Mechanical engineering is one of the fundamental types of engineering, and it is also contains a large quantity of sub-categories, such as heating and cooling, thermodynamics, manufacturing engineering, and more. There has always been a need for mechanical engineers, and since there are very innovative solutions coming about in more specialized mechanical engineering fields such as robotics and industrial engineering, we expect mechanical engineering and its sub-categories to be in demand in the future.
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Are There Online Mechanical Engineering Degrees?
Yes, there are multiple options for mechanical engineering degrees online and on-campus in a more traditional setting. Nowadays, it does not really matter whether you earn your undergraduate or graduate degree online - it is very common and most employers view the curriculum the same. As some know, a study by the US Department of Education stated that those that studied at least a portion of their coursework online actually retained more information and had better learning outcomes.
The online mechanical engineering degree - at all levels - is quickly becoming one of the top priorities for universities to bring online. Unfortunately it takes some time to develop the coursework and curriculum to stay in line with what is taught on-campus, but the institutions are getting there. For those that can not transit to a campus, they instead choose a more general engineering degree that is offered online.
Types of Mechanical Engineering Degrees
There are many different sub-categories for mechanical engineering. Many ME’s decide to choose the more general Mechanical Engineering degree to start with, particularly for their undergraduate/bachelor’s studies. Some decide to stick with a Mechanical Engineering degree for their Mater’s degree, but most (not all) that end up getting their Ph.D., or doctorate degree, end up specializing in one of the below categories.
Unlike mechanical engineering technology programs, which focus most on theory, mechanical engineering programs focus on practical application. Students should not confuse engineering programs with engineering technology programs. Engineers complete engineering degree programs while engineering technicians or technologists complete engineering technology programs, which are usually associate degree programs.
Although mechanical engineers must have at least bachelor’s degrees, those who wish to work in management, as teachers or in research and development generally complete graduate programs. Some colleges, such as Purdue University, offer five-year or six-programs that allow the student to earn both a bachelor and master’s degree. After five years of study, the graduate will have a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering as well as a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering.
The five and six-year programs commonly offer cooperative education programs as well. Many colleges offer students scholarships through their engineering departments as well as opportunities to become members of their engineering organizations.
Online Mechanical Engineering Programs
Online education, which has become very popular the past decade, is offered through many mechanical engineering colleges. Students can continue to work or meet other obligations while earning a mechanical engineering degree at their own paces. Distance learning students can complete many of the classes online but must complete any internship at an engineering facility. Some schools that offer online mechanical engineering programs include University of North Dakota, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and University of Alabama to name just a few.
Industrial engineering and electronics engineering are two of the most common areas for people interested at first in mechanical engineering to go into because the similarities are very close. Both are a subset of mechanical engineering, and most degree programs offer coursework that actually includes a lot on mechanical engineering. Be sure to check out the coursework when you talk with the academic adviser at the schools you end up talk with. Below are a couple of the most popular programs that engineers like you are interested in on our site.
Associates and Bachelors Mechanical Engineering Degrees
These undergraduate degrees are essential to starting your career as a mechanical engineer. There are not too many AS in Mechanical Engineering programs available in the US, so many students instead choose a more general engineering route, or one in a similar engineering field such as industrial engineering.
Bachelor’s programs are much more prevalent in the US than Associate’s programs, but even still there are not a ton of general BS in Mechanical Engineering degrees outside of state colleges and universities, which is not an option for everyone. Online Mechanical Engineering Bachelor degree programs are starting to come about, as mentioned, but it is taking some time. As a result many people choose another route that is a bit more specialized, such as manufacturing engineering, industrial engineering, or robotics engineering, another up-and-coming engineering concentration field.
Masters and Doctorate Mechanical Engineering Degrees
Typically as you further your engineering education, you will get more specialized in terms of which specific engineering field you are in. Because engineers have such an important impact on everything – whether it is machinery, buildings, software, or robotic technology, we really need to have engineers that are experts in highly specific fields. There are some options for a Master’s of Science, or MS in Mechanical Engineering, but for the most part as people further their education they get more specialized. Some also chose to get into management, and a lot of universities – online and campus-based – have options for engineering management.
ABET Accredited Mechanical Engineering Degrees
One of the first steps towards becoming a mechanical engineer is completing a formal training program that’s accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). The engineering industry has strict standards regarding engineering programs, and ABET-accredited programs meet these curriculum and training requirements. ABET currently accredits more than 315 mechanical engineering programs across the nation, which include associate, bachelor and graduate programs.
Mechanical Engineering Technology Degree
The “technology” designation implies that these degrees integrate technology with engineering mechanics, and that is absolutely true. Now, whether it is a car, wind turbine, or a robot of some sort, the integration of a machine’s mechanics and technology are seamless. Both are required to make the machine work. Gone are the days of a mechanical fuel pump – now everything in a car is controlled with sensors and chips. This is a lot more efficient and more lightweight, but it also requires a lot of intelligence, knowledge, and education in order to create and fix.
Robotics Engineering Degree
Robotics engineering is an exciting field that keeps pushing the envelope in terms of innovation. Many startups are using progressive robotics engineering to build machines that make our lives easier and production more productive. There are robots in pharmacies that sort and count pills with nearly 100% accuracy to ensure proper medication is being observed. Drones are being used currently for fairly primative uses, and mostly for testing. However, Amazon recently petitioned the FAA to test the use of drones for product delivery, and it has a proof-of-concept.
Industrial Engineering Degree
Industrial engineering has really taken off over the past 60-70 years. This industry also uses robotics to help processes, but a true understanding of mechanical engineering is required to continue the progress in the industrial and manufacturing setting. Companies are always looking for streamlined processes (usually developed by a process engineer), and they are also looking for streamlined efficiency through better mechanical innovations. Obviously technology – software and hardware – can play a big part in this area too.
When people think of working on cars, typically they think of mechanics. But even nowadays, mechanics have to have an insane knowledge of technology and the inter workings of vehicles to do the work on them. Automotive technology has emerged as one of the most innovative fields. Automotive engineers design entire automobiles or specialized pieces of cars. The most respected automotive engineers work on new and innovative concepts that usually seem far-fetched, but some of the innovations become a reality. Ford changed gears and is now using aluminum in their 2015 Ford F-150, when everyone else is still using steel.
Tesla completely overhauled the automotive industry with high-end cars that are 100% electric. Both were the result of progressive automotive engineers. Tesla recently announced they have plans for a dual motor and autopilot.
Becoming a Professional Mechanical Engineer
Mechanical engineers, like most engineers, are required to have professional licenses if they work with the public. Obtaining licensure requires not only earning the mechanical engineering degree but also passing at two-part engineering exam, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The first exam, the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) test, is a computer-based, closed-book test that can be taken upon graduation. The second exam, the Professional Engineering (PE) test, is an eight-hour, open-book test that is both a breadth and depth exam.
The breadth exam has questions on these three areas of mechanical engineering: thermal and fluid systems; mechanical systems and materials; and HVAC and refrigeration. The depth portion has questions on only one of the areas, which would be the student’s area of interest. The PE exam can only be taken after the candidate has at least four years of experience working in the mechanical engineering capacity. Although the licensing exams are engineering-based, the student much pass portions that are relevant to their area of study, which in this case would be mechanical engineering.
Mechanical Engineering Degree – Info for College
Typical Mechanical Engineering Curriculum
The curriculum for mechanical engineering programs is usually classroom courses, lab work and practical experience.
Mechanical engineering programs often offer different concentrations so that students can focus their studies on a specific area of interest. Some even offer minors within the majors. A perfect example of this can be found at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama. AU offers a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering with concentrations in either automotive engineering or pulp and paper engineering as well as minors in tribology and lubrication science; automotive design and manufacturing; and nuclear power generation systems. A student in this program might take courses like materials thermodynamics, materials structure, kinetics or magnetic properties of materials.
The concentrations a student chooses generally reflect his or her area of interest. An HVAC concentration can prepare a student to design and trouble shoot an HVAC system while a concentration in aerospace engineering is aimed at students interested in aviation. Stevens Institute of Technology offers a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering with various different concentrations.
Applying for Mechanical Engineering Scholarships
There are a number of scholarships available for those interested in mechanical engineering. The ASME (more below on them) has an excellent list here (PDF) of mechanical engineering scholarships.
Join the ASME or Like-Minded Engineering Society to Boost Your Resume
As with many majors, it is usually a good idea to join different societies and groups that are associated with your university to gain a network of like-minded professionals. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME – asme.org) is the designated society for mechanical engineers. It is also an excellent additive to your resume, and can give you a sense of community with others that are going or have gone through the same process you are about to embark on. The ASME has over 130,000 members in over 150 countries worldwide, so you can be sure to find someone near you no matter where you live. The ASME in particular seeks out to help its members with resume development, internship or co-op opportunities, and full-time job options. It also provides courses, certifications, and additional training to help you continue your career.
What is Mechanical Engineering?
Mechanical engineering involves applying physics and a working mechanical knowledge of how machinery and the like work to come up with solutions or design new implementations. Mechanical engineering is one of the oldest engineering fields, and is quickly getting more sub-categories added to it. Robotics engineering has turned out to be a very exciting sub-concentration of mechanical engineering. Robots are used in many different instances to help make our lives easier – from pharmacies to surgical operations and even wind technology and deliveries via unmanned aircraft (drones), mechanical engineers are the ones that make the design and implementation work.
Mechanical engineering is probably the most diverse of the engineering disciplines probably because mechanical engineering plays a role in so many different fields: nuclear power, computer fields, transportation and automated manufacturing to name just a few. If this field appeals to you, learn everything there is to know about earning a mechanical engineering degree, colleges offering this program and what this career entails.
Mechanical engineers are the talented individuals who design, build and inspect devices and products used in many manufacturing industries. Their duties also include determining required size, weight and measurements. They must have a background strong in physical sciences and mathematics and must also be proficient with computers and blueprint reading. Mechanical engineers must have at least a bachelor’s degree, which are usually at least 128 semester credit hours. More on the individual types of mechanical engineering programs below.
Mechanical Engineer Careers
Even Google’s former Director of Engineering thinks this is the future, especially robotics engineering. Mechanical engineers have excellent career outlooks, according to the BLS, which predicts a faster-than-average employment growth for mechanical engineers.
Factors like education level, years of experience, skill level, geographic location and type of employment can all play a role in the mechanical engineer’s wages. Mechanical engineers work in various industries throughout the country, whether it’s designing automotive parts, developing machine parts, or creating blueprints for pharmaceutical products.