A mechanical engineering technician could...
|Set up equipment and instruments for an automobile crash test.||Create manufacturing instructions for mass production of a wind-up toy.|
|Use a computer to prepare drawings or layouts of a mold that will be used to form a new part.||Test and supervise modifications to a manufacturing process so that a product can be made better.|
Key Facts & Information
|Overview||You use mechanical devices every day—to zip and snap your clothing, open doors, refrigerate and cook your food, get clean water, heat your home, play music, surf the Internet, travel around, and even to brush your teeth. Virtually every object that you see around has been mechanically engineered or designed at some point, requiring the skills of mechanical engineering technicians to create drawings of the product, or to build and test models of the product to find the best design.|
|Key Requirements||Creative, analytical, detail-oriented, with good hands-on mechanical skills, and the ability to work on teams|
|Minimum Degree||Vocational or Associate's degree|
|Subjects to Study in High School||Chemistry, physics, geometry, algebra II, pre-calculus, English; if available, applied technology, computer science, mechanical drawing, shop|
|Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)||More Slowly than Average (3% to 6%)|
Education and Training
You can become a mechanical engineering technician in several ways. Some technicians receive their training from a vocational high school. Others attend a community college or technical institute. Most employers prefer to hire graduates of two-year programs in mechanical engineering technology. In some jobs in this field, such as tool design, there are formal apprenticeship programs that combine classroom instruction with on-the-job training. Apprenticeship programs generally take from two to four years to complete. Nearly all workers in the field of mechanical engineering technology need some on-the-job training to prepare them to meet the specific needs of their employers.
Technicians in this field should be able to get along well with others since they often work as part of a mechanical engineering team. They must be able to work with drawings and follow directions exactly. An interest in machines and in solving mechanical problems is an asset in this field.
Nature of the Work
Mechanical engineering technicians assist mechanical engineers, and sometimes scientists, in all phases of the design, development, production, testing, operation, and maintenance of mechanical equipment, tools, and industrial machinery. Mechanical engineering technology is a broad field. Technicians work on products that range from automobile engines, air conditioners, and power saws, to nuclear reactors, elevators, and printing presses. They also work on the machines and tools needed to make such products. Sometimes they are concerned with tiny parts for delicate instruments. At other times they deal with huge gears for machines such as bulldozers.
Mechanical engineering technicians have a wide variety of titles. Sometimes they are just called mechanical technicians. If they specialize, they may be called automotive technicians or diesel technicians, depending on their field. Others are known as tool designers, mechanical drafters, or production technicians, depending on the job they do within their field. Mechanical engineering technicians work in plants and factories in all sections of the country. Most work for private companies that make tools and machinery. Others work for government agencies or consulting firms.
Many mechanical engineering technicians work in design and development. They usually work closely with the mechanical engineers who create or improve products ranging from mechanical pencils to complex spaceships. Many of these technicians spend much of their time at drawing boards. They prepare drawings, or layouts, of the product being developed—for example, an engine for an automobile. They have to make detailed drawings of each screw, nut, bolt, and gear to be used in the engine. They estimate how much it will cost to make the engine and how well it will work. They take into account the friction, stress, strain, and vibration that the various parts of the engine will have to endure. Mechanical engineering technicians often use complex instruments, testing equipment, and gauges in their work. They test models of the engine, write up reports, and suggest better ways to make the engine.
Other mechanical engineering technicians work in production. They help to make layouts of each step to be taken and each part to be made in the production of, for example, the automobile engine. Specialists in tool design make drawings of the tools, jigs, dies, and other devices needed to mass-produce each part for the engine. They often improve the design of existing tools. Other mechanical engineering technicians make estimates of the cost of labor and the best use of plant space. They help with any production problems that may arise. Sometimes they test machinery or the parts being made for the engine. They do studies of the manufacturing process to find out whether it could be done in a better or cheaper way. Many technicians supervise other workers.
Mechanical engineering technicians are also involved in the installation, operation, and maintenance of machinery used to manufacture other products. Some technicians work in technical sales. Others are employed as technical writers.
Because they are involved in all phases of manufacturing and design, mechanical engineering technicians work under a variety of conditions. Some spend most of their time in an office at a drawing board. Others do much of their work in a foundry, die-casting room, machine shop, or other manufacturing area. Although these technicians sometimes work near powerful, fast-moving machinery, they are seldom in danger. The safety record of manufacturing plants is good.
