Career in mechanical engineering involves grappling with various aspects of the technical and practical work. The job of a mechanical engineer involves widespread handling of machines and components which have a direct relation with power by producing it, transmitting it or even making use of power. The major concern of mechanical engineers is bent towards ways and mechanisms through which natural energy sources are converted into uses of practical nature. As part of their work, mechanical engineers seek to come up with tools that are vital for other engineers to make use of them as they go about their daily routine. In order to work effectively, mechanical engineers need to work in a team of scientists and experts in various sectors of the engineering occupation who come up with theories and various other developments and innovations. In a more daily routine, mechanical engineers need to be complemented by other mechanical technicians in order that their work can be more effective (ASME, 2009). A career in mechanical engineering is one wrought with challenges and qualification requirements. As such, there are quite interesting benefits obtained from the career. A look at the various roles and functions of mechanical engineers shows the presence of these professionals is very essential in the modern day world.
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Analysis of the various components of mechanical engineering career and profession
Mechanical engineering is one of the most important professions that have contributed to the advancement of the modern society in a very great way. But for the contribution that mechanical engineers have had in the modern day technological advancements, there would never have been any technological advancement as it is now. Most of the functions and contributions that mechanical engineers contribute towards the advancement of the modern day world range from design of machines to the development and repair of such equipment (Burstall, 1963). Several machines and tools that produce and consume power are developed through the efforts of mechanical engineers. For instance, mechanical engineers come up with the right designs of cars and other machines. After designing these machines, they also take part in developing them so that they can be used in accomplishing various tasks in the mechanical and engineering concerns. Similarly, it is the concern of mechanical engineers to come up with machines that make use of power and energy. Some of the machines designed and developed by mechanical engineers and which consume energy include air conditioners, elevators, power saws as well as printing presses.
One of the most common characteristic in the field of mechanical engineering is the extent of expansiveness of the profession. Mechanical engineering as a profession involves various sectors and areas of expertise (Calvert, 1967). As such, it is not uncommon for mechanical engineers to participate in various activities that eventually sharpen the expertise of an engineer in a certain specified area of specialization. The range of specialization for mechanical engineers is so wide; spanning from very tiny and minute machines to the very large ones. Some mechanical engineers specialize in tiny delicate instruments such as those used in medical procedures. Others are involved in design and development of large equipment such as gears used in bulldozers and other large machines. As mechanical engineers specialize in various sectors of the mechanical and technical concerns, they receive diverse expertise and experience that give them various professional titles such as environmental systems engineer, manufacturing engineer, air pollution control engineer as well as automotive engineer. As part of their specialization, mechanical engineers may opt for one area that one deems more interesting and probably with better rewards than others (MichiganTech, 2009). Different fields on which to specialize exist for mechanical engineers. Some of the commonest fields of specialization include aircraft engines, commercial refrigeration, instrumentation, bioengineering, fluid power and many other areas.
There are various differences that exist between the different areas of specialization for any field in mechanical engineering. Each specific area of specialization has its accompanying characteristics as well as working conditions. The working conditions for a mechanical engineer thus range from one area of specialization to another (Anonymous, 2005). Generally, mechanical engineers spend their work time in well-lighted and clean offices. The periods in which mechanical engineers spend their time in offices within buildings and within the sites of operations vary with the nature of the occupation. There are variations in the working conditions for mechanical engineers due to the variations that exist between the areas of specialization. For this reason, it is not uncommon to find mechanical engineers who spend their whole working time in very quite and serene environments while others are spend their entire working time in noisy factories.
Due to the variations that exist in the profession, difficulty levels and extent of rewards vary considerably. Due to the challenges conditions and nature of work that a mechanical engineer performs, there are far much higher pay scales in engineering than in other degree professions. For instance, in UK, engineers are the second most highly paid professionals after medical doctors. Depending on the location of the engineer and the area of specialization, pay is administered (Burstall, 1963). On average, mechanical engineers earn salaries of about $62,880 annually. According to a report on remuneration report released in the year 2002, it is evident that about 50% middle payment for mechanical engineers was between $50,800 and $78,040. Similarly, 10% lowest paid mechanical engineers earned less than $41,490 annually. It was evident also that the 10% most highly paid mechanical engineers earned $93,430 and above.
To grasp a clear history of the mechanical engineering profession, it is relevant to be familiar with the history of the engineering profession as a whole. Generally, there are four phases of the development of the engineering profession: pre-scientific period, industrial period, subsequent industrial revolution and information period. The founders of the engineering profession mainly used trial and error; though with extreme imagination (Calvert, 1967). The origin of the word engineer is traced to the eleventh century through a Latin ingeniator; ingenious person. The journey to modern engineering came with the scientific revolution when Galileo developed two sciences. Scientific revolution sought explanations systematically as well as adoption of practicality on all problems. In the phase of scientific revolution, machines were powered by steam engines in replacement for human power. As traditional artisans went about their daily routine, they tried adopting new methods and techniques that would make their work more efficient and easy. Mechanical engineering was mainly pioneered by the British through adoption of laissez-faire system by the government. It is through the gradual development of scientific thinking and intuitive analysis that mechanical engineering developed to be a very important profession in the modern day world. The modern mechanical engineering concern was thus transformed from the initial apprenticeship into modern university degree qualification.
Career path for mechanical engineers
Mechanical engineers need to study a number of areas for them to be competent. Various areas of study in the profession include the study of the manner in which forces get transmitted in an entire structure; statics, the velocities, accelerations as well as accompanying forces for motion systems; dynamics, behavior of mechanisms in motion; kinematics, the stiffness of materials, material science, thermodynamics, heat transfer, manufacturing as well as fluid mechanics (MichiganTech, 2009) Many other areas are studied to complete the qualification requirements. Once qualified, mechanical engineers are absorbed in industries, government, graduate schools, military, private companies as well as own businesses. Similarly, other mechanical engineers may decide to venture into other professions.
The modern day society is in a continuous need for mechanical engineers. This is probably due to the shifts in virtually all sectors of the modern society into application of technology. As a result, there is a continuous demand for more mechanical engineers meaning that the employment opportunities for mechanical engineers are always available in an increasing rate (MichiganTech, 2009). According to the current projections, it is expected that qualified mechanical engineers will be in great demand in order to aid in the design and development of new products which are expected to be reasonably complex. A number of requirements exist in order for a mechanical engineer to be efficient and successful. The minimum requirement is a bachelor's degree which takes between 4 and 5 years. Successful mechanical engineers advance their qualification by obtaining specialized degrees in areas of interest. Due to the continuous transformation of the profession, there is never a time when engineers cease from education; it continues throughout their career life.
There are various aspects of the mechanical engineering profession that are extremely appealing. The fact that the profession is purely based on inventiveness and practicality is a major appeal for engineers (Anonymous, 2005). It is very appealing to see ones knowledge and experience produce something practical and that which solves human problems. Similarly, the rewards for being a mechanical engineer are very appealing especially in terms of pay. Nevertheless, mechanical engineering is basically a practical occupation and may require immense time dedication. It also may involve extreme supervision and pressure from managers who have no knowledge on engineering.