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Mechanical Engineering Overview

  Mechanical engineering is one of the largest, broadest, and oldest engineering disciplines. Mechanical engineers use the principles of energy, materials, and mechanics to design and manufacture machines and devices of all types. They create the processes and systems that drive technology and industry.

   Mechanics, energy and heat, mathematics, engineering sciences, design and manufacturing form the foundation of mechanical engineering. Mechanics includes fluids, ranging from still water to hypersonic gases flowing around a space vehicle; it involves the motion of anything from a particle to a machine or complex structure.

  Mechanical engineering is one of the broadest engineering disciplines, so a major in Mechanical Engineering prepares students for a wide variety of careers in industry and graduate school. For more information, click here.

  At Hopkins, Mechanical Engineering emphasizes mechanical and thermal systems analysis and design. Students develop a wide range of fundamental skills required of the mechanical engineering professional and choose upper-level technical electives for further in-depth study. Students are encouraged to participate in research and internships as a way to practice the knowledge and skills developed through their coursework and labs. http://www.me.jhu.edu/undergrad.html This strong emphasis on the fundamental principles will serve the students throughout their careers. The curriculum exposes students to hands-on experience through laboratory work and design projects. For more information, click here.

  Hopkins offers several concentrations and allow students to pursue special interests in engineering, physics, biology, mathematics, management, and humanities. Students interact with a multidisciplinary faculty both in the classroom and in research laboratories. Double-majors and a 5-year concurrent Bachelor’s-Master’s degree are also available. The modern engineer must be well versed in communication and teamwork skills. These are developed in a number of courses that involve laboratory exercises, report writing, and oral presentations. In addition to the two-semester capstone senior design course, the students’ development in solving design problems is cultivated and encouraged through design electives and special design projects assigned in many of the courses. For more information, click here.

  CONCENTRATIONS: Students are encouraged to develop depth in one or two areas within mechanical engineering. Your faculty advisor can help you choose courses that form concentrations in areas such as Mechanics and Design, Thermo-fluids and Thermo-fluid Systems, Robotics, Aerospace Engineering, and Biomechanics. The Aerospace Engineering and Biomechanics concentrations have formal course requirements.

  Studying Mechanical Engineering provides with sophisticated analytical and problem-solving skills that apply to most any type of engineering, manufacturing, business ventures, management, or even legal practice. The focus of an undergraduate degree in engineering is to teach you how to learn, as well as the thought processes and approaches that will serve throughout your career. For more information, click here.

Mechanical Engineering Career Options

  The key characteristics of the Mechanical Engineering are its breadth, flexibility, and individuality. The career paths of mechanical engineers are largely determined by individual choices, a decided advantage in a changing world. Mechanical engineers are capable of working in a wide variety of industry sectors, and new technologies will create industries that don't exist today. Your opportunities are determined by education, your interests and attitudes, and the contacts that you make. According to an ASME Career Path Survey, about half of mechanical engineers were employed in the original equipment industries. The next largest industry sector was non-manufacturing employers, followed by process industries. For more information, click here.

  The field is notable for emphasizing versatility. A mechanical engineering education is an excellent foundation for work in other fields. Some mechanical engineers work on medical problems, such as the mechanics of bones and joints, or the fluid dynamics of the circulatory system. Mechanical engineers deal with economic issues, from the cost of a single component, to the economic impact of a manufacturing plant. M.E.'s can be found in sales, engineering management, and corporate management. Versatility is a decided asset in a world that is undergoing constant economic, political, industrial, and social change. Mechanical engineers are educated and positioned, not only to adapt, but to define and direct change.

The diversity of the field of mechanical engineering is represented in the following areas of involvement.

