What do engineers do?
By definition, an engineer is someone who applies knowledge of science, mathematics and technical experience to solve problems of a societal, technological or commercial problem. There have been engineers throughout history, but it has only been in modern times that specific niches of engineering work have come to be accepted. These niches are not meant to limit what the engineer can do, but rather guide their study towards a specific area of expertise.
Mechanical engineers are often cited as being the engineers who are thrown at a problem when there is no specific discipline that is best suited to address an issue. These people generally work in area where mechanical energy or mass flow is the most important factor in a process. That seems like a bizarre way of looking at it, but it holds true when you examine where MechE’s generally find work.
In modern times, mechanical engineers do most of their work manipulating mathematical models that describe how strong something is, how safe it is or how it can be made most cheaply.
Machine design is the historical go-to career for mechanical engineers. The word engineer comes from the fact that the people who came to be known as engineers were, “the smart people who designed engines.”
The air conditioning industry employs many engineers, they design the machines and implement them in such a way that they can operate with maximum efficiency. In this case, the mechanical energy is the force required to move the mass of cold, warm, wet or dry air where it needs to be, and in the right proportions.
Like in the air conditioning industry, large piping networks are often designed by engineers. When something like oil flows through a pipe, there is often an immense amount of mechanical energy at work. Mechanical engineers are often found in facilities that move large amounts of fluid around, like oil production and food manufacturing.
In modern times, many mechanical engineers are being found in areas relating to automation. The skill set developed during their education makes them an asset to companies facing challenges such as automating a factory or warehouse. Any time a firm would like to use robotics to enhance their ability to do business, a mechanical engineer is often involved.
This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but more to give the reader a general idea of what sorts of things a mechanical engineer does. If you choose this as a career path, know that this discipline is one of the broadest areas of study. What you learn has a comfortable place in many industries such as manufacturing, oil/gas and even as far flung as finance and management.