Mechanical engineering technicians who specialize in design usually work 35-40 hours a week on day shifts. Technicians who specialize in production sometimes work night shifts. In some cases overtime work is required. Some mechanical engineering technicians belong to unions.
On the Job
- Prepare parts sketches and write work orders and purchase requests to be furnished by outside contractors.
- Draft detail drawing or sketch for drafting room completion or to request parts fabrication by machine, sheet or wood shops.
- Review project instructions and blueprints to ascertain test specifications, procedures, and objectives, and test nature of technical problems such as redesign.
- Review project instructions and specifications to identify, modify and plan requirements fabrication, assembly and testing.
- Devise, fabricate, and assemble new or modified mechanical components for products such as industrial machinery or equipment, and measuring instruments.
- Discuss changes in design, method of manufacture and assembly, and drafting techniques and procedures with staff and coordinate corrections.
- Set up and conduct tests of complete units and components under operational conditions to investigate proposals for improving equipment performance.
- Inspect lines and figures for clarity and return erroneous drawings to designer for correction.
- Analyze test results in relation to design or rated specifications and test objectives, and modify or adjust equipment to meet specifications.
- Evaluate tool drawing designs by measuring drawing dimensions and comparing with original specifications for form and function using engineering skills.
- Confer with technicians and submit reports of test results to engineering department and recommend design or material changes.
- Calculate required capacities for equipment of proposed system to obtain specified performance and submit data to engineering personnel for approval.
- Record test procedures and results, numerical and graphical data, and recommendations for changes in product or test methods.
- Read dials and meters to determine amperage, voltage, electrical output and input at specific operating temperature to analyze parts performance.
- Estimate cost factors including labor and material for purchased and fabricated parts and costs for assembly, testing, or installing.
- Set up prototype and test apparatus and operate test controlling equipment to observe and record prototype test results.
- Operate drill press, grinders, engine lathe, or other machines to modify parts tested or to fabricate experimental parts for testing.
- Test equipment, using test devices attached to generator, voltage regulator, or other electrical parts, such as generators or spark plugs.
Companies That Hire Mechanical Engineering Technicians
Explore what you might do on the job with one of these projects...
- A Ground-Breaking Revelation: Testing Longitudinal Waves in Different Soil Types
- Applying Hooke's Law: Make Your Own Spring Scale
- Balancing the Load: The See-Saw as a Simple Machine
- Build a Water Clock to Show the Drip, Drip, Drip of Time
- Build Your Own Helio Tracker—a Self-powered Mechanical Sunflower that Turns with the Sun
- Building a Model Hydraulic Knuckle Crane
- Centripetal Force
- Circus-Trick Science: How to Balance Anything
- Climb Every Mountain with Your Own LEGO® Cable Car
- Domino Theory
- Effect of Friction on Objects in Motion
- Effect of Temperature on Elasticity of Rubber Bands
- Effect of Trebuchet Arm Length or Counterweight Mass on Projectile Distance
- Feeding Fido & Fluffy: Designing an Automatic Pet Feeder
- Fractography: The Way Things Break
- Give It a Lift with a Lever
- Give Yourself a Lift: Lightening the Load with Pulleys
- How Things Break
- Is There a Whole Lot of Shaking Going On? Make Your Own Seismograph and Find Out!
Do you have a specific question about a career as a Mechanical Engineering Technician that isn't answered on this page? Post your question on the Science Buddies Ask an Expert Forum.
- American Society for Engineering Education: www.asee.org
- American Society of Mechanical Engineers: www.asme.org
- O*Net Online. (2009). National Center for O*Net Development. Retrieved May 1, 2009, from http://online.onetcenter.org/
- Net Industries. (2009). Mechanical Engineering Technician Job Description, Career as a Mechanical Engineering Technician, Salary, Employment - Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job. Retrieved December 9, 2009, from http://careers.stateuniversity.com/pages/366/Mechanical-Engineering-Technician.html
- ScienceBuddiesTV. (2010, February 2). Mechanical Engineering Technicians. Retrieved February 4, 2010, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m-0OwAxMmmQ
- Texas State Technical College. (2007, December 12). Mechanical Engineering Technology. Retrieved February 4, 2010, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqmQcG_QxxM
- Just the Job. (2012, September 12). Mechanical Engineering Technician. Retrieved March 19, 2014, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rt-HAx0qxaQ
We'd like to acknowledge the additional support of:
- Northrop Grumman