Mechanical engineering is the profession that applies mathematics, chemistry, thermodynamics, physics and mechanics to the manipulation of energy and matter in all of their varied forms.
Mechanical engineers work in diverse areas that encompass nearly all applications of the physical sciences. Among the important areas of study and practice in the profession are the following:
Mechanics — This area deals with the applications of Newton’s laws to the analysis and design of solid objects and mechanisms at rest or in motion.
Fluids — This area deals with the behavior of substances in liquid and gaseous forms.
Thermodynamics and Heat Transfer — This area deals with the flow of heat and with the exchange of heat energy and mechanical energy in systems such as engines and air conditioners.
Power and Fuels — This area deals with the conversion of chemical energy to heat energy through the burning of combustible fuels such as coal, natural gas and gasoline.
A student who wants to work in one of these areas should plan to obtain at least a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering or mechanical engineering technology. Learn more about the difference between these degrees. Many students go on to earn Master of Science degrees that prepare them for a higher level of responsibility on the job; some even earn doctoral degrees that prepare them to do advanced research or to teach at the college level.
A mechanical engineer, who wishes to offer his or her services directly to the public, or whose work for an employer directly impacts public safety, must be licensed by his state as a Professional Engineer (PE). Licensure requires graduation from an accredited engineering or engineering technology program, a minimum of four years of professional practice, and passing grades on two standardized examinations. Learn more about engineering licensure. Although obtaining a PE license is a lengthy and challenging process, it provides proof that an engineer is able to practice his or her profession with integrity and technical competence.