What does a Mechanical Engineer do? What do their days look like and how can someone become one?
All good questions and we’ve got you covered.
Let’s get straight into it!
We got to have a chat with Leo, a Mechanical Engineer at Aristocrat Technologies, who gave us the lowdown on what he studied, how we scored a job and everything he did to become a mechanical engineer.
Studies and Experience
Leo graduated university with a Bachelor of Engineering at Macquarie University. He told us that he was initially a little indifferent towards his engineering degree but once he got more involved in uni activities, societies and events, Leo found his degree much more worthwhile and engaging.
“My uni experience was pretty average from first to second year. I’d be working in a casual or part-time position in retail or at a cafe. But from third year and onwards, I became a bit more focused on my grades and became more involved with the activities at Macquarie,” Leo explained.
So, if you’re wanting to go to uni to study engineering, take Leo’s advice and get involved! You never know where it may take you.
Leo began to engage in the extracurricular activities that Macquarie had on offer and was soon led to a crucial volunteering opportunity.
Leo told us that it was essentially this volunteering trip that led to him developing a relationship with his thesis supervisor. Later on, it was the same supervisor who told Leo about the opportunity to intern at Aristocrat.
Key Takeaway: Get involved in uni activities and get to know your tutors!!
Macquarie Uni still offers plenty of overseas opportunities for undergrad and postgrad students. If you’d like to find out more about Macquarie’s international exchange program, click here!
What made you want to work in this industry?
Like a lot of people who change directions at uni, Leo really didn’t have much of an idea what mechanical engineering actually entailed until he got the Aristocrat internship position. Luckily, he really enjoyed it.
“To be honest I didn’t actually know what mechanical engineering was when I signed up. I’ve been into cars since I was a kid and I thought ‘cool, maybe I’ll learn all about cars’,” Leo said.
He continued, “That wasn’t the case at all. It was much more about physics and mathematics but a big part of all engineering streams is problem solving. As you progress through the course, you learn more about manufacturing and fabricating parts, material properties and using formulas to make sure the design and its material are good enough for the application.”
If you’re in high school and you’ve envisioned mechanical engineering for yourself, maybe look into taking some Extension Maths and Physics subjects to give you that foundational knowledge!
“As a mechanical engineer, you are taught the skills to design whatever you want with Computer Aided Design (CAD). You are taught exactly how this part could be made and how much it might cost. There is just so much potential for mechanical engineering,” Leo said.
What is a Mechanical Engineer?
Mechanical engineers are the minds behind machines — so as you can imagine, they’re pretty essential. Mechanical engineers will conceptualise, design, develop, construct and test out a diverse range of machinery, engines and mechanical devices. They innovate the big and the small and all the bits and bobs in between the technologies that we use every day!
To be a mechanical engineer you have to be creative, innovative and ambitious. You’ll be spending your days analysing problems with particular devices, redesigning machinery, overseeing the manufacturing process and developing prototypes.
Now, let’s hear about the kind of stuff that Leo does!
Roles and Responsibilities
“My day usually starts off with a coffee and reading through emails. I’ll typically have a mental list of the priorities for the day and go from top to bottom,” Leo said.
He then went on to explain, “The different tasks I may have include designing a solution for a certain problem, integrating the solutions into a database to make this information accessible to the whole company (similar to data entry) and then I’ll converse with manufacturers locally or globally to ensure the projects are going smoothly.”
Leo also told us that, when time permits, he’ll be spending his time brainstorming new ideas and better ways to do things.
“I’ll think about whether the process currently being used is the most effective it can be. I’ll also make time to learn by watching Youtube videos or LinkedIn learning.” Leo said.
You’ve heard it here first — start watching educational videos! It’ll clearly come in handy later on.
Which industries can this career be found in?
You’ll find Mechanical Engineers in pretty much any industry that develops and builds its own technologies. Some of these include:
- Automotive industries
- Power generation
- Aerospace and transport industries
- Railway system design
- Consumer goods design
- Production and management consultancies
If you’re an aspiring Mechanical Engineer, you may want to have a think about where you’d like to concentrate your studies and training on. There are heaps of different options!
