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Career in Mechanical Engineering

Introduction

Mechanical engineering is one of the oldest branches of engineering. It is also referred to as the ‘mother’ branch of engineering. Another appealing feature of mechanical engineering is that the application base of this field of study is extremely broad and diverse. Almost all inventions during the ancient period and a vast majority in the modern era are direct contributions of one or the other application of mechanics.

Traditionally, mechanical engineers have to deal with concepts such as mechanics, thermodynamics, robotics, kinematics, structural analysis, fluid mechanics and many others. These concepts are applied in the process of designing state-of-the-art manufacturing units, different types of motor vehicles, aircraft and aerospace parts and a vast assortment of industrial machinery. Mechanical engineers also contribute in the development of various engines, power plant equipment, heating and cooling systems and other simple and complex machinery. Mechanical engineers not only design new mechanical systems but they are also responsible for testing, maintaining and manufacturing them.

The aforementioned are the conventional roles and responsibilities of mechanical engineers. However, times have changed. Nowadays the scope of mechanical engineering is expanding beyond its traditional boundaries. Mechanical engineers are focussing their attention towards new areas of research such as nanotechnology, development of composite materials, biomedical applications, environmental conservation, etc.

The ever increasing scope of this particular job profile now requires professionals to get into financial and marketing aspects of product development and even into people and resource management. All in all mechanical engineering offers a wide bouquet of job options to students who are looking for a stable and stimulating career.

Step-by-Step

Passing 10+2 with PCM (Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics) is the first step you take towards becoming a professional mechanical engineer. To be eligible for a graduate programme (BE/BTech) in a college, you should have scored at least 50% marks and 60% for being eligible for IITs (Indian Institute of Technology) in 10+2 with PCM as subjects. After this, you can sit for various entrance examinations such as:

•  The Joint Entrance Examination for IITs (IITJEE) for admission to various IITs

•  All-India Engineering Entrance Exam (AIEEE) for admission to various National Institutes of Technology or regional engineering colleges

Apart from these, there are hundreds of engineering colleges across the length and breadth of the country where you can get into a graduate programme in mechanical engineering. Some of these colleges conduct their own entrance exams whereas some accept AIEEE scores.

You can also opt for a diploma in engineering from a polytechnic. For obtaining a diploma, the basic eligibility is completion of Class 10 with 50% marks. The duration of these diploma courses is three-years for regular and four-years for part-time study.

You can also go for an associate membership qualification from the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, which is considered at par with the diploma earned from a state run polytechnic or a university degree. Another option is to earn a similar qualification offered by the Institution of Engineering (India). Diploma holders can also get direct entry into the second year of a graduate program (lateral entry).

After successful completion of the graduate program, you can go for the two-year masters program in mechanical engineering or ME/MTech. If you are interested in pursuing a post-graduate programme in mechanical engineering from any of the IITs, then you must appear for the Graduate Aptitude Test for Engineers (GATE).

These days many engineering colleges are offering a dual (BE/BTech and ME/MTech) programmes. Some other institutions are offering a combination of an engineering degree along with a management programme.

In case you are interested in further studies, you can go do a PhD or even opt for a management degree from a reputed business school.

Start Early

To make mechanical engineering your chosen career path, you must have affinity for the way different machines function. This trait can be observed from early childhood when children try to tinker around with different machinery in their immediate vicinity. Such kids often tend to take apart mechanical toys, clocks, bicycles and then they try to assemble them back again.

These children are so innovative that they may even try to make new things. Here, parents have a special role to play. They must understand that the child possesses an inquisitive mind that is interested in gaining knowledge about machinery and not in breaking or destroying things. Parents must encourage the child’s curiosity to know more about different gadgets and machines in and around the house.

During schooling, the quest to play around with machinery increases all the more. This curiosity often culminates with the child opting for science with the PCM subject combination.

Is it the Right Career for Me?

Like other career paths, the entry into this particular branch of engineering also requires you to possess certain basic traits. First and foremost, you must have a penchant for mechanical components and machinery and how these machines work. Then you must be good at physics, chemistry and mathematics. You must also have skills such as an analytical bent of mind, logical reasoning and problem solving.

Further, you must have immense patience, physical strength, ability to work for long hours and an inventive spirit that are essential ingredients for becoming a successful mechanical engineer.

What would it Cost Me?

A graduate programme from a private engineering institution will cost you anywhere between Rs.50,000 to Rs.2,00,000 annually. However, in a reputed government run establishment such as the Indian institute of Technology (IIT) or any regional engineering college, you will have to pay an annual fees in the range of anywhere between Rs 30,000 to Rs 40,000.

Funding/Scholarship

Educational institutes offering programmes in mechanical engineering generally extend scholarships to students from socially and economically backward classes. For example, IITs waive off the complete tuition fees for students belonging to the socially backward communities. Scholarships, freeships, stipends and financial assistance are also provided to students on the basis of merit and other qualifying criteria.