  • Basic Engineering
  • Energy Conversion
  • Alternative Energy Resources
  • Engineering & Technology Management
  • Environment & Transportation
  • Manufacturing - The largest area of employment for mechanical engineers,
  • Materials & Structures
  • Systems & Design

  Fundamentally, mechanical engineers are involved with the mechanics of motion and the transfer of energy from one form to another or one place to another. Working in project teams is a way of life for mechanical engineers. Deciding which projects to undertake and leading those projects to a successful conclusion is the job of experienced engineers who move into management. In contemporary manufacturing companies, mechanical engineers play a key role in the "realization" of products, working closely with other engineers and specialists in corporate management, finance, marketing, and packaging. Mechanical engineers design products, select materials and processes, and convert them to finished products. Most mechanical engineers work in the design and control of mechanical, electromechanical and fluid power systems. As a mechanical engineer functioning as a design engineer it is likely that you would be involved with one or more technical specialties, for example: Robotic System Design; Computer Coordinated Mechanisms; Computer-Aided Engineering; Design Optimization; Power Transmission; or Design of Machine Elements. For more information, click here.

Mechanical Engineering Career Prep

  Undergraduate coursework in Mechanical Engineering includes a broad range of sciences, that helps students develop the skills and abilities associated with careers in the field, including:

  While the mechanical engineering coursework is rigorous, your work outside the classroom is equally important. Research in your area of interest will give you practical laboratory experience, but also experience developing “soft skills” in collaboration with others, such as communicating, organizing and leadership. Particularly in the corporate world, the ability to clearly communicate and present scientific findings is crucial. Research experience, involvement in extracurricular activities and community service, are all excellent ways to demonstrate these interpersonal skills. Employers value engineers that are able to:

  • Work effectively on teams
  • Enjoy working with people with different educational backgrounds
  • Are able to creatively solve problems.

For more information, click here.

  Mechanical engineers research, design, develop, manufacture, and test tools, engines, machines, and other mechanical devices. Engineers in this discipline work on power-producing machines such as electric generators, internal combustion engines, and steam and gas turbines. They also work on power-using machines such as refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment, machine tools, material-handling systems, elevators and escalators, industrial production equipment, and robots used in manufacturing. Virtually anything that can be imagined, designed, and built has a mechanical engineering aspect to it. For more information, click here. Analysis, design, and synthesis are the key functions of mechanical engineers. The question is often how devices and processes actually work. For more information, click here. As such, mechanical engineering is one of the broadest engineering disciplines. Some mechanical engineers design tools that other engineers need for their work. In addition, mechanical engineers work in manufacturing or agriculture production, maintenance, or technical sales; many become administrators or managers. http://www.careercornerstone.org/mecheng/mecheng.htm The breadth of opportunities means that today's engineer is expected to be more self-reliant and more self-managed in planning and doing work. For more information, click here.

Mechanical Engineering Alumni

  Hopkins Mechanical Engineering alumni go into a variety of career fields. The Career Center has surveyed recent graduates about their academic and career plans 6 months after graduation. Here is a summary of their responses in the Post-Graduation Survey of Mechanical Engineering Majors.

  • Aerospace Engineer
  • Air Systems Engineer
  • Consultant
  • Curator (Museum)
  • Design Engineer
  • Lawyer
  • Logistics Engineer
  • Manager
  • Manufacturing Engineer
  • Operations Analyst
  • Petroleum Engineer
  • Product Engineer
  • Research Associate
  • Senior Equipment Engineer
  • Senior Project Engineer
  • Software Developer
  • Systems Engineer
  • Technical Architect
  • Test Engineer
  • Wireless Strategy Consultant

Hopkins Mechanical Engineering Alumni

Lewis Miller- Senior Planner, Retired from IBM High End Servers, Mechanical Engineering, Physics, Class of 1957, Master’s in Mechanics, 1961, Johns Hopkins University, Masters, Eng Admin, 1965, George Washington University

