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The Reasons Why I Chose Mechanical Engineering as My Career Field

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Ever since I was little, I was always fidgeting around with something. I played with Lego’s, and my favorite, Bionicles. When I went into the eighth grade, I knew I wanted to be a mechanical engineer. I want to be a mechanical engineer because I enjoy math, I like putting objects together, and I like problem solving. For example, when putting something together, I try not to look at the directions, and most of the time, I can figure it out without help. To make sure this job is indeed the one for me, I will first conduct library research. Then, I will interview Joel Suffridge. Finally, I will spend a day shadowing Patrick Shanley. After conducting this extensive research, I hope to determine if this is the occupation I will pursue in the future.

Section I: Library Research

Engineering is a very broad term these days: there are many engineering occupations but each occupation has different duties. Mechanical engineers have one of the broadest duties out of all engineering fields. Planning and designing tools, engines, machines are just a few duties mechanical engineers have (Farr 147). They not only design, but they build and test the tools, engines, machines (U.S. Dept. of Labor 88). They are also responsible for managing & supervising.. They have to oversee installation, operation, maintenance, and repair of such equipment as centralized heat, gas, water, and steam systems (Farr 147). Many of these duties have been modified over the years. As new technology comes out, the duties will either increase or decrease the amount of work but most of these duties that come out will affect oneself in a positive way. The mechanical engineers not only have to design and build new technology, they also might have to train and teach new engineers. Even though mechanical engineering is mostly designing, it is much more involved than that.

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Being an engineer is not an easy occupation because here are many abilities and qualities needed to be a mechanical engineer. They not only need the most important ability, problem solving, but they need basic abilities too. Most of the abilities are not physical, but rather cognitive. All of the cognitive abilities include mathematical reasoning, originality, and visualization (Farr 147). They also need to be very creative because of the type of work they must do in order to come up with new products (U.S. Dept. of Labor 89). They not only give out directions but they also have to take directions from another engineer or boss. Engineers must also have good listening skills to make sure they are doing their jobs correctly, so they do not have to do them over (U.S. Dept. of Labor 89). Most of all, the mechanical engineer needs a background in mechanical skills (U.S. Dept. of Labor 89). Mechanical engineers not only need mechanical skills, they need many others in order to be successful with the occupation.

When finding an occupation, a big factor in one’s choice is the working hours. All of the engineering occupations vary in hours of work in a week. Mechanical engineers, on average, work usually 40 hours a week (University Wisconsin-Madison). They mainly work full-time with some overtime. The hours vary depending upon how experienced one is at the engineering job. For example, one might just be starting off at a job and they might have to do the organizing of paper or maybe they have to come in earlier to get everything ready for the other engineers. Sometimes, it may be the other way around, and that is the experienced engineer may have to travel or stay later just to finish a project they have started. So, basically it varies and some engineers work up to 60 hours a week (U.S. Dept. of Labor 88). Even though the hours of a mechanical engineer is average, there is a lot of thinking outside of the workplace that is needed in order to get the required work done.

There are many conditions while working in an occupation. Most engineers are the thinkers of the firm or the workplace. They think of the different possibilities for the product or the design, etc. Most mechanical engineers work is done inside and sitting down (Farr 147). They work under many companies and industries but mechanical engineers mostly work in engineering services, research and development, manufacturing industries, and the federal government (U.S. Dept. of Labor 88). The working conditions are very simple and most importantly, must be safe. The main concern one would have against such conditions is, one would not like sitting for long periods of time, and one might like walking around. Even though the conditions of working as a mechanical engineer is not exciting, at least the conditions are safe.

Mechanical engineers get paid based on the level of experience. On average a new mechanical engineer will make about $58,000 (Lamar). In 2011 the median pay of all mechanical engineers nation wide made about $79,230 per year (U.S. Dept. of Labor 88). The salary of a mechanical engineer will increase to about $80,000 in 5 years (Lamar). Nation wide the average range of salaries is $52,030 to $121,530 (University Wisconsin-Madison). In just Wisconsin the average salary for a mechanical engineer ranges from $47,460 to $94,770 (University Wisconsin-Madison). The lowest 10% in the nation earned less than $51,340 and the top 10% earned more than $119,950 (U.S. Dept. of Labor 89). When thinking of salary, mechanical engineers make more money than many occupations and one does not need to go to school for no more than 10 years.

There are certain disadvantages that mechanical engineers face in the occupation. If one is not that good at multi-tasking, than one will struggle with the role of the mechanical engineer. The mechanical engineer is involved with many projects at once (Mechanical Engineering). At the mechanical engineering role, one must learn how to juggle many projects at once in order to get them done on time and meet the deadline. Many mechanical engineers have longer hours than other engineering occupations do. Mechanical engineers dislike the long hours (Mechanical Engineering). Mechanical engineering jobs are very broad but there are not many areas that are highly concentrated of just mechanical engineering. Mechanical engineers dislike relocating and traveling to find the best jobs (University Wisconsin-Madison). Even though disadvantages are opinion, these apply because of what is hard and not easy to do.

