Explore Mechanical Engineering

Mechanical engineers design and develop power-producing machines, such as internal combustion engines, steam and gas turbines, and jet and rocket engines. They also design and develop power-using machines, such as refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment, robots, machine tools, material handling systems, and industrial production equipment.

Mechanical engineers use computers not only to form preliminary designs for systems or devices, but to perform calculations that will predict the behavior of the design and to collect and analyze performance data.

A mechanical engineer may work in production operations in manufacturing or agriculture, maintenance, or technical sales. Many of them are administrators or managers.

As a mechanical engineer, you can specialize in applied mechanics, design engineering, heat transfer, power plant engineering, nano fabrication, pressure vessels and piping, plant maintenance, biomedical engineering, construction, and underwater technology.

 

*Salary and Career Outcomes gathered from the 2018-2019 CSE Graduation Survey. Post-graduation outcomes reflect the percentage of students who were employed full-time in their field or were enrolled in a graduate program at 6 months post-graduation. 

ME Career Prospects. Average Starting Salary: $66,999; Post-Graduation Outcomes: Employed 79.6%, Graduate School 11.7%, Other 8.6%

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What can I do with a major in Mechanical Engineering?

INDUSTRIES

  • Alternative energy
  • Automotive
  • Biomedical
  • Computer technologies
  • Consulting
  • Environmental
  • Government agencies
  • Heating and cooling
  • Manufacturing
  • Measurement systems
  • Packaging
  • Petroleum
  • Pumps and fluid systems
  • Research and development
  • Technical sales
  • Telecommunication

EMPLOYERS

  • 3M
  • Abbott
  • Andersen Corporation
  • Boston Scientific
  • Daikin Applied
  • Emerson
  • Flint Hills Resources
  • Ford Motor Company
  • Graco
  • Honeywell
  • Hormel Foods Corporation
  • Ingersoll Rand/Trane
  • Medtronic
  • National Instruments
  • PaR Systems
  • Parker Hannifin
  • Perbix/Tesla Motors
  • RFA Engineering
  • Rockwell Automation
  • Smiths Medical

TECHNICAL SKILLS

  • Arduino
  • ChemDraw
  • Creo Parametric (ProE)
  • Excel
  • LoggerPro
  • Mathematica
  • MATLAB
  • Operation/Field Skills
  • SolidWorks

POSSIBLE POSITIONS

  • Design engineer: Develops mechanical automation designs from customer specifications, conducts design reviews with customers, uses analytical tools to assist in the design process, and interfaces with suppliers.
  • Development engineer: Applies research findings to develop new or improved products or manufacturing processes.
  • Manufacturing engineer: Plans the tooling, construction, and assembly of the product as dictated by the design specifications.
  • Mechanical engineer: Designs power-producing machines, such as electric generators, internal combustion engines, and steam and gas turbines, as well as power-using machines.
  • Project engineer: Schedule preparation, pre-planning and resource forecasting for engineering and other technical activities relating to the project.
  • Quality engineer: Supports development and ensures compliance with the company’s quality management system (QMS) in accordance with industry standards and provides technical support to product engineering, marketing, manufacturing, etc.
  • Research and development engineer (R&D): Researches structure, processing, properties and performance of materials for the development and use of applications in various fields.
  • Sales engineer: Contacts customers and makes sales presentations to demonstrate how products or services can fulfill their particular needs.

**Some of these positions may require an advanced degree.

GET INVOLVED

  • Active Energy Club
  • American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers
  • American Society of Mechanical Engineers
  • National Society of Black Engineers
  • Science and Engineering Student Board
  • She is ME
  • Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration
  • Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers
  • Society of Automotive Engineers – Gopher Motorsports
  • Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers
  • Society of Women Engineers
  • Solar Vehicle Project
  • UMN Clean Snowmobile Team

Q&A with Thomas Bales, Management Consultant, Accenture

What do you do?

As a management consultant, my primary focus is solving clients’ issues with innovative, technology-infused solutions. I am required to have a fundamental understanding of general business operations and technological trends while focusing on the specific industry as I move from project to project.

What's a typical work day?

A typical day is hyper-dependent on not only the practice area within Accenture, but the individual project that one is staffed to. In the past two years I’ve been charged with leading testing teams undergoing an enterprise-level software transformation, identified use cases for IoT edge computing, organized discussion sessions on the impact of artificial intelligence, developed primitive chatbot applications, coded Excel macros, created presentations on software architecture stacks, and attended trainings—ranging from emotional intelligence to blockchain fundamentals.

