What to Expect
Students in mechanical engineering are learning to design the machines
of the future. From air conditioning systems to robots, these students need
to know how things go together.
Mechanical engineering students learn skills in almost every engineering
discipline. Expect a range of courses covering electrical, materials science,
chemistry, computers, civil engineering and almost everything in between.
"It is perfect for someone like me who has a wide range of interests, because
you can get into such a variety of fields when you graduate," says Kara Shell.
She is a mechanical engineering student at Ohio State University. She's thinking
about applying her degree in the growing industry of renewable energy.
"I am currently doing an interdisciplinary project with architecture students
to design a sustainable house, so I've gotten to learn about the emerging
technologies that are available. I really like the idea that I can use my
degree to help the environment and help people lower their energy consumption,"
Ben Allison wants to develop robots. He's a mechanical engineering student."Robotics
also allows me to work on different topics outside of my engineering focus
of mechanical engineering, like electrical and computer programming."
Heather Scott finished her bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering and
found a job in the biomedical field. Now she has returned to university part-time
to get her master's in mechanical engineering. It's been a long, tough road
She began her undergraduate degree in computer engineering, but dropped
out in the second year because she was failing. That was a big shock to her,
since she had always been an A-plus student in high school.
"You need to be interested in what you're studying," says Scott. She went
back to school and got some help. She transferred into the aerospace program
and her marks shot up.
"There are many concerns for students adjusting to university life. You
need to talk about it," says Scott, adding that many students don't ask for
help. In a demanding program like engineering, students can fall behind
Studying engineering requires hard work for four years. Lectures, tutorials
and labs take about 30 hours per week. Students spend a lot of time doing
"I usually spend about four to five hours on a normal weekday but some
weekends when my work pile is really big, then I will spend most of the day
-- 10 or more hours -- digging my way out," says Allison.
How to Prepare
Scott advises young women interested in engineering to ignore the stereotypes. "There's
a lot of media portrayal that you have to be geeky or nerdy to be an engineer.
You don't have to look ugly to be an engineer!"
She says that another myth is that you have to be a genius. "It's just
a keen interest and willingness to do your homework -- those who work hard
will succeed," she says.
Shell is one of three to five girls in her 75-student lectures. "Being
a girl is actually a benefit when it comes to finding an internship or career
job offer. Most companies are looking to add diversity, and being a girl in
[mechanical engineering] certainly counts," she says.
Math, chemistry and physics will be important subjects in high school.
English and typing classes will help you with your lab reports. Public speaking
can boost your confidence.
Team sports will teach you how to work with other people. This is an important
skill because there is a lot of group work in engineering.
"Among my friends, we refer to engineering as a team event. In addition
to the group projects, we help each other when someone doesn't understand
a topic and we typically spend some time studying as a group," says Allison.