There are many advantages in becoming a mechanical engineer. Mechanical engineering is very broad and the market is very good for any engineering occupation. There is a wide range of job opportunities (Mechanical Engineering). They also like the various job settings and advancement opportunities available to them (University Wisconsin-Madison). One of the main reasons people pick to be an engineer is because they just like helping others out. They like to help people out with problems they might have (Mechanical Engineering). Engineers are highly respected within the work force of any occupation (Mechanical Engineering). A very important advantage to mechanical engineering is obviously the salaries (Mechanical Engineering). Most of all, mechanical engineers enjoy the challenge of solving complicated design and production problems (University Wisconsin-Madison). There are many advantages in being a mechanical engineer because of the simplicity of work that is required.

Mechanical engineers need to have schooling in order to become one. Many people worry about how long they have to go to school for. The reason for that is because they want to save money and mainly save the time so they can jump right into the occupation. Entry level jobs require a bachelor’s degree (U.S. Dept. of Labor 89). Many of the programs at the Universities take 4 to 5 years to earn their degree (U.S. Dept. of Labor 89). If one wants to work as a mechanical engineer, one must have a license to go along with a degree. All 50 states require licensing for all engineers who offer their services to the public (U.S. Dept. of Labor 89). Having to go to school for only 4 years minimum is very beneficial in saving money and saving time to start making money.

Being part of a professional organization within ones occupation is important in a sense of being involved with the community of the particular occupation. Engineers in general have many professional organizations, but the main one is NSPE, National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE Mission, Vision, History). NSPE have many values and goals when joining the organization. A union representing engineers is NASA (NASA Headquarters Professional Association NHPA Union). NASA helps out engineers in many ways, they not only help but they provide also. Talking about organizations is very important because you want to be involved with the community and one can fight for what one believes in.

When looking for an occupation, a very important aspect is how does the job look in 10 to 15 years after one is out of college. The mechanical engineering occupation is growing. Not only is it growing, but growing fast. It is expected to grow 9% from 2010 to 2020 (U.S. Dept. of Labor 90). Mechanical engineering has been growing 11.1% since 2011 (Farr 147). Every year there are 11,000 job openings (Farr 147). In Wisconsin job seekers will face keen competition for position openings (University Wisconsin-Madison). Nationally, job openings will face competition for position openings (University Wisconsin-Madison). Having a positive future outlook is very exciting to see because if one follows through, the odds are good that one will get a job.

Section II: Interview

I interviewed Joel Suffridge from Helmerich & Payne International Drilling Company. He is a technical department supervisor. The interview took place over email. He was in mechanical engineering for 5 years and then switched to technical department manager. The main purpose for the conduction of this interview is confirming my research in section one that was conducted.

Being a mechanical engineer is an important occupation because mechanical engineers designed many of todays inventions and are key to everyday life. Mechanical engineers get to design and help build the invention they have designed. Mechanical engineers oversee the planning and technical project management of the current projects. One of these facts confirm the information that was researched in section one. The other fact is more involved with engineer managers. Mechanical engineers have many tasks and must know how to multi task and juggle tasks in order to be successful.

All of the different occupations in the world take on different personality traits and skills. In order to be a mechanical engineer one must have very important qualities. One must know how to correctly annotate and read drawings that are given to one to analyze. One also must be decisive and be good at making quick good decisions in times of taking charge. This information does not confirm the research conducted in section one. Therefore one learned two new skills one must conquer in order to be successful in mechanical engineering. Being a mechanical engineer takes tedious traits and skills.

Working hours within an occupation are very different but with mechanical engineers they depend on which company they work for and experience. Mechanical engineers sometimes work 50 hours or more per week but most work 40 hours per week. Some times overtime is involved because one might have to stay to work on a project. These facts are confirmed by the Wiscareers with 40 hours per week. Even though 40 hours per week is normal, mechanical engineers have a lot of work outside of the workplace because of all of the projects one might be involved in. Being a mechanical engineer, the hours they work can add up to over 40 hours and that consists of overtime, work outside of the workplace, etc.

The working conditions for any occupation can be good or bad depending on who one works for and how much work experience one might have at that particular company. Although most mechanical engineers work inside, some of the engineers might have to go to sites for some fixing or some problem solving. When working inside one might be in a office or one might be in a cubicle. One also might be in the shop for some days for supervising the building of a design. The information provided is confirmed by Wiscareers. Mechanical engineers either work in a safe environment or they might be in the field of work which is in the shop or on a work site of some sort.