Characteristics and Qualities
According to Job Outlook, the major skills that you’ll be wanting to acquire as a mechanical engineer include:
- Mathematics skill
- Reading comprehension
- Complex problem solving
- Deductive reasoning
- Oral expression
- Science understanding
- Physics comprehension
So, clearly it’s a position that requires a lot of numerical literacy and complex reasoning but if you’re someone that loves maths and physics, then you’ll get there!
Also, it’s important to note that no employer is looking for these skills straight away — if you’re fresh out of high school or even in uni right now, you’re not expected to possess all of these skills. They are abilities that you learn and develop as you study and work.
We asked Leo what skills he thinks Mechanical Engineers should have, and this is what he had to say:
“I think social skills are something people don’t take into account when it comes to careers. You need to be able to talk to people and get along with them. This shows you can work well in a team setting which is what almost every industry is about — a team working together effectively to complete a project,” Leo said.
Steps to Becoming a Mechanical Engineer
What should you study?
Maybe you’re now wondering how to become a Mechanical Engineer yourself! Which would be great because we’re going to tell you anyway.
We’ve compiled a 4-step plan to get you well on your way to scoring that dream position!
#1: Complete appropriate HSC subjects
To start from the very beginning, you’re going to want to complete certain subjects in Year 11 and 12 that are the prerequisites for engineering courses at uni.
The required HSC subjects may change depending on the uni but for the most part, you should be looking into studying Advanced Maths, Engineering and maybe some Physics as well.
Most degrees in NSW offer just a Bachelor of Engineering course where you can major in Mechanical Engineering. Though as an example, to get into the Bachelor of Engineering course at USYD, you’ll need an ATAR of 92.
#2: Study engineering at uni
Once you’ve graduated high school, you can now look at your options for engineering at uni. Some of the courses that you might want to look into include:
- Bachelor of Engineering Honours (Mechanical Engineering) at USYD
- Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) with a Specialisation in Mechanical Engineering at UNSW
- Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) majoring in Mechanical at WSU
- Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering (Honours) at The University of Newcastle
- Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) with a Specialisation in Mechanical Engineering at Macquarie University
So, there’s quite a lot to choose from. Since most of these courses are only offered in the Honours program, you’ll most likely be spending a minimum of 4 years studying.
#3: Decide whether you want to work in a firm or independently
Once you’ve graduated, you’re going to have to make the decision as to whether you want to work for yourself or for another company. Either option is great but more commonly graduates will begin searching for a position at a firm.
It might just take you a little longer to establish yourself if you want to work independently. As an independent Mechanical Engineer, you’ll also have to apply for a Professional Engineer’s License.
#4: Job hunt or consider Masters
Now you’re set! It’s time to scour the internet for job postings, internships or any other kind of work experience you can find.
You may even like to pursue some further study by obtaining a Masters of Engineering. While it’s definitely not required, having some postgraduate study under your belt will typically increase your chances of becoming a project leader or manager in mechanical engineering.
How long does it take to become a Mechanical Engineer?
Since an undergraduate degree in engineering is typically 4 years long, you’re looking at about 5 years minimum before you’re considered a fully fledged Mechanical Engineer. This will account for any internships or work experience you do along the way.
“Most of the software we use would be CAD which is the tool that mechanical engineers and other engineers use to design their part using a computer,” Leo told us.
He also added, “Depending on what career you’d like to pursue, you would study thermodynamics, fluid dynamics or just general mechanical engineering knowledge.”
So, you’ll typically learn how to use Computer Aided Design (CAD) as a part of your university content and as you begin professional work.
What will this career look like in the future?
We put the question to Leo who told us:
“I think since the world is constantly developing new products it’s a clear sign mechanical engineering will always be around. We design products, we figure out how to manufacture them and we streamline the process for mass manufacturing.”
With the introduction of robotics into more professions, we can expect the building part of mechanical engineering to become more and more automated. However, it’s pretty safe to say that we’ll always be needing human minds to come up with all the ideas.
How in-demand is this career?
With the technology boom we’re undergoing right now, Mechanical Engineers will likely be in pretty stable demand. Mechanical engineers have to keep up with the growth of AI and robotics which are becoming ubiquitous.
The aerospace and aircraft sector is an industry where the demand for engineering graduates is expected to rise.
Are there opportunities to grow or specialise?