What qualities are important for this position?

An innate curiosity and comfort with the unknown. There is no end to the amount of information, skills, technologies, processes, and industries that one may be forced to learn. Arriving at a new client often means that extra work needs to be put in to rapidly get up-to-speed.

What about technical skills?

Communication is king, but data sense isn’t far behind. In today’s world, websites, applications, and physical devices are creating a never-ending stream of data that must be analyzed to make sound business decisions. A willingness to get dirty and dig into the numbers goes a long way. To be clear, management consultants are not hardcore developers, but we do need to have sufficient understanding of the technical problems and solutions to properly serve our clients.

What training were you offered for your position?

There are few restrictions to what training is offered to consulting analysts, but finding the time is difficult. Content is delivered through in-person workshops, online modules, external university courses, and internal thought-leadership articles. In total, I’ve spent several weeks on 100 percent training since joining.

What part of your job is most satisfying?

Launching a career in the consulting industry has provided me with exposure to the vast array or industries, functional areas, and technologies that are driving business into the future. Accenture operates on individual autonomy and encourages continuous learning to stay ahead.

Most challenging?

There is pressure to always be “on.” Travelling on a weekly basis, being available for offshore meetings, handling urgent client requests, etc. can take a toll if a work is not balanced appropriately with mind, body, and relationships.

What are your possible career paths now?

Within the company, the promotional track moves fast and employees are expected to make consistent progress or consider alternative solutions. The consulting industry is often a stepping stone to an industry position, MBA programs, or even entrepreneurship.

Advice for current students?

Use your time at the University of Minnesota to develop a passion. It may not find you unless you are willing to put in the work. Explore. Build. Create.

Any other advice you'd like to share?

Remember the big picture. Life is not contained within the boundaries of campus or the responsibilities of an 18-credit load. There are friends, family, and communities that need you. Slow down, breath, and take time to seriously reflect on what you want from life beyond senior year.

Q&A with John Costello, Vice President, LKPB Engineers

What do you do?

I am an engineering leader, involved in business development, strategic planning, and leadership.

What’s a typical work day?

Always different, but a mix of client meetings, internal meetings and interfacing with people!

What qualities are important for this position?

You have to develop your soft skills in my role. It is important to understand and be able to converse about the technical engineering language, but realizing that almost all of our clients don’t have this level of understanding—meaning it is critical to explain things to them in simple terms. Listening and responsiveness are two skill-sets that I have worked hard to develop, even creating cheat sheets given how critical they are to my success.

What about technical skills?

Understanding of vertical construction market, various system options (especially new technology), and being able to understand high-level numbers and metrics to converse with clients.

What training were you offered for your position?

I went back to graduate school to get my MBA at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School, and that was reimbursed in my role at the time given where my employer saw my future potential within the company.

What part of your job is most satisfying?

Interacting with clients and winning projects.

Most challenging?

Dealing with internal staff problems and the people associated with those problems—some of whom are my parents’ age!

What are your possible career paths now?

I am managing and leading the day-to-day operations of our business. There are no additional promotions within LKPB for me. A change of companies would be required to accomplish this at this time.

Advice for current students?

An engineering degree, no matter what specific area of focus, does a wonderful job of opening doors for your future. It will be hard, but stick with it. Do as many internships in as many areas of engineering as you can to understand what fits best for you.

Any other advice you’d like to share?

Always be open to advice!

Q&A with Cam Nelson, Group Manager and Field Engineer, FM Global

What do you do?

I oversee a group of 12-14 consultants of various engineering backgrounds. The group is extensively trained in risk engineering. The team works throughout the Upper Midwest with large manufacturing, power generation, paper mills, chemical plants, health care, and other facilities to help prevent and mitigate disruptive fires, explosions, mechanical and electrical breakdowns, and natural hazard events. These are extremely valuable facilities with significant process risk and the work we do is essential in helping our clients execute their own missions without disruption.

What's a typical work day?

It’s a mixture of helping my team with their technical questions, workload and staffing management, helping our engineers in their wide variety of training and development programs, and meeting with external and internal clients.

What qualities are important for this position?

Patience, active listening skills, questioning, dedication, an inquisitive nature, valuing a diversity of idea and thought, and finding enjoyment in being challenged.

What about technical skills?

Having an overall strong background in fundamental engineering (math, science, hydraulics, heat transfer, structures) is crucial. But more important is an ability and an interest in learning new technical topics whenever and wherever you have the chance.

What training were you offered for your position?

