Mechanical engineers research, design and build mechanical devices, tools and machines such as generators and engines. While mechanical engineering can be a rewarding career for many, these professionals also face various challenges in their jobs such as strict deadlines and continuously changing technologies. If you’re interested in becoming a mechanical engineer, you may want to learn more about these challenges to help you decide if you want to pursue this career.
In this article, we provide a list of 11 common challenges mechanical engineers experience in their jobs and offer solutions to help you overcome these obstacles successfully.
11 challenges mechanical engineers face
Here are some common challenges mechanical engineers may encounter in their jobs, along with potential solutions to help you find ways to overcome them:
1. Licensure and certifications
While most mechanical engineers earn their bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering or a related area, some employers may prefer to hire engineers with additional licenses or certifications. It’s common for mechanical engineers to pursue a Professional Engineer (PE) certification, which involves passing two exams. Others choose to earn a certification in a specific area of mechanical engineering such as dynamic systems or advanced control systems design, to expand their skill sets. While these licenses and certifications require time and commitment, they can help you develop new skills and advance in your career.
2. Project deadlines
Mechanical engineers often work on multiple projects at one time. They may find it difficult to track project deadlines, particularly if problems occur that change or delay development timelines. It’s helpful for mechanical engineers to have excellent organizational and problem-solving skills to help them overcome production challenges and meet their deadlines. These skills can help you remain calm under pressure and make quick decisions to keep projects on track. While you’re likely to improve these skills throughout your career, you can also find ways to strengthen these traits, such as setting goals and making time to work toward them.
Mechanical engineers often work in environments with various hazards. For example, they may work near heavy machinery or handle sharp equipment, such as blades. When performing hands-on tasks, such as troubleshooting faulty mechanical equipment, it’s important for mechanical engineers to use best practices to keep themselves safe. These safety precautions may include wearing proper protective equipment, such as eyewear and gloves, and using correct posture when moving equipment. Most employers also require mechanical engineers to complete routine training to remain updated on safety practices.
4. Equipment malfunctions
It’s common for mechanical engineers to troubleshoot equipment malfunctions. For example, if a generator stops working, a mechanical engineer may use their in-depth knowledge of mechanical processes to fix it. When equipment malfunctions, mechanical engineers may be required to reschedule other tasks to diagnose and resolve the issue. It can be helpful to perform routine maintenance on machines and mechanical tools to keep them functioning properly. Besides preventing malfunctions, this maintenance can also help you become familiar with equipment so you know how to fix it quickly if problems occur.
5. Scope of responsibilities
Most mechanical engineers have many job responsibilities because they’re involved in all stages of the design and development process. For this reason, their duties often change from day to day. For example, they may conduct research and sketch designs for a new project one day and then spend the next day troubleshooting problems with mechanical equipment. Some mechanical engineers may feel burdened by the scope of their responsibilities. It’s helpful for mechanical engineers to find ways to focus on their mental health, such as taking walks or meditating to help them feel calm.
6. New technologies
The field of mechanical engineering continues to advance as new technologies emerge. For example, some companies are using machine learning technology to automate machine processes. Mechanical engineers may become frustrated with changing technologies and requirements. For this reason, it’s helpful to make continued education and training a priority throughout your career. Seek opportunities to learn new skills, such as online classes and certification programs. Ask your employer for professional development opportunities such as conferences or training to continue enhancing your skills.
7. Complex projects
Some mechanical engineers work on large, complex projects involving significant resources, infrastructure or funding. For example, a mechanical engineer may be involved in the design and construction of a new pipeline costing millions of dollars. On complex projects, they may feel an immense responsibility to ensure their designs, prototypes and systems are accurate so the project can advance without costly delays. It’s helpful for mechanical engineers to have meticulous attention to detail so they can ensure they’re completing their work correctly.
Mechanical engineers often collaborate with computer scientists and architects, among others, on production and development projects. Without effective communication, mechanical engineers can find it difficult to understand the requirements of a project. If you’re frustrated with a lack of communication, try to ask questions for further clarification. Listen to others’ input and ideas and share feedback to facilitate communication. Explain engineering concepts in a clear, understandable way to help others who may be unfamiliar with technical terms or processes.
9. Adverse weather
While many mechanical engineers primarily work in offices, others spend much of their workdays outdoors. They may travel to job sites to perform research. Others may work in industries such as oil and gas that require them to work outside. Adverse weather such as extreme heat or storms can create stressful working conditions. It’s important for mechanical engineers to take appropriate precautions when working in extreme weather such as applying sunscreen or wearing rain-repellent clothing, to help them stay safe and comfortable.
10. Work-life balance
Most mechanical engineers work full-time schedules, and overtime can be common, especially when working to complete projects by a particular deadline. Some mechanical engineers may find it difficult to maintain a work-life balance, which can make them feel stressed or overwhelmed. It’s important for mechanical engineers to establish boundaries so they can feel fulfilled in both their professional and personal lives. You can create these boundaries by speaking with your manager about your concerns and finding ways to pursue interests and hobbies outside of work, such as joining a club.
11. Job outlook
Some aspiring mechanical engineers may feel uncertain about the job outlook in this field. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment growth for mechanical engineers may grow 7% by 2030. This growth is likely to vary widely based on the industry, according to the BLS. For example, automotive manufacturers are likely to continue hiring mechanical engineers to design and improve parts for hybrid and electric cars. You can improve your chances of getting a job in this field by learning in-demand skills and gaining proficiency in technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotics.