Machine design education and training can be found through bachelor's, master's and doctoral programs. At the bachelor's level, the student learns to apply basic mechanical engineering principles to design theory and practice. Bachelor's degree programs offer initial training in the field and prepare graduates for licensing. Students learn through coursework, hands-on training and internships.
Master's degree programs are offered as professional or academic programs, and students interested in machine design should choose a program that allows for a concentration or substantial coursework in this area. At the doctoral level, students can tailor their program and research to match their interests.
Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering
While pursuing a bachelor's degree a student will begin by studying the broad basics of mechanical engineering. During the first or second year, depending on the school, the student will work with a faculty advisor to chart a course of study that will focus on his or her particular interests or career goals. Some schools offer a specialization option at the bachelor's level at the time of enrollment. Other schools may not have a designated program emphasis, but they may have nationally recognized design competition courses.
Some schools require the students to participate in an internship as part of the program. Courses that focus on design include such topics as:
- Manufacture and assembly design
- CAD and CAM design
- Plastics design
- Aerospace design
- Complex engineering systems design
- Robotics engineering and design
Master's Degree in Mechanical Engineering
Different types of master's degrees are available, and prospective students should read the focus in each school's program carefully. In some schools, a Master of Engineering program focuses on design, while other schools have designated their Master of Science programs as the designer's route. In some cases, the master's degree is a terminal professional degree program, while in others it is considered a prelude to a doctorate. Some schools allow the student to design his or her own degree focus program with the assistance of a faculty advisor.
Due to the highly interdisciplinary nature of the field, advanced mechanical engineering courses will be required along with a design focus. Some of the design courses available at this level include:
- Mechanical design dimensional tolerancing
- Autonomous robotics design
- Architectural biomedical engineering
- Plasma physics applications
- Asynchronous systems and circuit design
Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering
A large percentage of students studying for a doctorate in mechanical engineering have career goals in research or academia. Because the field of mechanical engineering is broad, the majority of Ph.D. programs require the students to choose a focus first and then, with the help of a faculty advisor, tailor the entire program to suit the focus. Many schools require the student to work with a faculty advisor prior to applying to the program. Other schools may take the student's objective and match an appropriate advisor with background experience in the area the student wishes to pursue.
The majority of work done in pursuit of a doctorate is guided research. Seminars and coursework are also required and cover subjects such as:
- Nanoscale energy
- Aerospace and mechanical engineering special topics
- Theoretical multivariable control
- Bone mechanics
- Materials dynamic behaviorisms
While the career fields are consistent with those available to machine designers and mechanical engineers with bachelor's degrees, the positions available to those with doctorates are focused more on management, research development and directorships of departments or firms.
Those with a Bachelor of Science are prepared for entry-level positions in mechanical engineering fields. Engineers that provide public services typically require licensure, and a bachelor's degree is the minimum education requirement to qualify for a license.
Some of the more popular career fields for all levels of degrees include:
- College or university professor
- Research project manager
- Robotic designer
- Research and development team leader
- Automation and robotics design
- Oceanographic equipment design
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), mechanical engineers will see an expected 5% job growth for the decade 2014-2024. This employment outlook is considered to be about as fast as the average. The BLS also reported that mechanical engineers earned $83,590 as a median annual wage in May 2015.
The BLS estimates a 2%, or slower than average, employment growth for mechanical engineering technicians in the years 2014-2024. These technicians earned $53,910 as a median annual salary in 2015 as well.
Students looking to get training in machine design can do so through bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degree programs in mechanical engineering. Undergraduate students will study basics of mechanical engineering, while graduate students can choose a specialization or customize a concentration in machine design.