mechanical engineering careers

Mechanical Engineer Jobs

Did you know?

Mechanical engineers have the very special skill of designing machinery and mini-machinery-bits (components, in other words). You’ll find machinery everywhere these days, so mechanical engineers are needed in almost any industry you can think of, from energy to healthcare.

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Mechanical engineer job trends

How much money can you make as a mechanical engineer?

£22,000 – £55,000 (UK average)

Recent labour market information says you can earn £22,000 – £55,000 a year on average as a mechanical engineer in the UK.

Your starting salary can vary because of factors like level of experience, training, or location. Your salary will increase over time as you build skills, knowledge and experience.

What entry qualifications and training do you need?

School, college and training

Many engineering jobs require some knowledge of science and being comfortable around maths.

In your GCSEs or the equivalent, aim to get passing grades of 9-4 (A*-C) in at least five GCSEs including English, maths and at least one science.

You can then go on to take 2 to 3 A-levels or a further education qualification in a topic related to science, maths or engineering.

This will give you a good foundation education in the engineering principles you might need to know. It will also help you to apply for further education such as a degree.

Degrees and University

You will need to complete a foundation degree, HNC, HND or degree to get into mechanical engineering. Many mechanical engineers enter the profession as graduates.

Useful degrees to consider include

  • Mechanical engineering
  • Electromechanical engineering
  • Mechatronics
  • Engineering (mechanical/manufacturing)

UCAS has more information on degree courses and entry requirements.

You can apply for student finance to cover fees and living costs.

Some courses include a year in industry – or you could organise your own work placement in a company. You might also be able to join a company’s graduate trainee scheme if you have a degree in a relevant subject.

You can also take the apprenticeship route – or start as a technician and study part-time for an HND or foundation degree, leading to a degree in engineering.

Apprenticeships and training

With an apprenticeship (or advanced apprenticeship) you’ll have a paid job with an employer that includes structured training and learning. This training leads to an official qualification that’s recognised by employers as an industry standard.

As an example, you could apply for a higher apprenticeship like advanced manufacturing engineering.

You can seek out mechanical engineering apprenticeships with organisations like Find an Apprenticeship.

Courses and qualifications

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers has information on courses.

The Engineering Council has a list of qualifications and courses.

Career progression

Mechanical engineering gives you the chance to work for different people like the government, the armed services, manufacturers, research and development facilities, and public utilities.

If you become a Chartered Engineer you will find it easier to get project management roles or specialise in your chosen field. It can also help you strike out on your own and do consultancy work.

What experience do you need for mechanical engineer jobs?

Work experience

It can help you decide if this is the right career for you if you have previously done work experience in an engineering environment.

Any work experience where you have demonstrated your engineering skills can help your application.

Examples of relevant work experience include:

  • Work shadowing (even if it’s just for a day)
  • Work placements in a company
  • Work placements on a degree course
  • Year in Industry work experience programme for pre-university/undergraduates

Volunteering and extra-curricular activities

Volunteering is an excellent way to build up your skills and CV while making connections with people and organisations who could help you in the future.

If you’re aged 21 or under, you could build experience and skills relevant to engineering by

becoming an Industrial Cadet. You’ll join other students from local schools to take part in industry

based activities with a local employer. Visit www.industrialcadets.org.uk for more info.

If you’re a Year 12 student, you can apply for a Nuffield Research Placement. Over 1,000 students a year get the chance to work with scientists, mathematicians and engineers from all kinds of universities and organisations.

If you’re still at school, you can work on your engineering skills outside of lessons to build your first CV. One way is to join a school STEM club.

What skills do you need for mechanical engineer jobs?

What life and work skills do you need to make a great mechanical engineer?

Useful skills to highlight and develop in this career include:

  • Good problem solving skills and an enquiring mind – every time you face a new challenge or project you will think about how to break it down and turn “I can’t” into “we can”.
  • Good organisation skills – this will help you with your education and training, and also with helping you to make sure projects are done on time. It will also help you with the commercial part of your job like budgeting for raw materials and people to get the job done.
  • Teamworking skills – you could work as part of an engineering team led by a senior engineer. As you progress in your career, you’ll also build leadership and project management skills.
  • Good communication skills – you will be able to present your work by email, over the phone, face to face in meetings, and even through presentations.
  • Good IT skills – engineering is using computers and digital technology more and more these days.

Vocational qualifications and work experience will help you build these skills over time.

Start building these skills right now – sign up for free Young Professional training.

What does a mechanical engineer do?

Your work can be extremely varied because all kinds of industries and projects need mechanical engineering skills. You could be designing new and improved prosthetic implants, or installing off-shore wind turbines.

Wherever your journey takes you, here are some activities you’re sure to get experience in…

Some things you might be doing:

  • Using design software and computer-aided modelling (CAD/CAM) to make research ideas spring into life as technical plans to help build the product
  • Checking mechanical systems and equipment
  • Researching new products and innovations to see if they’re as good as they’re cracked up to be
  • Creating technical documents to support the work you do
  • Presenting design plans and information to managers and clients
  • Supporting the contract team when bidding for new work
  • Checking maintenance programmes and quality control
  • Once you gain experience: Leading a project team of technicians, designers and other engineering professionals.

Your first steps into mechanical engineer jobs

Mechanical engineer jobs are advertised under different job titles.  To find jobs for young people in this role, search on job boards for opportunities with these words in the title:

  • Manufacturing engineering apprenticeship
  • Advanced apprenticeship – manufacturing engineering
  • Graduate apprenticeship in mechanical engineering
  • Graduate mechanical engineer

Is there a difference between mechanical engineers and manufacturing engineers?

Mechanical engineers design and study mechanical systems. Manufacturing engineers apply engineering principles to the development and carrying out of manufacturing processes. We’re mentioning it because once you start looking for work, you’ll often see these two roles crop up together. There’s a lot of overlap, but they’re not the same thing!

Engineering/Manufacturing jobs you might like...

View job descriptions with average UK salary, useful qualifications and a variety of routes into this career. Or see our full list of careers in engineering and manufacturing!


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