I’ve been with FM Global for 16 years and have spent at least 50 weeks of that in classroom and field training—in topics ranging from fire protection system analysis, advanced fire science, combustible dust, ignitable liquids, public speaking, consulting, understanding business financials, roof construction, understanding power generation and semiconductor industries, among others. These have all been internal training programs. With the support of my company, I also obtained my Professional Engineering license in the field of fire protection in Minnesota. What we do is unique, requires specialized knowledge and our company does an outstanding job helping us obtain that knowledge.

What part of your job is most satisfying?

Helping engineers develop and grow month to month and year to year, and seeing that progression. I also enjoy seeing many different manufacturing processes and types of facilities. We see the inner workings of every industry there is!

Most challenging?

Choosing where to spend my time. I have more opportunities to help my team and our clients than I have time, so I have to prioritize.

What are your possible career paths now?

Many. I worked for 12 years as an engineering consultant, then moved into a role as a liaison with our clients’ chief financial officers and risk managers, then into my current role. In the future, I could work as a claims adjuster, as a chief engineer, in a variety of other engineering management roles, as an account executive, as an underwriter, as a training instructor, in our research department helping develop new risk mitigation technologies, among others.

Advice for current students?

Mix in a business minor or a minor in another area to help round yourself out. Make yourself a strong writer and speaker. Finding good engineers isn’t all that difficult. Finding good engineers who also have perspective, strong communication skills, and a variety of talents is much harder. Make yourself a rare commodity.

Any other advice you'd like to share?

My company is an insurance company! Don’t limit yourself to one career path idea, one industry or one employer as you move through school. Sample different industries and types of jobs through two or three internships while in school. Don’t be afraid to take a chance on a “non-traditional” engineering job. You never know where the perfect fit might be.

Q&A with Jay Peterson, Asset Strategy Analyst, PG&E

What do you do?

My day in the Power Generation department consists of tracking and analyzing operational/financial metrics, economic modeling and analysis, supporting the development of a capital investment plan, and supporting various regulatory functions.

What's a typical work day?

My day consists of working with various folks in the company from the operational through executive level to provide analysis that help steer decisions impacting the company.

What qualities are important for this position?

Quantitative skills are important but soft skills such as building relationships, influencing decisions, and gauging needs of others outweighs analytical prowess.

What about technical skills?

The ability to create a high-level hypothesis, aggregate associated data, perform the analysis to test the hypothesis, and draw accurate conclusions based on what the data tells you.

What training were you offered for your position?

PG&E offers extensive training across all verticals and levels of the company.

What part of your job is most satisfying?

I enjoy providing analytical framework to solve problems, while leveraging my previous operational experience.

Most challenging?

Influencing others who desire the same successful outcome but in a different manner.

What are your possible career paths now?

There a multitude of horizontal and vertical career paths within PG&E. One can also hope across different divisions and groups in the company to continue to learn and grow.

Advice for current students?

Mechanical Engineering is wonderful degree. If you like having your hands in a little bit of everything engineering wise, this is your major.

Any other advice you'd like to share?

While you are an engineering student, take courses outside of CSE that pertain to communications, public speaking, and writing courses. Unless you enter a highly technical company, your success will be limited by how well you can communicate difficult ideas distilled down for most folks to understand. Not everyone will be an engineer that you communicate with so break out of your comfort zone and practice in the neutral environment that the U of M provides!

Q&A with Matt Schober, Technology Consultant, Deloitte

What do you do?

My role is similar to a project manager, working with the business (our clients) and development teams to create custom software solutions. Our industries are widely varied but we are most often hired by Fortune 500s, State, and Federal Government Agencies.

What's a typical work day?

As we like to say in consulting: It varies! There is so much variety in this line of work, but that keeps you on your toes and learning new things all the time. Expect Monday to Thursday travel, late nights at the client site, but many bonding experiences with your project team after the work is done! Work out in the mornings (there won’t be time later) and don’t forget to eat lunch.

What qualities are important for this position?

Achiever personality type (Type As), strong ability to lead others, smart on your feet, ability to rapidly learn new things.

What about technical skills?

Basic coding experience is always a plus, experience with ERP systems (SAP, Oracle, etc.), CRMs (Salesforce), data analytics, and Microsoft Excel (macros and complex data organization). We hire people who don’t have any of these skill sets (even liberal arts majors), but, more importantly, we want someone who is smart and analytically minded.

What training were you offered for your position?

Deloitte has a dedicated training facility in Dallas, Texas, called “Deloitte University.” Many relate the facility to a 5-star hotel. It has an excellent training environment with real-world simulations.

