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

Written by Coursera Staff • 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, systems, machines, and tools. It’s one of the most popular engineering disciplines, and it spans many different industries, including automobiles, heating and cooling systems, healthcare devices, and robotics. These engineers are involved in all process stages, from research, design, and development to building and testing. 

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

  • Analysing 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 10 tips can help you prepare yourself for an engineering job. 

1. Earn relevant qualifications in mechanical engineering.

Mechanical engineers typically need to have completed a degree or apprenticeship accredited by the Engineering Development Council. Completing a university or higher national diploma in mechanical engineering, mechatronics, engineering manufacturing, or electromechanical engineering from an accredited programme can build relevant skills and earn the necessary qualifications to enter a mechanical engineering role. Two to three A levels, including maths and physics, are usually required to enter university degree programmes in this area.  

Another way to enter a mechanical engineering career is to complete a Level four or five Higher National Diploma in Mechanical Engineering. This typically requires one to three A levels. Once you complete this diploma, you can look for work positions through the Engineering Development Trust.

For those looking for an alternate path, completing a higher or degree apprenticeship in manufacturing engineering, electromechanical engineering, or power and propulsion gas turbine engineering requires fewer qualifications to enter (four or five GSCEs) and can provide a path to mechanical engineering roles.

If you want to go into a more specialised area of the field, like robots or automotive technology, you'll need to get a master's degree. When pursuing a master’s degree, make sure your programme is accredited by the Institution of Mechanical Engineering (IMechE). If you are interested in teaching or research, consider pursuing 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. Navigating income statements and balance sheets might give you a competitive edge.

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 programmes. Some of the design issues you might face or the software you'll have to use could be outside your speciality. Top engineering organisations 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. Strong tech skills will be beneficial if you're working on integrating sensors into machinery or using technology to analyse designs or run simulations. Build a strong foundation in technology with Applied Data Science with Python or Computer-Aided Design and Manufacturing Specialisations.

5. Get chartered status (CEng).

To be more independent or achieve higher leadership levels, you should consider gaining chartered status from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. This status requires a master’s degree or a combination of a bachelor’s degree and experience. Once you gain this internationally recognised status, you can register with the Engineering Council and apply for European Engineer (Eur Ing) status. This can help you work internationally, boost your resume, and gain the attention of employers. 

6. Find a mentor.

When you're just starting, working with someone with more industry experience can be helpful. 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 capable of explaining their designs and concepts to colleagues and clients who may need to become more familiar with mechanical engineering terms or systems. You might also need to be tasked with writing reports, so you'll need to be proficient in written communication. You’ll likely need excellent organisation, time management, problem-solving, and attention to detail. Learn key principles for communicating more effectively by taking the Oral Communication for Engineering Leaders course from Rice University.

8. Create a CV that gets noticed.

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

9. Practice common interview questions.

You can review some common interview questions beforehand to feel prepared for an interview. Although every interviewer has their 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

  • Behavioural 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 speciality 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. In the UK, professional organisations such as the Institution of Mechanical Engineers can be a convenient way to access networking and professional development opportunities. You can stay connected and seek new connections to extend your network. Additionally, it’s important to continue learning even after getting a job to remain on top of the latest 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 on Coursera. Alternately, build your job-ready technical skills with the Autodesk CAD/CAM/CAE for Mechanical Engineering Specialisation from Autodesk. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Article sources

  1. Glassdoor. “Mechanical Engineer Salaries in the UK,,19.htm?clickSource=careerNav.” Accessed June 12, 2024.

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