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Published: 13 August 2015

Is mechanical engineering the right degree for you?

Discover how mechanical engineers are changing the world and how studying mechanical engineering at university could open doors to a range of exciting careers.

Stonehenge, the Pyramids of Giza and the Eiffel Tower are incredible historical monuments and behind every one of them is an engineer. But there is more to the field than simply building the iconic landmarks of the future. Mechanical engineers are game changing pioneers helping to not only design faster, more efficient ways of navigating the modern world, but also reaching for the stars – quite literally – by helping scientists launch missions in space and unlock the secrets of our solar system.

What is mechanical engineering?

Scientists and inventors often get the credit for innovations that advance the human condition, but it is engineers who are instrumental in making those innovations available to the world. That’s because engineering is about taking scientific discovery and applying it to solve real-world problems. With the same focus, mechanical engineering is concerned with things that move, whether that’s a machine, vehicle or even a prosthetic limb.

Studying mechanical engineering at university

A passion for problem-solving and a desire to improve the world around you are essential attributes for engineering students. You don’t have to be a mathematical genius but you do have to be confident with numbers, as well as have a desire to measure and quantify things. But while universities are looking for people with a scientific mind, the ability to think outside the box is also key to achieving the engineer’s goal of making the world a better place.

If you thought that engineering was a solitary field though, think again. “A lot of people think engineers work on their own but very rarely do they do that,” explains Professor Julie Yeomans, Head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering Sciences at the University of Surrey.

Nor is engineering only for men, despite statistics showing the industry is still frustratingly male dominated. Professor Yeomans claims the myth that the subject requires long hours on your own often puts many women off. The truth, however, is that it requires teamwork and gender has nothing to do with success in the field. She adds: “There is a lot of human interaction in engineering and so having good communication skills is important. It’s not the stereotype of a bright boffin working on their own.”

Mechanical engineering jobs

With the UK crying out for talented engineers, employability after graduation is high. There has never been a better time to study the subject. Surrey graduates have gone on to work in a range of diverse companies, from design and project management roles to working on specialist equipment in the automotive industry. Formula One, for example, is a popular area of employment.

One of Surrey’s most famous recent graduates is Abbie Hutty who was named Young Engineer of the Year in 2013. After graduating in mechanical engineering, Abbie was accepted on Airbus Defence and Space’s graduate scheme. While there, she was lucky enough to work on the ExoMars Rover - Europe’s first Rover mission to Mars.

Importantly, a career in engineering has the potential to make a real impact in the world and, hopefully, benefit mankind. Watching her students go on to make a difference in specialist fields from renewable energy to robotics means Professor Yeomans is convinced that engineers can and do make the world a better place.

Learn more about studying mechanical engineering at Surrey and explore our mechanical engineering courses.