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How useful is being a mechanical engineer in today’s times?

How useful is being a mechanical engineer in today’s times?

Mechanical engineering Counselling

A qualified mechanical engineer can be described as a jack-of-all-trades. They possess a variety of skills related to computer applications, electricity, structures, mathematics, and physics. Since mechanical engineering is the broadest of all engineering fields, there are plenty of job prospects for skilled mechanical engineers. Mechanical engineers design, test, manufacture, install, operate and maintain machines and mechanical systems that are used in different industries. These professionals can find employment both in the government and private sector undertakings.

The most lucrative career opportunities for mechanical engineers today (in no particular order) are:

  1. Automotive engineer – working on structural design and frameworks, or select systems like engines or exhausts etc.
  2. CAD (computer-aided design) engineer – using CAD software to create drawings and plans, working with architects and design engineers on their projects, as a basis for blueprints and various other uses
  3. Control and Instrumentation Engineer – work may be based in an office, laboratory or factory, depending on the nature of the organisation. Main responsibilities include designing, installing and maintaining control equipment, machinery and systems 
  4. Industrial Engineering and Operations Research and Management – industrial engineers are employed in several industries – major manufacturing industries, consulting and engineering services, research & development firms, as well as wholesale trade. This versatility arises from the fact that these engineers focus on reducing internal costs, making their work valuable for many industries and companies looking to be more efficient in terms of cost and manpower.
  5. Non-mechanical industries like IT and tech consulting also welcome mechanical engineering graduates for their numeracy and problem-solving skills, especially if you have programming skills
  6. Non-technical career opportunities include finance and management, which do hire in large numbers from engineering institutes
  7. Alternatively, this also opens up avenues for post-graduate education – specialisation in a select field of mechanical engineering which will make you job-ready for specific roles (if you want to stay in the technical sector), or MBA programmes that look to hire engineers for their problem-solving and mathematical skills.

Despite claims of mechanical engineering being a dead field today with no hope for placements, several sectors such as manufacturing, design, energy systems, construction, as well as non-core fields like operations and industrial management offer a lot of opportunities for fresh mechanical engineering graduates. 

It is important to note that while traditional jobs such as operating machines in factories may soon be redundant due to process automation, leading to the misconception that placement opportunities in such sectors are dipping, this automation opens up new roles due to which mechanical engineers having software skills and familiar with these automation practices will be in demand for a long time. 

Additionally, many mechanical engineers don’t work as engineers, even in core sectors – many work as managers (in operations facilities such as factories and plants), business analysts, and as executives in sales, marketing and operations. So you need not restrict yourself to applying for jobs that focus only on the core engineering aspects – engineers are generally hired for their problem-solving skills, and their adaptability to a variety of roles, which means there are a plethora of job opportunities out there. 

Despite the global economic slowdown and the sluggish job market (due to various factors and the additional blow dealt by lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic), mechanical engineers are one of the best groups in terms of hiring – there are countless options in core industry and manufacturing that will boost hiring due to increased output target required to cover the shortfall caused by lockdowns. 

However, there is one very evident drawback when it comes to jobs – there is little gender diversity in the core sector jobs, and it has been a male-dominated field for very long. One hopes that with changing times, and women breaking the glass ceilings everywhere, this changes soon.

Other opportunities include:

  • If you’re looking to stay and work in an Indian engineering-related PSU (think ONGC, BHEL, Railways or Mining), writing GATE (Graduate Aptitude Test for Engineering) would be a good idea – most PSUs prefer applicants with good GATE scores and/or some masters qualifications because of specific nature of the core engineering jobs they offer. 
  • There are also several opportunities when it comes to higher education. To pursue a masters degree in mechanical engineering or a subsection/specialisation of mechanical engineering in India, GATE and JAM (Joint Admission Test for M.Sc.) scores are accepted at IITs, IISc. and several other centralised institutions. For MBA admissions in India, CAT scores are required for IIMs (and are accepted by certain private institutes). Other renown private institutes also hold their own screening tests.
  • If you’re looking to head abroad for an M.Tech or M.Sc., GRE (Graduate Record Examination) General Test scores would be required. GRE scores are used by admissions or fellowship panels to supplement your undergraduate records, recommendation letters and other qualifications for graduate-level study. For MBA programmes abroad, GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) and/or GRE scores are required.
  • The Civil Services Examination in India is conducted by the UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) for recruitment to several services under the Government of India – if you’d like to be a public servant.

Clearly, mechanical engineering as a fiend is not dead – it is clearly viable and has a plethora of career opportunities available for graduates, not only in terms of jobs, but also higher education. 

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