University subject guide: mechanical engineering

What you’ll learn
If you’re interested in vehicle design, robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology or sustainable energy, this could be the degree for you.

Mechanical engineering degrees provide an understanding of core concepts, such as thermodynamics, materials science and structural analysis, using tools such as computer-aided engineering to analyse problems and find practical solutions.

Students will study all, or part, of the life cycle of products, from conception to design to manufacture. Science and maths are core ingredients, but you’ll need to be innovative and know how to use your creative flair within a legal and ethical framework, and learn the importance of managing budgets. As the course progresses you may get a chance to specialise in whatever field most appeals to you, whether that’s electric vehicle technology or gas turbine engineering.

How you’ll learn
Mechanical engineering degrees are likely to be highly practical, and you’ll learn through a combination of lectures, tutorials and workshops, as well as practical sessions in specialist labs or through projects or group work. Most courses have strong links with industry, and many encourage students to complete a year in industry during their degree, working, for example, for Jaguar, Tata Steel or GlaxoSmithKline.

It might be worth checking if your course is accredited by the Institution of Engineering and Technology, which should improve your graduate employability. Some courses offer an integrated master’s.

Entry requirements
These vary, but it’s worth remembering that mechanical engineering is considered one of the most challenging courses. The most selective universities will require maths and often physics. Further maths, chemistry, design and technology, electronics, ICT and computing or computer science could also prove useful.

What job can you get?
The specialist skills you acquire, plus a host of transferable ones, means you shouldn’t have too much of a problem finding work in engineering or beyond. Mechanical engineers are required across most sectors of the workforce, and especially in future-proof industries such as automation, renewable energy and artificial intelligence.

Mechanical engineers are vital to the car industry, the oil and gas and renewable-energies industries, IT and finance, music technology and medical engineering. You should be able to shape a career to suit your interests.

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