What does it mean to be a mechanical engineer

Occupation mechanical engineer - job description and job opportunities

Are you thinking about starting a degree in mechanical engineering and would you like to know in which areas you can later find a job? Read here which industries are open to you, what the career prospects of mechanical engineers are like and which activities you can actually do.

Jobs after studying mechanical engineering - what comes next?

Modern technology society would be inconceivable without mechanical engineering. From power plants to pacemakers, machines and systems play an important role in almost all areas. And, as the name suggests, machine builders are responsible for their construction. But in addition to this core area, they also work, for example, in research, consulting, technical purchasing, sales or work as product managers. The job opportunities are diverse.

In the following, we will introduce you to some of the most important professional fields for graduates.

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Vehicle technology deals with vehicles of all types, from cars to tractors to express trains. Occupational fields can be found in the entire supplier industry and in vehicle construction, above all, where the focus is on engineering work in a complex with economic and ecological effects. Mechanical engineers for vehicle technology work for automobile manufacturers, system suppliers (e.g. Bosch, ZF, Continental) and component or parts suppliers. Specific fields of application include product development, execution of test series, simulation, project management, customer service, documentation and marketing.

Industrial goods - whether cosmetic articles, ready meals, motor scooters or our electricity - are not directly the finished products as we know them. Everything has to be produced first and in very different, complex ways. Mechanical engineers in production, as development engineers, develop manufacturing systems and plans for how machines, tools and people can be most effectively incorporated into the production processes. And that with consideration of economic, ecological and qualitative aspects. Professionally, production engineers have diverse and cross-sectoral opportunities. The fields of activity range from the planning, procurement, commissioning and optimization of production machines and systems through quality and environmental management to factory planning and process design.

The term mechatronics combines mechanics and electronics. In terms of content, this specialization is a mixture of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and computer science. To put it simply: Mechatronics engineers turn mechanical systems into intelligent machines, systems and products with the help of electronics and computer control. Even if mechatronics is a separate course - mechanical engineering graduates will also find numerous jobs here.

The tasks of mechatronic engineers include the development, construction, project planning, production, testing, commissioning, maintenance and operation of technical systems, regardless of whether they are microsystems or large units such as ICE or commercial aircraft.

The mechatronics engineer can work at the interfaces between mechanical engineering, electrical engineering / electronics and computer science, where friction between traditional specialist departments has previously occurred. As a mediator between the existing specialist areas in the company, he can expand the performance of the special teams through his coordination or take on research, development and project support tasks that require holistic thinking and action in the increasingly interdisciplinary areas. The step into self-employment, for example as a sales engineer, is also conceivable. A master’s degree is usually expected for management positions (for example in mechatronics, robotics, autonomous systems or automation technology).

In the last few decades in particular, the topic of environmental protection has become very important. In order for something to continue to change in a positive way, concepts and technologies for environmentally friendly production, energy saving and recycling must be developed. This is exactly where machine builders come into play as environmental engineers. Always with the goal of ecologically modernizing the economy and technology, they implement processes for climate protection in functioning plants, systems and machines. For example, concepts for waste avoidance, for flue gas cleaning in coal-fired power plants or for the effective use of renewable energies.

Areas of work for environmental protection technicians can be found, for example, in industry, agriculture or waste disposal. Or in research, where they develop new measurement procedures and methods. Or in the public service, where they are responsible for compliance with environmental protection laws.

Further specialist areas and areas of responsibility

In addition to those already mentioned, there are a number of other specializations in mechanical engineering, such as

As numerous as the industries in which mechanical engineers find jobs are the types of jobs they can do in those areas. The classic areas of responsibility that mechanical engineers pursue in the above-mentioned industries are

  • Planning and project planning
  • Research and Development
  • construction
  • Installation and maintenance of systems
  • vehicle construction
  • distribution
  • marketing
  • consultation
  • Technical expert
  • Technical management

Career opportunities for mechanical engineers

Mechanical engineering is ideal for anyone who would like to make a career. Even if there are cyclical fluctuations, the profession is almost something of a guarantee for secure employment, even in times of economic crisis. An example from 2009 makes this clear: In the course of the financial crisis, machine production collapsed by 25 percent, while the number of employees fell by only 1.4 percent in the same period (source: www.karriere.de).

The demand for engineers is still high not only in Germany, but also internationally, and there is no sign that this will change anytime soon. Since the shortage of skilled workers is still an issue in the field of mechanical engineering, graduates have good chances of getting a quick start in their careers even in times of economic weakness. According to the VDI (Association of German Engineers), in addition to electrical engineering and automobile construction, mechanical engineering is also one of the sectors in which demand is significantly higher than supply. Demographic change also plays a role: From 2020 the number of employed engineers is expected to decrease, as more employees will retire than graduates.

The opportunities for advancement for mechanical engineers are also good. If you have proven yourself in everyday working life and have soft skills such as communication skills and leadership qualities in addition to technical competence, you can advance in management activities such as company management or division management.

Graduates who have already gained valuable practical experience during their studies through internships or even a job as a student assistant have advantages when starting their careers. The contacts that arise in this way can also be of great importance later on.

Salary: What does a mechanical engineer earn?

Engineers generally earn very well. In our large salary article we will tell you in which salary range the mechanical engineering graduates will find themselves again:

Salary mechanical engineer

Vacancies for mechanical engineers

Curious about the job market? Job advertisements are a good source of assessing job prospects - not just for those who are already looking.