How to Get a Job as a Mechanical Engineer | 10 Tips

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Are you thinking about launching a career in mechanical engineering? Learn about what mechanical engineers do and discover ten tips to help you get your first job.

[Featured image] A mechanical engineering student works on a project in a lab.

What do mechanical engineers do?

Mechanical engineers design mechanical devices, mechanical systems, machines, and tools. It’s one of the most popular engineering disciplines that spans many different industries, including automobiles, heating and cooling systems, health care devices, and robotics. These engineers are involved in all stages of the process, from research, design, and development to building and testing. 

As a mechanical engineer, your day-to-day tasks might include: 

  • Analyzing problems to identify mechanical solutions

  • Designing and redesigning devices, systems, and subsystems with the help of computer-aided design and analysis

  • Developing and testing device prototypes and using the results to improve the mechanical design 

  • Leading the device manufacturing process

  • Improving maintainability and reliability to reduce downtime of systems and equipment

  • Researching and meeting with stakeholders to understand needs, requirements, and expectations

10 tips for getting a job as a mechanical engineer

Mechanical engineers are highly skilled professionals. These ten tips can help you prepare yourself for an engineering job. 

1. Earn a degree in mechanical engineering.

Mechanical engineers typically need to have at least a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. Coursework usually includes life sciences, mathematics, physical sciences, engineering, and design. Another degree path, mechanical engineering technology, focuses on applying engineering principles in a practical way more than mechanical engineering theory. 

If you want to go into a more specialized area of the field, like robots or automotive technology, you'll need to get a master's degree. If you have an interest in teaching or research, you should pursue a doctorate.

2. Learn business fundamentals.

Beyond skills specific to mechanical engineering, you might catch employers’ eyes if you have a good grasp of business basics. Engineering firms are looking to hire skilled engineers who understand how total production costs affect the decisions that they have to make. Being able to navigate income statements and balance sheets might give you a competitive edge.

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3. Think beyond mechanical engineering. 

Today’s mechanical engineers are often tasked with innovating solutions and creating designs that require skills beyond what you gain in mechanical engineering programs. Some of the design issues you might face or the software you'll have to use could be outside of your specialty. Top engineering organizations recommend gaining some training outside of mechanical engineering, too.

4. Develop your technical skills.

You'll be using computers regularly as a mechanical engineer, so it makes sense to gain proficiency in relevant areas of IT and computer science. Having strong tech skills will be particularly useful down the road if you're working on integrating sensors into machinery or using technology to analyze designs or run simulations. 

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Build a strong foundation in technology with Applied Data Science with Python or Computer-Aided Design and Manufacturing Specializations.

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5. Get licensed.

If you want to be more independent or achieve higher leadership levels, you should consider getting licensed in your state. To do so, you’ll need to have a set number of years of relevant work experience and pass a licensure exam. Start gaining valuable experience with internships, boot camps, and entry-level jobs.

6. Find a mentor.

When you're just getting started, it can be helpful to work with someone who has more experience in the industry. This person can help guide you and shape your career path. Check with the HR department at your job or internship, join engineering societies, or connect via social media to find a mentor to guide you.

7. Sharpen your communication skills.

Communication is key, and employers look for candidates who are capable of explaining their designs and concepts to colleagues and clients who may not be familiar with mechanical engineering terms or systems. You also might be tasked with writing reports, so you'll need to be proficient in written communication too. Other skills you’ll likely need include excellent organization, time management, problem-solving, and attention to detail. 

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Learn key principles for communicating more effectively by taking the Oral Communication for Engineering Leaders course from Rice University.

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8. Create a resume that gets noticed.

Write a resume that highlights the skills that are most relevant to each engineering job you apply for. Highlight relevant work experiences and education as well. Be sure to craft a resume that's rich in keywords and industry-specific phrases, which will help your resume make it past automated systems.

9. Practice common interview questions.

Going to your first interview doesn't have to be nerve-wracking. Go over some common interview questions ahead of time to build confidence so you can go into an interview feeling prepared. Although every interviewer has their own style, these are a few questions you’re likely to encounter: 

  • General questions to get a sense of your background and expertise, including questions about the first thing you designed or how you'd explain complicated designs to people without an engineering background

  • Behavioral questions designed to get a sense of how you work, which might include questions about mistakes you’ve made in the past or examples of situations in which you had to provide data to support an important decision

  • Technical questions geared toward your discipline or the specialty required by the job, with possible questions about cold drawing processes or the purpose of heat treatment.

10. Connect with others.

Your alma mater, mechanical engineering societies, and networking events can all be potential sources to lead you to your next great job. Stay connected and actively seek out new connections to extend your network. Additionally, it’s important to continue learning even after you get a job so that you can remain on top of the newest technologies and techniques. 

Next steps

See if a career in mechanical engineering is right for you by enrolling in Introduction to Engineering Mechanics from Georgia Tech. Alternately, build your job-ready technical skills with the Autodesk CAD/CAM/CAE for Mechanical Engineering Specialization from Autodesk. 

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Article sources

1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Mechanical Engineers, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/mechanical-engineers.htm." Accessed March 22, 2022.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

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