Job Prospect

Since mechanical engineering is the broadest of all engineering fields, the job prospects on offer for skilled mechanical engineers are aplenty and unending. Mechanical engineers are required to design, test, manufacture, install, operate and maintain a wide array of machines and mechanical systems that are used in countless industries. These professionals can find employment both in the government and private sector undertakings.

Major industries that employ mechanical engineers include automobiles, space research, aeronautical, energy and utilities, air conditioning, bio-mechanical industry. Other major employers include giant manufacturing plants, air conditioning and refrigeration industry, turbine manufacturing plants, oil and gas exploration and refining industries and the agricultural sector.

In the government sector, mechanical engineers can provide their knowledge to various government run projects in the role of technical experts and consultants. They can also work in private engineering companies that provide technical consultancy to both government and corporate firms.

These engineers can also hold high managerial positions in government as well as private sector organisations according to their field of expertise and educational qualifications.

Pay Packet

Mechanical engineering offers a wide variety of career opportunities to job aspirants. The average monthly salary of mechanical engineers who are new to this profession is approximately in the range between Rs.10,000 and Rs.25,000. Good campus placements can fetch even better packages for deserving students. Mechanical engineers who hold a post-graduate degree from a reputed academic institute tend to get better offers than diploma and degree holders.

From here on the annual pay packet depends on a number of factors such as the skill set possessed, experience, expertise, the employer, nature of roles and responsibilities, etc. Highly skilled mechanical engineers can easily command pay packets as high as Rs 40-45 lacs per annum.

Demand and Supply

There is great demand for skilled mechanical engineers in different segments of the industry. Their expertise is required in traditional manufacturing industries such as automobiles, aviation, shipping, aerospace, power plants and machinery manufacturing. In recent times, the services of expert mechanical engineers have even been sought in fields such as nanotechnology, biomedical engineering, energy conservation and environmental engineering.

There is also great requirement for mechanical engineer consultants who have management skills along with technical proficiency. The primary role of such professionals is to manage both technology and people and firms that provide engineering consultancy require them.

Various engineering colleges and polytechnics across the country are doing their best to meet the burgeoning demand of skilled mechanical engineering professionals.

Market Watch

The job market for mechanical engineers is perennial. Even the vagaries of the global economic crisis could not knock out the demand for these professionals in the Indian job market. Although some branches of mechanical engineering went out of focus during the meltdown period, the overall situation was much better as compared with other careers. On the brighter side, things are getting back to normal and this evergreen career path is again gaining coin amongst career aspirants as it did during the pre-meltdown years.

In fact, this is a period of resurgence for mechanical engineers. They not only have countless options in the industrial sector but they can also make foray into new realms of technology and even get into management and technical consultancy.

According to a survey, mechanical engineering is amongst the most sought after branches of engineering preferred by students seeking admission to various technical institutes across India in the recent years.

International Focus

Highly qualified professionals from this field, such as post-graduates from various IITs, often seek suitable employment in foreign countries. It is not that only highly qualified mechanical engineers get opportunity to work abroad. If you are employed in a multinational company, you may also get the chance to work on offshore projects

Positives/Negatives

+ives

•  There are umpteen job openings and you will not remain unemployed
•  Constant involvement in the development of new components, gadgets and machines
•  Innovative contribution to the new frontiers of science such as nanotechnology, biomedical engineering and environmental sciences
•  Not hit by recession or global economic meltdown

-ives

•  Working conditions can be adverse at times
•  Deadlines and work pressure can exact a heavy toll on the body and mind
•  Physically strenuous and not for the weak

Different Roles, Different Names

Mechanical engineering is considered the ‘mother’ of all branches of engineering. In this context the roles and responsibilities held by a mechanical engineer are different and depend on their area of specialisation and the industry they are working for.
In broad terms, the job profile of mechanical engineers can be classified into the following functional segments:

•  Research and Development (R&D): Engineers whose role is to do research and then plan for new machines and their constituent parts.

•  Design: Professionals whose responsibility is to draft technical drawings, manually or with the aid of computers.

•  Production: Engineers who supervise the manufacturing of mechanical components and machines.

•  Analysis and testing: Engineers who analyse and test different types of machines and their parts to ensure that they function flawlessly.

•  Installation: Professionals who install machines and mechanical parts at the client location.

•  Maintenance: Engineers whose primary role is to ensure that machinery is working as per specifications.

Top Companies

1.  Automobile and auto part manufacturers
2.  Aerospace industry
3.  Various Government sector undertakings
4.  Aviation companies
5.  Steel plants
6.  Thermal plants and gas turbine manufacturers
7.  Air conditioning and refrigeration industry
8.  Shipping industry
9.  Engineering consultancies
10. Armed forces

Tips for Getting Hired

1.  It is advisable to earn a post-graduate degree in this field
2.  Computer proficiency is a must these days
3.  You must have excellent communication and interpersonal skills
4.  A management degree further brightens your career prospects

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