Degree Courses in Mechanical Engineering
Mechanical engineering universities and colleges provide students with intensive training and education for a career in the several engineering disciplines including fluid mechanics, manufacturing processes and solid mechanics. These degree programs include extensive hands-on training but some mechanical engineering colleges do offer online training for those who cannot attend a campus. Colleges and universities train students to work in the field of bioengineering, cryogenics, aeronautics, manufacturing, defense and heat transfer. Many employers prefer to hire candidates who have a master's mechanical engineering degree. Some schools offer certification programs in nanotechnology and other specialties.
Mechanical engineering universities and colleges prepare students for a broad range of occupations and positions in the field of engineering, manufacturing and materials processing. Students learn how to use advanced computer programs to create models and systems for various applications and products, and may also use computers to learn through simulations.
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Students also develop strong mathematics, analytic and problem-solving skills, and have the opportunity to participate in hands-on labs and research studies to round out their education. Programs cover a broad range of disciplines, including:
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- Manufacturing Processes
- Mechanics of Material
- Rapid Prototyping
- Systems Modeling and Simulation
Some mechanical engineer training programs also include an internship or externship component so that students can gain real-world experience while completing their degree requirements.
Completing a Mechanical Engineering Degree
Mechanical engineering degrees are available at both the bachelor's and master's degree levels, and students may be required to complete a thesis as part of the curriculum requirements.
Students should have a strong background in mathematics and science, and a keen interest in mechanical devices, manufacturing processes and computational engineering. Many students who are enrolled in a pre-engineering program are good candidates for completing a mechanical engineering degree or training program. Most mechanical engineering degree programs lead to a Bachelor of Science degree and students may proceed to complete a master's degree in the field.
The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) accredits college and university programs in engineering and technology.
Types of Mechanical Engineer Courses
Some of the most common types of courses include:
- Computational Engineering
- Introduction to Fluid Mechanics and Propulsion
- Introduction to Numerical Control and CAM
- Visualization and CAD
- Acoustics and Noise Control
- Manufacturing and Materials Processing
- Systems, Measurement and Control
- Heating, Ventilating, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration
- Design Techniques
- Material-Removal Processes
- Introduction to Biomechanics
- Acoustics and Noise Control
- Sustainable Energy Design
- Naval Architecture
Students who complete the basic mechanical engineer courses may also choose senior-level electives in areas such as energy usage, green energy, energy conversion, healthcare systems, robotics and mechatronics.
Some programs also include senior design, or "capstone" project requirements where students can learn about the full-cycle design process, solve real-world problems and work with prototypes. Students enrolled in these types of programs learn how to define a design problem, map out project deliverables, and may be able to submit their design as part of a competition. For example, the student may be able to work on a project that involves fuel cells, develop a formula race car, or design a human-powered submarine.
Career Options with a Mechanical Engineering Degree
Mechanical engineers can be trained to design everything from tools to gas turbines, and often work in the field of manufacturing, maintenance, agriculture production and technical sales. Most research positions in the field require a graduate degree, and mechanical engineers who offer their services to the public must be licensed. Beginning engineering graduates typically get most of their training on the job and may be required to attend seminars or workshops to acquire very specialized skills for a firm or company.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of mechanical engineers is expected to be slower than the average for all occupations through 2018. As of May 2008, the median annual income for mechanical engineers was $74,920.