  1. How did you get interested in your field? Was it your original goal when you started at Hopkins? - It was just a matter of timing. I was looking for new opportunities and my brother told me I'd fit right in at IBM. It was not my original goal but rather the result of applying lessons and techniques learned at JHU and my different jobs.
  2. What was your career path? How did you get to where you are today? - My career path was quite varied. I worked at everything from manufacturing engineering to the space program and always felt confident that my ability to analyze and solve problems could be applied anywhere. I reached my career high point by working hard, listening to others and by trying very hard not to make mistakes.
  3. What was your first job after college? Was it in your current field? - My first job after college was in defense industries in a highly classified project. It was in the field in which I got my first masters degree, and it had nothing at all to do with my last job.
  4. What advice do you have for current students? - I'd advise them to learn the basics. The most important thing that I got out of my Hopkins education was a framework for solving problems. And, in the numerous jobs that I held, I was always able to apply that knowledge effectively. I'd also strongly advise them to learn how to communicate clearly and concisely, both in writing and orally.
  5. What is your typical day like? - As a senior planner, most of my time was spent pulling together the many aspects of announcing a new computer product. I had to create specifications for my product that met market requirements but would also result in a profitable product. So, I spent a lot of time meeting with the various organizations in the laboratory and with outside organizations like marketing and systems assurance. I also had to fold in worldwide (i.e. country specific) requirements and that sometimes required travel outside of the United States. So, my days consisted of lots of meetings plus time spent recording the facts and creating the necessary documents that would eventually result in announcement materials for the new product.
  6. 6 What’s most rewarding about your industry and/ or job? What's most challenging? - Most rewarding: bringing a product to market that's successful. Most challenging: dealing with people who resist change.
  7. What are typical entry-level positions for this field? What tips do you have for students to be successful in these positions? - Product planning is a job that you have to grow into based on knowledge acquired on the job and in the classroom. You have to be flexible. Seek out new challenges and don't be afraid to accept new responsibilities.
  8. Where do you see the field going in the next 5-10 years? - At the rate that new discoveries are appearing, I cannot imagine where the field is going. But, for sure, we'll see more powerful computing devices in smaller and smaller packages.
  9. What skills and out-of-class experiences are ideal for entering your industry / career field? Everything that allows you to gain new skills and undergo new experiences is going to be useful. Eventually, you will latch on to something that you will recognize as your career field. Embrace change.
  10. Where can someone in an entry-level position expect to be in two years? Five years? Ten years? - In today's engineering environment, my crystal ball does not see that far into the future. When I started out, one could project a path to higher positions with confidence within the company. That's not so today. It's more a matter of being at the right place at the right time.
  11. Which professional organizations and resources should students look into or get involved with? - Join and become active in your engineering societies (ASME, IEEE, etc.). If appropriate, take the EIT exam and go for your PE license. Take advantage of networking opportunities (JHU Alumni Assn, SEA, Facebook, etc.)
  12. What related occupations and industries would you recommend students explore who are interested in your industry or career field? - I would not recommend anything. I found that I took something away from every job that I ever had, and the sum of those experiences led to my career field.

Additional Alumni Profiles

    Networking with alumni and other professionals who work in these fields can help you learn very specific information about a career field. Use Johns Hopkins Connect to contact alumni to ask for their advice. You may also find professional contacts through professional associations, faculty, friends and family.

    For more information on what you can do with a major in Mechanical Engeneering go to What Can I Do With a Major in Mechanical Engineering?

    Want to know more? Read our Hopkins Career Profiles on Engineering, Software Development, and Consulting. If you would like to talk about how your search is going, we invite you to make an appointment with a Career Counselor by calling 410-516-8056.

  LinkedIn.com - a professional networking site where you can identify Hopkins alumni. Join the LinkedIn Johns Hopkins University Alumni Group to add over 4000+ alumni to your network.

Mechanical Engineering Grad School

  The Career Center is here to help you navigate the graduate school search process. Click here for guidelines and preparing for Graduate School and Professional School.

  For information on the specific programs, the best people to talk to are the experts in your field you wish to study, faculty members and graduate students in that specific discipline. We strongly encourage you to talk with your advisor and other faculty members with whom you have a good working relationship. This will also help when you request letters of recommendation. The Career Center has a handout to guide you in asking for letters of recommendation.

Mechanical Engineering Societies

  Involvement with professional associations is a great way to further explore your potential career paths as a Mechanical Engineering major. These groups will not only provide materials and further resources to help you make your career decision, but they also provide essential networking benefits. In addition, many professional associations have student chapters at JHU. Listed below are resources for professional associations and the student chapters for mechanical engineering at Hopkins:

  If you are interested in joining any of these groups, contact the group and/or its advisor. Find this information here.

Mechanical Engineering Links