Leo told us that it’s so important for a Mechanical Engineer to be a lifelong learner. You should always be educating yourself and studying new things.
According to Leo, this isn’t just great for your own knowledge and skills but it’s also absolutely necessary for Mechanical Engineers who are always having to look for new innovations. It’s extremely important that Mechanical Engineers are inquisitive and always willing to learn and observe new things.
There are also plenty of ways to specialise in mechanical engineering. For example you may choose to focus on:
- Transportation systems
- Robotics and AI
There’s quite a lot!
|Annual Salary||Future Growth||Skill Level Rating|
|$125,000+||Stable over the next 5 years||Very high skill|
Best Thing & Worst Thing
What do you enjoy most about this job?
Leo told us that his favourite part of being a mechanical engineer is seeing his ideas and concepts come to fruition.
“I love seeing my designs come to life. I spend months staring at my screen perfecting a design, then I manufacture it and test my design in real life,” Leo explained.
He also told us how satisfying it is to finally see your end result after an extended period of hard work.
What do you enjoy the least?
“I think with any occupation there will be the tedious tasks that are still essential to the job. Those are my least favourite tasks,” Leo said.
So, while Leo loves what he does in his job, he still has to deal with the smaller menial tasks as well.
Advice for Aspiring Mechanical Engineers
We asked Leo if he had any advice for aspiring Mechanical Engineers and he told us:
“Read books and watch videos, keep expanding your knowledge because innovation comes from many sources. Understand what you can do as a Mechanical Engineer, because it’s not just limited CAD work or designing HVAC systems — there are many more job prospects such as manufacturing, rapid prototyping etc.”
As we mentioned before, being a lifelong learner as a Mechanical Engineer is extremely important. The realm of engineering is limitless and it just takes a great idea to become a fantastic reality.
Leo continued, “We’ve all probably had a cool idea in our head at one point but questioned the effectiveness of it or didn’t know how to make it. With mechanical engineering and technological advancements you’d be able to create the product, 3D print it, and test it.”
What do you wish you had known before you started working in this career?
Leo told us that he wished he had put in a little more effort to get involved and engaged in uni life and events.
“I guess if I could go back, I would take every opportunity to do activities with the university such as doing volunteer work overseas or doing my thesis abroad. You meet all kinds of people on those activities and it looks great on the resume,” Leo said.
We’ve said it once and we’ll probably keep saying it. Don’t skip out on uni events! You never know the benefits they can bring!
Having to stay at home during COVID over the past year has really been the ultimate test of a company’s job flexibility. For the most part, it’s worked out for Leo but since mechanical engineers need to use a good deal of power when it comes to building and creation, getting to work in-person is generally more ideal.
He said, “Work is very flexible, we are able to take leave and can come in whenever we want as long as we do the 8 hours a day. But there are still the ‘normal’ working hours and that’s 9 to 5 which is generally when meetings will be set.”
“We are given the tools to be able to work remotely, but the software most mechanical engineers will use requires a lot of power, so the most effective method or work is still at a desktop,” Leo added.
What is the workplace culture like?
As we said, Leo is a Mechanical Engineer at Aristocrat Technologies, Australia’s largest gambling machine manufacturer. He told us that his workplace culture is extremely supportive and welcoming.
Leo told us that his managers are always encouraging the teams to attend educational panels and workshops to help enhance their knowledge.
“Aristocrat’s culture is really open minded and flexible. There’s a lot of resources given to focus on innovation, so we get toys such as 3D printers and if there’s any workshops we want to attend to improve our own skills or knowledge, just bring it up with your manager and they’ll sort it out,” Leo said.
Leo went on to say, “We also hold many events for ethnic holidays such as Lunar New Year or Diwali. These are days dedicated to the employees who celebrate the festivities and is an opportunity for the rest of the company to learn about different cultures.”
Gemma Billington is a Content Writer at Art of Smart and an undergraduate student at the University of Technology Sydney. While studying Journalism and Social and Political Sciences, Gemma enjoys spending her time at the gym or reading about Britain’s medieval monarchy – ideally not at the same time. She currently creates and administers social media posts for Central News and writes for the student publication, The Comma. After completing her undergraduate degree, she hopes to study a Masters of Medieval History and is very excited about the prospect!