Important Job Skills for Mechanical Engineers

Engineers inspecting complex metal component in factory
••• Monty Rakusen / Getty Images

career in mechanical engineering is both highly lucrative and intrinsically rewarding. Engineers must have a solid educational background and training. Therefore, a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering (or mechanical engineering technology) is essential. Many mechanical engineers also have a master’s degree or Ph.D. in mechanical engineering. Certain jobs in mechanical engineering also require a license.

What Skills Does a Mechanical Engineer Need?

Mechanical engineers design, build, and test mechanical devices such as tools, engines, and machines. Considered the broadest engineering discipline, mechanical engineers work in engineering services, research facilities, manufacturing industries, and the federal government.

A mechanical engineer should have particular hard skills, including a solid understanding of industry standards and excellent computer skills, because much time is spent designing, simulating, and testing. In addition, mechanical engineers should have soft skills, such as strong analytical thinking and communication capabilities. 

Types of Mechanical Engineering Skills

Problem Solving

A big part of a mechanical engineer’s job involves solving problems using mechanical or thermal devices.

Mechanical engineers need to be strong analytical thinkers who are capable of solving problems raised by clients or their employer.

  • Analytical thinking
  • Analyze test results and adjust design if needed
  • Develop and test prototypes
  • Design mechanical device projects
  • Detail-oriented
  • Develop design calculations
  • Ensure designs meet legal guidelines and safety requirements
  • Identify potential design improvements
  • Knowledgeable in the machining and fabrication process
  • Perform equipment and system calculations
  • Product validation experience
  • Provide cost estimates for materials, equipment, and/or labor
  • Research materials for future design opportunities and usage
  • Sound knowledge of engineering fundamentals
  • Test building materials
  • Troubleshoot equipment to solve problems
  • Work to improve and maintain existing products

Creativity

Mechanical engineering entails developing and designing products, which range from batteries to electric generators to medical devices. Inventing products involves a great deal of creativity, as does figuring out how to bring projects home within challenging timeframes.

  • Work in 3D design (computer-aided design, or “CAD”)
  • Devise alternative mechanical structures 
  • Develop new tools and systems to enhance production
  • Complete assigned tasks within time and budget restraints
  • Convert basic design information and requirements into working drawings
  • Create blueprints using CAD (computer-aided design)
  • Develop a scope and timeline for each project
  • Draft standards and geometric, dimension, & tolerancing (GD&T) specifications
  • Prepare designs and estimates

Communication and Leadership

Often, mechanical engineers develop a product for a client. They may have to explain complex machines or devices to people who are not familiar with mechanical engineering. They have to be able to convey their ideas clearly and effectively, and this takes strong communication skills. They also frequently leverage their communication talents to take the lead on mechanical design and manufacturing projects.

  • Clearly explain design ideas
  • Comfortable writing technical reports
  • Make regular site visits
  • Manage and monitor each stage of a project
  • Oversee the project manufacturing process
  • Prepare conclusions and analysis reports
  • Read and interpret drawings and specifications
  • Recommend modifications for design improvements and simplification
  • Effectively present proposals, status reports, and final project reports to groups
  • Use notes, sketches, and verbal instructions to complete project designs
  • Write and maintain operating procedures and standards

Teamwork

Mechanical engineering involves a lot of teamwork.

Engineers often work in groups to invent technologies and solve problems.

They might work with people who are not mechanical engineers, such as computer scientists or architects. As such, they need to be able to work with a diverse team of people to solve problems. Many engineers will need the leadership skills necessary to manage or lead groups.

  • Assemble project deliverables
  • Assist with field and manufacturing problems
  • Assist with shipping of equipment prior to deployment
  • Proactive and willing to take on new challenges
  • Work effectively under pressure
  • Mentor junior staff
  • Resolve conflicts amongst team members
  • Motivate team members

Math and Computer Skills

Mechanical engineers need to be comfortable using math to solve problems. The math skills required in mechanical engineering include calculus and statistics. They must be adept at applying these skills to analyze problems and design solutions.

  • AutoCAD
  • Automated model programming
  • CAD (computer-aided design)
  • Engineering product data management software (EPDM)
  • Microsoft office suite experience
  • Pro-E CREO CAD software
  • Understand diagrams, drafts, flowcharts, and other information and documentation
  • Use software to design at the level of industry and government standards
  • Geometry
  • Trigonometry
  • Calculus
  • Statistics

More Mechanical Engineering Skills

  • Compliance
  • Inductive reasoning
  • Deductive reasoning
  • Design
  • Environmental awareness
  • Written communication
  • Verbal communication
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Independent thinking
  • Investigation
  • Commitment to ongoing improvement
  • Organizational approach
  • Project management
  • Strategic planning
  • Statistics
  • Data analysis
  • Structural analysis
  • Causal relationships
  • Collaboration
  • Diagnostic approach
  • Evaluation skills
  • Integration
  • Sound judgment
  • Optimization

Mechanical Engineer Resume Example

Review a resume sample for a mechanical engineer with tips and advice for what to include.

How to Make Your Skills Stand Out

ADD YOUR MOST RELEVANT SKILLS TO YOUR RESUME: Employers now frequently employ automated applicant tracking systems as the first stage in their candidate search process. These systems are programmed to search for industry-specific keyword phrases. If your resume doesn’t include these keywords, it may be immediately discounted.

HIGHLIGHT YOUR SKILLS IN YOUR COVER LETTER: Be sure to include industry-specific keywords in the body of your cover letter, accompanied by specific examples of times when you demonstrated these skills in the workplace.

USE SKILL WORDS DURING JOB INTERVIEWS: You can use these skill words in an interview. Make sure you have ready at least one example of a time you demonstrated each of the top skill sets listed in this article in class projects, internships, or work projects.

Article Sources

  1. Occupational Outlook Handbook. "How to Become a Mechanical Engineer." Accessed Feb. 5, 2020.

  2. Occupational Outlook Handbook. "What Mechanical Engineers Do." Accessed Feb. 5, 2020.

  3. O*NET. "Summary Report for Mechanical Engineers." Accessed Feb. 5, 2020.