An affinity for understanding spatial relationships and performing hands-on work using tools are the kinds of qualities and skills demonstrated by successful mechanical design technology students. Studying this field at the associate's degree level can prepare students to work as mechanical designers and drafters, as well as engineering technicians, but not engineers. At the bachelor's degree level, students can enroll in programs in engineering, engineering technology or industrial technology management, which will all prepare them for different careers. At the master's degree level, engineering programs are available with a concentration option in mechanical design; to enroll in such a program, a student must typically hold a bachelor's degree in engineering.
- Program Levels in Mechanical Design Technology: Associate's, bachelor's and master's degrees.
- Prerequisites: Associate's and bachelor's degrees both require a GED or high school diploma; master's degree programs require a bachelor's degree in engineering or a related field and submission of GRE scores.
- Program Length: Master's programs last two years.
- Other Requirements: Master's programs usually require a thesis or a practicum.
Associate of Applied Science Degree in Mechanical Design Technology
Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Mechanical Design Technology programs teach students to design products using relevant engineering concepts and computer-aided design (CAD) technologies. Students usually start the program having earned a high school diploma or general equivalency diploma (GED) and one year or more of previous coursework in algebra.
A.A.S. in Mechanical Design Technology programs prepare students to use the latest CAD technologies to produce two- and three-dimensional assembly and tooling drawings and to provide engineering specifications. Students learn to build scale models, communicate technical information and solve mechanical engineering problems. In addition to covering CAD technologies and general education requirements, coursework may include:
- Manufacturing processes
- Technical drafting and math
- Computer applications and mechanical concepts
- Materials, statics and tool design
- Design elements and problems
- Mechanical engineering basics
Bachelor's Degree in Mechanical Design Technology
Students may study mechanical design technology as a concentration in Bachelor of Science (B.S.) programs in engineering technology or bachelor's degree programs in industrial technology management. People interested in a bachelor's degree with a mechanical design technology concentration may want to seek programs in the discipline closely related to their career goals. For example, students interested in becoming engineering technologists might look to B.S. in engineering technology programs. Those aspiring to have production management responsibilities might seek out industrial technology management programs.
A large part of the first two years is spent taking general education courses. Coursework for the major will typically include the following:
- Physics, calculus, chemistry
- Technical writing
- Industrial management and engineering design graphics
- Mechanism, machine and industrial design
Coursework will also cover the program discipline. An industrial technology management program may include courses in plastics, energy, metal and power technology as well as technical writing, advanced math and physics. An engineering technology program will usually include courses in college math and physics, metal and plastics technology, safety and management.
Master of Science in Engineering
A Master of Science (M.S.) degree in engineering or mechanical engineering with a concentration in mechanical design provides highly advanced professional preparation for an engineering career that emphasizes design. Students learn to apply advanced knowledge of physical sciences and engineering to sophisticated design and production problems.
Most programs may be completed in two years of full time study. Many allow working professionals to pursue the degree part time. While some schools require that students complete a thesis, others allow the thesis to be replaced by practical application of advanced engineering skills. Typical coursework may cover:
- Mechanical engineering methods
- Engineering analysis
- Advanced mechanical design
- Financial management
- Control methods
- Harshness, vibration and noise
People who earn a bachelor's degree with a concentration in mechanical design technology may be prepared for a variety of positions in industrial manufacturing, such as industrial designer, material handling manager, quality control manager and inventory control manager.
After a bachelor's degree the M.S. is the highest mechanical design degree intended to enhance a career as a working engineer. Those who aspire to conduct advanced research in the field or to become professors may continue their education and earn a Doctor of Philosophy in engineering.
People who earn an A.A.S. in Mechanical Design Technology to qualify for design or drafting careers do not usually require further formal education. Most will keep up with technological advances in the field on the job. Those who would like to enhance their qualifications by learning more about industrial manufacturing or engineering principles may pursue a bachelor's degree in mechanical design technology.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that mechanical engineering technician jobs, a category that includes mechanical designers and mechanical drafters, will grow 5% for the years 2012 through 2022 (www.bls.gov). The BLS reported that the median annual salary earned by mechanical engineering technicians in May 2014 was $53,530.
The BLS further predicted that employment of mechanical engineers will increase by 5% from 2012 through 2022. While this is slower growth than average, mechanical engineers may work in several industries like architecture, machinery manufacturing and alternative energy.
People who earn a bachelor's degree in engineering or mechanical engineering with a concentration in mechanical design may be qualified to work as mechanical engineers. According to the BLS, the median annual wage for mechanical engineers in May 2014 was $83,060 (www.bls.gov).