What part of your job is most satisfying?

Creating technology systems that contribute to the public good. For example, state government systems that provide health and food stamp benefits to people.

Most challenging?

Never fully understanding a topic. You have to always be learning something new to keep up with technology.

What are your possible career paths now?

Deloitte has been known as an “up or out” model. There are many people who are hired into the firm, but only top employees make it many years. I have seen many fellow employees leave after 2-4 years for other consulting firms, technology giants (Twitter, PayPal, Tesla, etc.), or go into project or product management roles at Fortune 500 companies.

Advice for current students?

There are so many opportunities with mechanical engineering—even technology consulting! Be sure you explore all possible routes before settling on a traditional mechanical engineering role.

Any other advice you'd like to share?

Take the path that is uniquely you. Going through college, I didn’t have any internships but instead started a company with fellow students, contracting development to professors at the U. There is a lot of pressure to get “that internship” or land “that job.” You will be happier and more successful following the path that fits who you are.

Q&A with Steve Erickson, Project Manager, Synapse Product Development

What do you do?

My work is multifaceted, I…

  • lead and manage multidisciplinary project teams in complex development projects from concept through production;
  • develop project execution strategies that align expectations and best match the goals and priorities of the client’
  • build and maintain rapport with clients and other development partners through continuous, supportive communication of project goals, priorities, status, risks, and issues;
  • create and maintain project schedules and budgets, monitor project team progress, and make adjustments as required; 
  • assess risks and control scope; 
  • clearly communicate tasks, schedules, and deliverables to project team; 
  • direct and manage manufacturing partners domestically and internationally to meet program goals for schedule, quality, and cost; 
  • contribute to the growth of the business through evangelism, network outreach, and a professional presence that inspires confidence and trust; 
  • deliver high-quality results on schedule and within budget.

What qualities are important for this position? 

Team leadership, patience, speaking, confidence, technical understanding, desire to learn and improve oneself.

What about technical skills? 

None—people skills are more important. We have project managers (PMs) that don’t have any technical skills, but they know enough about the different disciplines to be able to speak the language and are still able to get the teams to deliver. It’s more important to know how to motivate the different individuals on the team to produce the high-quality results you have been tasked with delivering to the client.

What part of your job is most satisfying?

Team leadership. Working with a bunch of other really smart people can be challenging, but helping them bridge gaps between disciplines and seeing the result is incredibly gratifying.

Q&A with Galen Helgemo, Test Engineer, Daikin Applied

What do you do?

Maintain test cell software (LabVIEW) and hardware (Instrumentation) for commercial HVAC products. Develop new/innovative test methods and data management programs. Continuous improvement (user experience, data quality, data analysis). Metrology functions (calibration) and project management (new test equipment/cells) as needed.

What’s a typical work day?

75% desk, 25% test floor (troubleshooting/communication)

What qualities are important for this position?

Being able to talk with various levels of people. I flip between technical talks with other engineers, and less technical talks with technicians (though they have a better handle on ‘reality’). As a test engineer, I also interface with all different facets of the business; the business is my customer!

What about technical skills? 

Must understand both physical and electrical sides of instrumentation; embrace change; and be willing and ready to program (even from zero knowledge in LabVIEW). Must also know refrigeration cycles (thermodynamics), psychometric charts, fluid dynamics, heat transfer (conduction, convection, and radiation). Industrial standards are a plus (ISO, ASHRAE, AHRI, UL).

What training were you offered for your position? 

I transition from co-op to fulltime. In my co-op rotation within my current department, I was given access to resources and people who had the knowledge to assist me. My boss requires at least one seminar a year to keep me learning and highly approves of any training if it provides value.

What part of your job is most satisfying?

I absolutely love LabVIEW. It is a really powerful language once you have started to tidy things up and adopt some best practices. (I also enjoy Python and MATLAB). 

Most challenging? 

Critiquing other engineers’ test requests. They're trying to do their job, but we (test engineers) act as a barrier to incomplete requests (missing specifications, instrument accuracy, scheduling questions, testing rationale, testing disposition). It can be unnerving to challenge engineers with 10 to 15+ more years of experience than you, plus they’re under fire to keep projects moving.

What are your possible career paths now?

More technical engineering positions (in any department), manager positions, and project manager positions.

Advice for current students?

Mechanical Engineering is quickly evolving from physical systems to more “Mechatronics” systems where you need to understand both the physical and the electrical inner workings (and maybe even some programming!). So be sure to think about what tech electives you’d like to dig into.