Mechanical engineering, the broadest of all Engineering disciplines deals with design and production of tools, machines and all other mechanical equipment to be used in industries. The industry offers a wide choice of options extending across many interdisciplinary interdependent specialties. Mechanical engineering is concerned with all types of machinery in industries and all aspects of their mechanism and functioning; the design, development, construction, production, installation, operation and maintenance; such as large steam and gas turbines, components of thermal power stations, internal combustion engines, jet engines, machine tools, air conditioning and heating machines, refrigerators etc to name a few. They not only design and create new products, but also develop materials for them and ways of making them.
In a way, mechanical engineers are involved in creating the future. They are the driving force behind many of our technologies and industrial processes including innovative products like mobiles, PCs and DVD etc in our modern world. The work of a Mechanical Engineer can be extremely challenging and fulfilling, requiring IT, design and analytical skills together with an ability to work as a team. As their work involves production, transmission and use of mechanical power and heat, they have to analyse the different materials used for the machines and their tolerances, investigate the different energy sources and the power they generate and the design problems if any. When designing and making a commercial product they have to take into account all the business and marketing aspects to make sure that the product is affordable. They share interests with many other engineers like Civil Engineers in structures and stress analysis; Electrical engineers in electronics, computing and control theory; Aeronautical Engineers in fluid flow and turbomachinery etc and also design tools needed by other engineers for their work. They work as part of a team with other engineers as well as financial, business and management professionals on a project together. Mechanical Engineers are also responsible for maintenance and repair of the devices. Care has to be taken that the plants give maximum output and the machinery is properly maintained.
The specialisations include in areas like thermal engineering, design, and production engineering etc. Mechanical engineers work mainly in manufacturing firms. They can find work in administrative and managerial positions in government departments or public and private sector industries or do research as well as teaching in Research and teaching institutes. They could also opt for technical sales / marketing or work as independent consultants.
To become a mechanical engineer one should have a graduate degree (B.E / B.Tech) or postgraduate degree (M.E) or at least a diploma in mechanical Engineering.
The basic eligibility criteria for a BE / B.Tech is 10+2 or equivalent examination, with Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics. After the bachelor's one can go in for a post graduate degree. The postgraduate course generally offers specialized training in thermal engineering, design, and production engineering. Post graduate degrees are essential for most teaching posts and positions in management and an additional degree in business administration is desirable for management positions. There is also the Associate Membership Examination of the Institute of Engineers (AMIE), which enables working people in the private and public sector, or diploma holders to acquire a Bachelor's engineering degree through distance education. A three year BEng degree course entitled Mechanical Engineering is also available. This course is also accredited with the Institution of Mechanical Engineers for Chartered Engineer status.
Selection: Selection to the graduate courses ( BE / B.Tech ) is based on merit i.e the marks secured in the final exams of 10+2 and through entrance exams. Entrance to the IIT's is through JEE' (Joint Entrance Exam) and for other major institutions through AIEEE (All India Engineering/Pharmacy/Architecture Entrance Examination) OR their own separate entrance exams and other state level and national level exams.
Duration: BE / B.Tech courses are of 4 years' duration. The diploma courses in polytechnics are of 2-3 years' duration.
Fees: In private colleges fees range from approx Rs.1 lakh to Rs. 2 lakh annually for a bachelors degree. In IIT's it varies between Rs. 15,000/- to Rs. 20,000/- per year.
Personal Skills: Mechanical engineering technicians need to have excellent mechanical engineering skills, as well as technical drawing and computer skills for designing machines and equipment. It requires IT, design and analytical skills together with an ability to conceptualize structures. They must have numeric skills as math's is an important tool, an inquisitive and logical mind to make connections between ideas and handle abstract concepts, creative and innovative ideas to find solutions to problems which may need a new perspective, good practical skills to apply math's and science to real problems. Organising ability, practicality, ability to get on well with people of all types, ability to keep calm under pressure and flexibly to work in a multi disciplinary area are an asset in the field.
Mechanical Engineering finds applications in all fields of technology. They could work in many industries including private or public sector industries of various types, and their work varies by industry and function. With the rapid rate of expansion in the industrial sector, the employment potential for mechanical engineers is very high.
In the government sector, freshers could join as Junior Engineers and go up the ladder as Assistant Engineers, Assistant Executive Engineers, Executive Engineers, Superintendent Engineers and so on.
These engineers are required in automobile, chemical, electronics, steel plants, oil exploration and refining, technical wings of armed forces, space research organisation, etc. Candidates with post graduate degree or an additional management degree could find work in administrative and managerial positions in government departments or public and private sector industries or do research as well as teaching in Research and teaching institutes. They could also opt for technical sales / marketing or work as independent consultants. Several government departments including Posts and Telegraphs, Defense, PWD, and CPWD employ mechanical engineers. Aeronautical, agricultural, automobile, chemical, and power plants, as well as the railways, need mechanical engineers to design and maintain their machinery. In agricultural sector, mechanical engineers play a vital role by establishing service centres for maintenance of tractors, oil engines, pump sets, electric motors and other agricultural equipments.
The remuneration and conditions of service depend on the industry and its function. Those engineers, who choose to work in the private sector, could negotiate their terms and conditions with the management themselves. Most fresh engineers start at Rs 5,000 to Rs 7,000 per month, with allowances. Those with an additional management degree in addition to engineering can command salaries of Rs 10,000 to Rs 40,000 per month.
In the government sector, the salary scale for engineers starts at Rs 1,640-Rs 2,900 for Junior Engineers. The basic scale for Assistant Engineers is Rs 2,000-Rs 3,500. Assistant Executive Engineers draw salaries in the range of Rs 2,200-Rs 4,000. Executive Engineers get Rs 3,000-Rs 4,500, while Superintendent Engineers receive salaries in the range of Rs 4,000-Rs 6,000.
In the US, according to a 2001 salary survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, bachelor’s degree candidates in mechanical engineering received starting offers averaging $48,426 a year, master’s degree candidates had offers averaging $55,994, and Ph.D. candidates were initially offered $72,096.