Study for a Career in Mechanical Engineering

What is Mechanical Engineering?

Engineering affects every aspect of human activity - work, leisure, health and education. Engineers are involved in the design and manufacture of almost everything, from cars to computers, from web pages to wings, from microchips to motorways. Many recent medical advances have been made as a result of work done by engineers, ranging from brain scanners to the drug dispensers used by asthma sufferers.

Study for a Career in Mechanical Engineering

Training as a mechanical engineer will lead you into one of the broadest areas of engineering. There are jobs for mechanical engineers in nearly every area of industry. As a mechanical engineer you could become involved in design, manufacture, research, development, management or marketing.

Mechanical engineers are expected to constantly improve, re-design and invent equipment, not just maintain and process. There have been a multitude of mechanical engineering advancements that don't make the headlines that are crucial to our everyday lives, making them easier, faster and more efficient. A recent, well-known project is the London Eye - the massive mechanical marvel by the River Thames. Mechanical engineering played a vital part in the design, manufacture and installation of the Eye, something that was originally believed to be impossible. Now it is both an extremely popular tourist attraction and an inspiration to future engineers.

Other examples include medical engineering companies now developing surgical robotic systems for orthopaedic, spinal and dental surgery. Environmental engineers in the UK are producing world-leading technology in emission control, while UK based mechanical engineers in the defence industry are creating an innovative protection system for the International Space Station, amongst other things. This is just a selection of the exciting, innovative and challenging projects that mechanical engineers are involved in.

There is a shortage of engineers the UK, therefore there are excellent job prospects for mechanical engineers, and currently 70% of graduates go into full-time careers associated with engineering.

Qualifications

Standards for education, training and professional development of all engineers in the UK have been considerably revised in recent years to ensure qualifications remain on a par with the best internationally, and that they also meet the changing needs of commercial and industrial markets. Today the focus is very much on gaining practical experience as well as academic achievements.

The entry requirement for mechanical engineering degree courses is normally three high grade 'A' levels (now A2) in maths, physics or physical sciences and one other subject. Five GCSE/S grades at grade C or above including maths and English and in most cases a science subject will also be required.

Which Course / University?

There are many universities offering degrees in mechanical engineering and there is a wide variation in the types of courses and specialisms offered within these degrees, so it is a good idea to check the prospectuses carefully before applying. It is possible to do joint honours with a range of other subjects both sciences and arts including business and language courses. It is important that you ensure that your degree is an accredited course recognised by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers. There are three-year courses, which are full time and usually lead to a BEng qualification. There are also four-year courses leading to a MEng qualification. In order to become chartered you need to have completed at least four years of academic study.

If you take a BEng degree it is possible to add a further year of specialised study known as a Matching Section. There are also sandwich courses available that include a year spent in industry gaining practical work experience. In order to become a chartered mechanical engineer you need to spend a period of time gaining approved work experience after graduating known as Initial Professional Development (IPD). This usually lasts for at least four years, after which you can apply to become chartered.

For a list of UK Universities running Mechanical Engineering courses, log on to the UCAS website: www.ucas.co.uk. A list of IMechE accredited courses can be found on the IMechE accredited degrees page of the IMechE website.

Earnings Potential

Graduates should expect to earn in the region of £18,000 +. This can rise to £40,000 and above with experience.

Finding a job in engineering

Many jobs are still obtained through the traditional method of advertising - in papers, on the Internet, in careers publications etc. Professional Engineering, the publication produced by Professional Engineering Publishing, offers on average 40 pages of engineering advertisements per fortnightly issue, the details are also found on their website: www.professionalcareers.net. The IMechE also produces 'Engineering Opportunities' an annual publication targeted at students and graduates, which lists companies offering employment and training programmes.

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