Salaries depend on the experience level and degree level of the worker. As of right now they are giving out raises but most of the raises are given to the ones who have been working there the longest. The average median salary was $50,000 per year to $90,000 per year. One of these facts are confirmed through Wiscareers. Mechanical engineers salaries vary by experience and skill of the job.

Depending on where a mechanical engineer works, they can have a few disadvantages within the occupation. The pace of work is very vigorous and one can get very overwhelmed very quickly. In this form of work there are many changes going on with either the company or the work one has created. For example: One might have a brilliant idea but in order for it to work one might have to change the design to get it just right. Most of the designs are trial and error, which in that method of work a lot of changes go on. None of this information is confirmed by any of the resources. Disadvantages are based off an individual because it is all opinion and each person is different with different tastes to go along with it.

Even though there are not many disadvantages, the advantages that come with being a mechanical engineer are not very appealing either. The salary is very good and when just coming into the occupation you make very good money. Along with the good salary one gets a life insurance plan with the job. The 401K is very good. One might also like the clothing allowance that comes with the occupation at a certain company. Some of this information is confirmed in section one by Wiscareers. Overall, there are many advantages one can get when being a mechanical engineer, but it is all based on what company one gets with.

The education route that one must take to become a mechanical engineer is very vigorous and tedious work. One must have at least a bachelor’s degree to become a mechanical engineer. Even though a bachelors degree is the lowest of all of degrees 90% of all engineers now have only a bachelors. A license is also required if one is working independently. This information is confirmed by Wiscareers and the U.S. Dept. of Labor. In the long run, mechanical engineers have to work hard and put in long hours in order to be successful but all of it will pay off.

There are many engineering professional organizations but there are certain ones that are the biggest contributor to the community of the engineers. He is not part of any organization and he said that “He would never be in a union”. This does not confirm any of the research conducted but it is very beneficial information for one in order to decide what one would want to do within the engineering community. In one of the biggest engineering organizations there are only 35,000 people in it (NSPE Mission, Vision, History). Not many engineers are part of any professional organization or union.

The future outlook of engineers in general is very hot and rising up every year. Over the years engineering has not been recognized as much as it should have been, but most importantly it is now making its appearance in the crowd. More and more products are getting outdated so engineers will have to redesign them and make the product more futuristic. This information does not confirm the research in section one. Overall engineering is a rapidly growing occupation for many reasons but one of the most important is because the USA is behind in their technology compared to other countries.

Section III: Shadow

On December 16th 2013, I shadowed Patrick Shanley that is employed at Smart Engineering. It is a small engineering firm and is still under the radar from the public. Mr. Shanley has been in the field of mechanical engineering for 10 years now. This job that he has acquired is brand new to him and trying to make this company into a firm of choice of product companies. I got at Smart Engineering at 8:30am and shadowed Mr. Shanley until 2:30pm. The main purpose of shadowing a mechanical engineer is to confirm the information in section I and II and also getting to experience a day of a mechanical engineer.

There are many different definitions of a mechanical engineer. They are very busy throughout the day. By the vast array of tasks, that are: designing, constructing, meeting, and showing. Mechanical engineers must perform such tasks if they want to be successful the product that they have designed, they have to go through the tasks that are listed above. Mr. Shanley has showed that the process of designing a product is not easy and it takes time. He showed me all of his work he has done in the past but unfortunately none has made the market as a big item. That information is confirmed in section I and II by Farr. Mr. Shanley also explained to me that they sometimes need to go to the shop and help build the designed product. This confirms the information researched in section I by U.S. Dept. of Labor. Mechanical engineering is a very important job for creating future technology to make life easier.

Being a mechanical engineer brings certain traits to the table that one must have. First, mechanical engineers must have patience and also the open mind needed for the brainstorming part of designing a product. This confirms the information found in section I and II. Mechanical engineers also need to master the art of problem solving. When observing Mr. Shanley through out the design process he has to problem solve and is always open minded to take any suggestions of how to solve the problem. These traits are very important in mechanical engineering because of the design process calls for them. Also mechanical engineers get to move around most of the day but must be able to sit for long periods of time. During my shadow with Mr. Shanley, I observed that he was sitting for most of the time. The reason for that was because they were going through the brainstorming part of the design process. I was very fortunate to shadow him that day because the brainstorming part is the most crucial. During the day Mr. Shanley was getting projects thrown at him and meetings he had to attend. So, another very important trait one must have is be able to multitask. This information is confirmed in section I. There are certain traits for becoming a mechanical engineer in order for one to become a mechanical engineer.

