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Can a mechanical engineer really design/work on almost anything?

MissConfidentialMissConfidential Registered User Posts: 14 New Member
edited February 2013 in Engineering Majors
The title of the post pretty much sums up my question. The school I live by, which is Cal Poly Pomona, seems to have a mechanical engineering program which gears more toward building actual mechanical systems, such as the gears of a machine, etc. Are all mechanical engineering programs like this, or are there some out there which take a broader approach on engineering and design? Thanks for your time!
Post edited by MissConfidential on

Replies to: Can a mechanical engineer really design/work on almost anything?

  • boneh3adboneh3ad Forum Champion Engineering Posts: 7,392 Forum Champion
    Define "take a broader approach on engineering and design." I don't really know what you mean by that. At any rate, in my mechanical engineering program, I had one class that spent about two weeks on gear design, so in 8 semesters of engineering classes, maybe 5 lectures talked about gear design. If you include all different portions of machine design (linkages, pulleys, cams and followers, etc) then I had a grand total of two classes. The rest was focused on other topics.
  • MissConfidentialMissConfidential Registered User Posts: 14 New Member
    Cool, thanks for the info! And I guess what I mean is if with a mechanical engineering degree, you can work on something such as working on the outer design of a car and doing something such as assessing the impact on a car from a collision at a certain speed. I guess what im saying is that if you can have a say in the design of various things, such as cars, products, etc, that might involve more designing the outer part or other various aspects of design, rather than just the mechanical/machine part?
  • HPuck35HPuck35 Registered User Posts: 1,853 Senior Member
    Mechanical engineering is the most broad based of the mechanical/civil/aeorspace/etc ilk. A couple of things to consider about a career in engineering.

    1) There are many jobs with the title of "engineer" in them. Some do very cutting edge things while others are in a very narrow field (a tank manufacturer, for example). You get to choose your career path.

    2) College teaches you the basics of engineering. Depending on whether you go run of the mill or cutting edge your career, you will learn a little or a lot on the job.

    3) Most companies won't trust a new engineer to do much of any kind of new cutting edge designs. They won't trust you until you've proven yourself on the simple stuff.

    I worked a a large aerospace company that was definitely doing cutting edge stuff. I've seen new engineers excell at the simple stuff and move up the ranks really fast. Others get frustrated at only doing simple stuff, don't take the time to really learn and then get stuck at the lower level jobs. They usually quit the company and even engineering alltogether.

    I worked with one guy who was very frustrated and bad mouthed the company when he left. He stayed in engineering and I ran into many years later. He said it was worse at the new company he joined and he wanted his old job back. Because he bad mouthed the company, the boss told him no way he'd hire him back. He left his second company but with a whole new attitude. He worked to excell at the tasks he was given and would talk to the older engineers to see what they were doing. He got the experience and the knowledge to become a very good engineer. After his rocky start, he did well.

    So bottom line; You can do most anything you want with a degree in mechanical engineering. You just have to keep learning and do a good job. If you feel you aren't progressing, before you get frustrated, ask you boss why? Judging on his answer, you need to make career choices (ie. stay or go depending on the opportunities at the company) or change your approach to the job or learn the skills necessay to move up.
  • fractalmstrfractalmstr Registered User Posts: 2,283 Senior Member
    Cal Poly Pomona, seems to have a mechanical engineering program which gears more toward building actual mechanical systems, such as the gears of a machine, etc.

    A lot of it depends on which school you go to. Most mechanical engineering programs do a good job covering all aspects of "mechanical engineering" in moderate depth. ABET accreditation further ensures that any particular program offered by a school will not be exceedingly biased in one area... for example, you don't want a school offering 5 courses in vibrations. It's both unnecessary, and takes away from other material that could be learned.

    That being said, some schools have their specialties. A co-worker of mine from Cal Poly SLO (mechanical engineer) said that Cal Poly had/has a bit of an HVAC focus in most of their ME classes. Not necessarily that they offered or required more HVAC related courses for graduation, but that the class examples, projects, etc had a bit of an HVAC theme to them. Granted, he's 55 years old and so things might have changed since he went there, but regardless, some schools will have a slight focus on one area of engineering.
  • MissConfidentialMissConfidential Registered User Posts: 14 New Member
    Awesome! Thanks for the info everyone! That's very interesting that different schools are geared toward different industries in mechanical engineering. And ya that makes sense that companies need to see engineers abilities on the more simple things before the more higher end tasks. makes sense! Does sound like you can do alot with that degree
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