4 Awesome Facts About Careers in Mechanical Engineering Technology
Mechanical engineering technicians are problem solvers. They use their mechanical skills as well as their knowledge of science, engineering, and math to help figure out solutions to problems in manufacturing, transportation, construction, and other related sectors. Although they often work closely with mechanical engineers, their work tends to be more hands-on. For example, a mechanical engineering technician might prepare blueprints based on an engineer's specifications or perform tests on a machine part and report the results to an engineer.
Here's what else you should know:
1. There's an Exciting Range of Career Options
Graduates of mechanical engineering technology programs can pursue a wide variety of job possibilities. In fact, this is one of the most diverse engineering occupations out there. Here are just a few examples of the areas you could specialize in:
- Mechanical product design and fabrication—Imagine using a 3D-modeling program to design a tool, then using computerized machines to create it with amazing speed and accuracy. As a mechanical engineering technician, you could be involved in this process from beginning to end.
- Automation and manufacturing—More production tasks are being done by machines instead of humans. This trend creates opportunities for mechanical engineering technicians who know how to program, test, and maintain those machines.
- Computer graphics and CADD—You could use sophisticated software to illustrate engineering concepts and designs. Mechanical engineering technicians often work with CADD (computer-aided design and drafting) programs to create detailed engineering drawings and blueprints.
So, where are the jobs? The top three industries for the employment of mechanical engineering technicians are: 1) architecture and engineering, 2) machinery manufacturing, and 3) transportation equipment manufacturing.1 But mechanical engineering technician positions are found in many other sectors as well, such as electrical power generation, computer manufacturing, and scientific research.
Because the opportunities in this field are so diverse, mechanical engineering technicians often have a variety of different job titles throughout their careers. For example, they might have titles such as:
- Assembly test technician
- Automation technician
- Drafting and computer graphics engineer
- Engineering technician
- Field service representative
- Manufacturing and quality management engineer
- Manufacturing technician
- Mechanical CADD technician
- Mechanical engineering consultant
- Mechanical technician
- Plant maintenance and production manager
- Pneumatic technician
- Power and energy engineer
- Process engineer
- Process technician
- Production manager
2. The Work Is Interesting and Beneficial
Mechanical engineering technicians can feel confident that what they do makes a difference. After all, they help improve the way things work. And they often accomplish that in many different ways. Precise job duties vary by specialty, but here are some example tasks:
- Operating sophisticated machines
- Monitoring manufacturing processes
- Testing, adjusting, and fixing machines and instruments
- Designing mechanical devices, then programming CNC (computer numerical controlled) equipment to create those devices
- Reviewing blueprints to make sure they meet standards
- Designing, monitoring, and troubleshooting production processes
- Performing quality-assurance tests
- Creating workflows and project budgets
- Collecting data to evaluate project performance
- Collaborating with engineers and other colleagues
- Doing basic machining and welding
In addition, mechanical engineering technicians often have opportunities to work with some truly cutting-edge technology related to exciting advancements that can improve our lives. For example, check out these relatively new sectors where mechanical engineering technicians can make contributions:
- Nanotechnology is the science of very small things. How small? Well, engineers in this field often measure their work in nanometers. (There are 25,400,000 nanometers in one inch). Engineers can use nanotechnology to make materials more durable, improve the quality of medical procedures and medicines, and make water treatment more efficient. Those are just a few of the advances in nanotechnology that mechanical engineering technicians are helping with.
- 3D printing turns a digital diagram into a tangible object. This process is often more versatile than traditional manufacturing. Employers that use 3D printing are looking for workers with experience in 3D modeling—skills often held by mechanical engineering technicians.
- Robotics combines science and engineering for the purpose of designing and operating machines that can perform tasks automatically. Robots can be more efficient and accurate than humans (and they never need a coffee break). As a result, their use is spreading in areas such as surgery and industrial manufacturing. Mechanical engineering technicians have the skills needed to help develop and maintain useful robots.
3. The Right Education Can Pay Off
There are a few different ways to become a mechanical engineering technician. For an entry-level position, you usually just need a certificate or two-year associate degree in mechanical engineering technology. So, within a relatively short time frame, you could qualify for opportunities that frequently pay higher wages than the national average.
Take a look at the numbers: The average yearly salary of a mechanical engineering technician is $58,180, which is more than the U.S. average of $37,690. The highest-earning mechanical engineering technicians make over $85,230. And the top-paying industry for this occupation is architecture and engineering, with an average annual salary of $62,180.2
You can also earn a bachelor's degree in this field. Or you can use a mechanical engineering technician program as a step toward becoming a mechanical engineer (by completing a full engineering program). In addition, professional certification in mechanical engineering technology can help move your career forward. For instance, the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies offers several certification options. Getting certified requires passing an exam, and you may need a supervisor to endorse your qualifications.
4. The Job Outlook Is Promising
The number of job opportunities for mechanical engineering technicians is expected to increase about five percent between 2016 and 2026. That's close to the national average of about seven percent.1
Opportunities could be particularly strong in the manufacturing sector. Consider this: Between 2015 and 2025, nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs are expected to be created. But two million positions may not be filled because of a shortage of qualified workers.3 That's because as manufacturing jobs become more complex, finding workers who have completed the right training becomes more important—and more difficult. As a result, 80 percent of manufacturing managers say they would pay more to hire skilled workers.3
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1 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, website last visited on September 7, 2018.
2 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, website last visited on September 7, 2018.
3 Deloitte, The skills gap in U.S. manufacturing: 2015 and beyond, website last visited on September 7, 2018.