As a child did you always love playing with toy cars, planes, trains and spaceships? Have the insides of machines always intrigued you to the point that you just can’t help fiddling with them? If so, you may be interested in a career in mechanical engineering. Mechanical engineers can vary enormously in their specialisms; from designing moving bridges to building space rockets, developing new fuels to managing grand projects.
If you are interested in a career in mechanical engineering there are lots of different ways you can get into it. If you are about to study at GCSE level it would help if you chose subjects such as Design Technology or Art and Design as well as gaining grades A-C in English, Maths and Science. You could also study an NVQ/SNVQ or a B-TEC in Mechanical Engineering which will involve more practical training in the field as opposed to the theoretical work involved in GCSEs.
After this level you there are lots of different A-level and NVQ/SNVQ courses that will help you specialise in the area of most interest to you. Most mechanical engineering managers have had undergraduate or postgraduate education at university before gaining extensive practical experience in the working environment. The courses offered in the United Kingdom are some of the best in the world and are recognised as such by employers. Most universities require three A-levels as an entry requirement and should be in subjects relevant to mechanical engineering. However, some universities offer more practical courses and will consider candidates who show relevant experience and an aptitude for the subject.
Mechanical engineers should have a great eye for detail as well as having an aptitude for problem solving. As a mechanical engineer you must be able to sell yourself and your skills, keep track of developments in the field, analyse situations, have strong planning and organisational skills, be able to delegate to others as well as having a great knowledge of your subject.
To work in a managerial role as a mechanical engineer you will have to have excellent inter-personal skills as you will be working alongside people from many different disciplines and be delegating work to people in your charge. You will also have to be responsible for the project’s budget and take into account factors such as local laws and the social impact of the project.
As with most professions there is nothing more valuable than experience. If you have taken a B-TEC or apprenticeship you will be in a strong position to gain employment straight away. However, many degrees offer practical training along with classroom-based teaching to help graduates gain employment once they leave. You must decide which area and at what level you wish to work at before you choose which option is the best for you; asking a careers advisor will help you make your mind up.
Becoming a member of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) will help your career massively. To become an incorporated mechanical engineer of the IMechE you must first complete an undergraduate bachelor degree before completing a period of practical and professional development. There is also an examination to take which is set by the IMechE which will then qualify you to corporate membership.
To become a chartered member you must have completed a postgraduate degree, or equivalent, before then working in the industry for a period of time. There is then a chartered membership exam, much like becoming an incorporated member, that shows employers that you have been certified by the IMechE and will open up bigger and better employment opportunities.
Entry-level or graduate salaries range from £18,000 to £22,000 depending on the project and your experience. Once you have become an incorporated member of the IMechE typical salaries rise to around £36,000 whereas chartered member can expect to earn over £50,000 a year.