Not only are traits important, but the hours of work one does is also very important. When I asked Mr. Shanley how many hours he works, he told me that most of the weeks he works over 50 hours at his new job. This information is confirmed in section I and II. However, on the weeks of designing and constructing he said he works even longer hours just to reach the goal of finishing it on time. Mr. Shanley arrives at work at the same time every day around 8:00am. He works between 5pm-6:30pm. But it mainly depends on the type of project and deadline for the project. Mr. Shanley is always bringing home work, asking his family for suggestions also. Even though all occupations hours vary the average amount of working hours for a mechanical engineer is about 50 hours.

The work environment varies on the different kind of mechanical engineer you would become. Mr. Shanley, who works for Smart Engineering, has very safe working conditions. The amount of working is very small, but even if there was a lot, each employee would have their own desk. He is mainly inside and sitting down most of the day. This confirms the information found in section I according to Farr. At Smart Engineering, Mr. Shanley has the luxury of heat and air conditioning. This information is not noted in the research I conducted. He also has the technology that every engineer should have. He has the vast array of electronic drawing computers and also a prototype shop. Although, the working conditions of a mechanical engineer is not exciting at least the safety aspect is evident.

In my opinion there are not many disadvantages of a mechanical engineering. First, engineers must work on the task at hand. Engineers cannot jump around from project to project. The hours that mechanical engineers work are very long compared to other engineering occupations. This confirms the research that was conducted in section I according to Mechanical Engineering. Lastly, the biggest disadvantage that Mr. Shanley said was relocating and traveling. This confirms the information researched in section I and II. Personally, I like traveling and I want to travel when on my job. But thinking from the other perspective of having a family I understand why engineers do not like relocating and traveling. Even though disadvantages are opinion, these apply to the tasks that are hard to do.

The advantages of being a mechanical engineer makes up for the disadvantages by a long shot. First, mechanical engineers get to design and develop a new product that could possibly change everyday life. In my opinion, this is an advantage because I like doing these tasks an I want to make a difference in people’s lives. When I asked Mr. Shanley why he likes his occupation, he answered, since engineering in general is a broad term you can get a job anytime. This information confirms my research done in section I. The education you need to become a mechanical engineer does not take long. This is an advantage because for the money that a mechanical engineer makes, they only need there bachelors degree. Lastly, Mr. Shanley said that the biggest advantage by far is having a high salary. This confirms the information in the research that I have done in section I. The advantages are a big factor in choosing what I want to be when I grow up.

Conclusion

After researching my occupation I would like to pursue the field. Becoming a mechanical engineer is my life long dream. I knew I had the traits of becoming one but I just could not figure out if it was the right cut of work for me. I learned many facts over the time I have been researching. I have learned that mechanical engineers not only design, but they build and test the tools, engines, machines (U.S. Dept. of Labor 88). I also learned they are also part of the managing and supervising side of the field. These two facts lead me to the choice I have made because of the description of work that was provided will fit me well. Having certain qualities for jobs are very important. The two most important qualities a mechanical engineer needs are problem solving and visualization, which I have learned through the high school courses I have taken. These qualities made me want to become a mechanical engineer because I have both of the traits and those suit me the best. I knew coming into the project that when looking at mechanical engineers working hours were going to be about average which is 40 hours. So, there is not much there that I have truly learned from my research, but the 40 hour week is most beneficial because if in the future I decide to have a family I will have time for them. Working conditions for a job is very important because of how one will be working everyday. I have learned from my research that the working conditions of a mechanical engineer are safe. According to Farr mechanical engineers work inside in a desk. Sometimes the mechanical engineers will have to go out to a work site where one of their products are and will have to travel. This made me say yes because I like traveling and I like being inside where it is safe than the outside, but if I would have a family than the traveling will be hard to do. Money is a very important and delicate subject these days. According to the University Wisconsin-Madison a mechanical engineer will make on a national average $52,030 to $121,530 a year and on average starting off as a mechanical engineer you will make $58,000 a year. This made me decide what I wanted to be because starting off is not too bad. So, being a rookie or an experienced mechanical engineer will pay off. Going to school for a mechanical engineer is not that bad either because most programs at university’s across the nation is a five year program to get a bachelors degree. Not only the program is not that long but it is short for what ones income will be coming out of college. This helped with my decision because of the money involved when entering the field of study. Another reason that I have decided to pick mechanical engineering is because of the organizations. Well, there is one big organization and that is NSPE, but they support all engineering occupations. This was beneficial information because of the fact that it will bring one closer to the engineers all over the nation and possibly globally. Engineering in general is a growing field. There are infinite amounts of ideas that one could come up with. The mechanical engineering field is supposed to grow 9% from 2010 to 2020. The field is growing and will keep growing, every year there are 11,000 job openings just in Wisconsin. This factual information took my decision to pursue because of the growing of the field even when I graduate college. Overall, this project had helped me pick what I want to do the rest of my life and that is mechanical engineering because of the research and hands on experiences I was able to take advantage of. If it were not for this project I would still be questionable about my field of study I would want to pursue.

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