The UK's industrial sectors are growing - and creating a new wave of prospective employees pursuing careers in engineering. The UK needs engineers, and one of the most rewarding career paths in the field is that of the mechanical engineer - working to design, produce and maintain the vast range of machinery and tools vital Britain's infrastructure .
Beyond their technical aptitude, mechanical engineers should possess excellent team working ability and be able to prioritise and plan effectively. Almost all engineering work is demanding and intensive - successful engineers will be expected to handle high pressure situations and meet strict deadlines. Like all other areas of industry, mechanical engineering is becoming increasingly reliant on software modelling programs - and candidates should be comfortable working with computers in all aspects of their job - particularly in a design capacity.
What does a mechanical engineer do?
A career in mechanical engineering should attract perceptive, technically-minded applicants with creative approaches to problem solving. Mechanical engineers will, most commonly, find themselves working in industrial environments, including factories, construction sites, power plants and other utility installations, but their skills are needed, to some extent, in almost every public field, including hospitals, sports stadiums and government buildings.
Broadly speaking, mechanical engineers work in three areas:
- Research and development: developing new products and machinery - and creating prototype models
- Design: using research to draw up technical plans and modelling those plans with software.
- Production: overseeing or handling the creation of machinery and tools, and improving the efficiency of the assembly process
While mechanical engineers at the start of their careers will, more often than not, be engaged in a practical capacity, research and design positions could see them working in laboratory or office environments. Senior mechanical engineers may even find academic teaching roles at universities and other educational institutions.
Before assuming professional positions, mechanical engineers are required to train to university degree level - or gain an equivalent BTEC or HND degree. Candidates applying to higher education will normally need 5 GCSEs focussing on science but preferably including maths and physics.
As an alternative route into mechanical engineering, some candidates begin their careers as apprentices, working semi-professionally under the supervision of experienced employers. Apprenticeships vary depending on the area in which you are applying but are a great way to 'earn as you learn' and gain valuable professional connections before you begin applying for jobs.
Prospects and pay
Mechanical engineering is a diverse and demanding discipline - which can mean working long hours in a variety of environments. As the economy continues to recover, more and more roles in engineering are opening up, providing job-seekers with opportunities all over the country and the world. Candidates searching for that perfect job should be prepared to travel extensively or even relocate.
As a starting salary, newly qualified mechanical engineers can expect £19,500 to £22,000 per year but, in senior and advanced roles, that amount may rise as high as £39,000. After qualification, mechanical engineers may be eligible to achieve 'chartered' status through the Institute of Mechanical Engineers. Chartered engineers may command salaries in excess of £40,000 a year.
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