While many believe bigger is better, it’s important to remember that some of the most interesting and innovative engineering projects are happening at small and medium-sized British technology firms. Some of which many people haven’t even heard of. If you only apply to the big name brands, you will compete against the toughest applicants and you could miss out on amazing opportunities elsewhere.
Many smaller firms often require unique or niche skills and experience which means they struggle to find the right graduates. If you can match yourself to the right employer, you will create a fantastic opportunity for career growth.
Engineering Salaries And Career Path
The starting engineering salary is approximately £27,000 per annum. Senior engineers, which make up the top 10%, earn £110,000 or more per year. Generally speaking, the average salary for engineers in the UK is about £40,000 p.a.
Many graduate engineers are also recruited into various roles within an engineering organisation. Some of these include procurement, technical sales, operations management, supply chain management and logistics. It’s very common and makes perfect sense as engineers know best when it comes to understanding the commercial challenges engineering companies face.
Useful Links And Resources
For more information on engineering societies in the UK, skills shortage, salary range, and graduate engineering jobs refer to the handy links below:
- Graduate Mechanical Engineer Jobs in England
- Mechanical/Manufacturing Engineering Opportunities
- IMechE: Institution of Mechanical Engineers
- Engineering Council UK
- Engineering Salary Summary (2018)
While a mechanical engineering degree is a fantastic accomplishment, it’s essential to have a plan in place beyond passing your exams. You need to put in the extra work to ensure that you get your first role as a mechanical engineer at a company best-suited to you.
Use this bit of engineering career advice, reach out to your network and see if there’s something specific you could do to further your education and improve your chances for employment. By doing the basics right and making an extra effort, you can stand out among the rest for entry-level mechanical engineering jobs.
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