Mechanical engineers are involved in the production and processes of small component parts to the creation of new production techniques for large plants and machinery. They may be involved in just one part of the process, such as the research of the product or process, or they design, test and may see a product through to its completion and implementation. Mechanical engineers work to improve safety and efficiency and may work in manufacturing, healthcare, and construction to name a few – there are many other sectors which require their services.
A mechanical engineer will usually work in a team, possibly with other engineers with different backgrounds, and will need strong project management and time management skills. Once the project is underway a mechanical engineer needs to find ways of testing theoretical constructions and will liaise with other departments, clients, suppliers and customers in order to gain feedback. Once a prototype has been created he or she will need to assess and improve products or processes, bearing in mind the health and safety and environmental impact of the new systems.
Good management skills both of people and resources are required, and the mechanical engineer will have responsibility for cost implications.
Typical starting salaries are from £ 19,000 to £ 25,000, but these will vary according to the sector worked in. Senior salaries are in the £ 40,000 to £ 50,000 range, but again this could be higher if there is a particular demand for mechanical engineers within a particular area of industry. The hours are usually within the normal working week of 9-5, but may be longer if deadlines need to be reached quickly. Shift patterns may be worked. Mechanical engineers often work in offices, but visit workshops, factories and building sites.
Women are under-represented at only 6% in the profession, but there are measures in place to increase the number through eg WISE (Women into Science, Engineering and Construction) or the Women's' Engineering Society, which has student groups running at universities.
There are many work opportunities with a large amount of jobs available in areas with a high manufacturing bias, and more work is becoming available abroad particularly in Eastern Europe.