Mechanical engineers will find their skills in demand in a variety of fields and industries including medical, scientific research, construction, aerospace, acoustics, combustion, and automotive engineering. If a device requires movement or manufacturing, design, testing, or packaging, a mechanical engineer will most likely be involved.

Step 1: Study a variety of subjects in high school, emphasizing mathematics and science. Study pre-calculus and, if possible, calculus at a high school level, and be sure to take chemistry and physics classes in high school. Physics and calculus are the back bones of engineering courses; understanding them is important to getting a degree.

Step 2: Participate in math contests and science fairs. Try engineering contests, too, if they are active in your area.

Step 3: Develop hobbies related to mechanical engineering. These may include astronomy, rocketry, geology, auto mechanics, bicycle repair, welding, or even robotics. Any sort of tinkering is good practice.

Step 4: Learn to use different sorts of tools. Hammers and screwdrivers are a great place to start, but there are many more types than that. If you have the opportunity to take a wood, metals, or plastics shop class, do so. Auto shop is also a good choice. Don’t forget to learn about various kinds of measuring tools, too.

Step 5: Take stuff apart. Ask friends and family to give you appliances and other machines that have broken, or gather them inexpensively from garage sales or even neighbors’ curbs. Then, open them up and see what makes them go. If you can put something back together so that it works, great! If not, figure out what’s inside and see what you can learn from it before throwing it out. If you’re still not sure what’s going on in there, look it up and find out.

Step 6: Explore the field of electronics, which may include activities such as ham radio and computer repair. Build stereo speakers for fun. Constructing speakers requires both woodworking and electrical skills. Learn the resistor code for fun. Although electronics are more closely associated with electrical engineering, mechanical engineers need, at the very least, to be able to communicate with electrical engineers. More and more systems are electromechanical, so it’s good to know a bit of both. Some mechanical engineers do specialize in electrical engineering and become electromechanical engineers.

Step 7: Take drafting classes. Even though some engineering schools do not offer drafting classes, drafting classes may be available at the high school or community college level. If at all possible, learn a CAD (computer-aided drafting) program or two.

Step 8: Develop solid reading and writing skills. Documentation and technical writing skills are a must in many mechanical engineering jobs.

Step 9: Invent something. It doesn’t have to be the next light bulb, or even a new idea. It could be something as simple as a bent wire coat hanger to dislodge something that always sticks. It could even be a new process or a more efficient way of organizing your desk or going about your day-to-day tasks. Or, see how far you can make a mousetrap- or gravity- powered vehicle go.

Step 10: Build something. Assemble boxed furniture or start from scratch. Make a potato launcher. Create your own lava lamp or trebuchet. Even fun or silly projects will help you get used to thinking about how things work, and how they are built.

Step 11: Take an interest in manufacturing. Where do paper clips come from? How about computer chips or jelly beans? Part of a mechanical engineer’s job is to design things so that they can be efficiently, inexpensively fabricated.

Step 12: Develop your creativity, too. Although a lot of mechanical engineering is about being systematic and analytical, it is also about creative problem solving. Try drawing, writing, juggling, playing music, listening, playing, learning, and exploring. It will make you a better engineer and a better-rounded person, in general.

Step 13: A university degree is often a requirement of many mechanical engineering jobs. Some states may offer certification through examinations. Those without degrees or state certification may work as mechanical designers or drafters, rather than as engineers. Also, check the local and internet listings to see what engineering jobs are in your area or areas you don’t mind moving to as it possible a job that may interest you may not be available in your area.

Step 14: Decide what type of school you would like to attend and what degree you are seeking.

  • Larger universities may offer a wider variety of coursework and the ability to specialize as well as bachelor degrees and usually up to doctorate degrees while smaller community colleges typically offer associate degrees and/or the ability to transfer to a bachelor level college.
  • Smaller colleges or technical schools may offer smaller classes and more of a “hands on” approach to engineering, and most offer accepted accredited engineering degrees. Some of the best engineering schools are small colleges: South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, New Mexico Tech and Montana Tech are examples of small schools with excellent engineering programs. Beware of commercial trade schools that offer technical programs.
  • Confirm that your schools, colleges or universities of choice offer regionally accredited programs.

Step 15: Do not give up! There is a lot of hard work associated with getting any engineering degree. At some point you probably will fail classes and question your decision; just keep pushing, all good things take time and effort. Retake classes if you have to: a four year engineering degree takes most people about five years.