To become a mechanical designer it is necessary to have a certificate or associate's degree in mechanical design technology or a related field. This career requires strong computer and math skills. Certification is optional, but may increase job prospects for those seeking employment in this field.
Mechanical designers, sometimes referred to as mechanical drafters, create designs for mechanical devices and equipment. Designers may also work with engineers and other professionals to create or improve manufacturing systems or processes. Mechanical designers have either completed a certificate program, an associate's degree or both.
|Required Education||Associate's degree or certificate|
|Required Skills||Must possess strong computer and mathematical skills|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||-7%|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$53,520|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Job Description for a Mechanical Designer
Mechanical designers typically work in an office setting, reviewing specifications and other data to develop mechanical layouts. Designers typically have working knowledge of mechanical parts as well as computer-aided design (CAD) software, such as AutoCAD. Some mechanical designers may travel to job sites or factories to measure physical dimensions for machinery and observe production lines.
Mechanical Designer Duties
Mechanical designers typically begin a project by meeting with project managers, engineers, and clients to understand the needs and requirements for a new product or mechanical system. For example, designers working on a project to create an automobile engine may consult engineers regarding which structural materials to use or clients regarding engine efficiency requirements. Once materials and specifications have been determined, designers begin using CAD software to plan and develop models. This may include testing and modifying models under different conditions, such as temperature or humidity.
Once a preliminary model is set, mechanical designers may be responsible for presenting it to a project engineer. If the model is approved, designers may then finalize designs and sent prints to the production department. Other duties may include reproducing and archiving designs.
Requirements for a Mechanical Designer
Junior colleges and technical institutes offer certificate and associate's degrees in mechanical design technology or a related field. While certificate programs last 6-12 months and focus more on mechanical design principles and manufacturing process, associate's degree programs may take up to 1-2 years to complete and include advanced courses in mathematics and engineering technologies. Topics may range from designing machinery parts like fasteners and clutches, to analyzing material strengths and stress factors.
Most programs include at least one CAD laboratory course. Students in these courses become familiarized with CAD interfaces, inputs and concepts. Experienced students may be responsible for developing 2- and 3-dimensional designs of mechanical devices, including system calculations and project budgets.
Mechanical designers who have attained voluntary certifications like those conferred by the American Design Drafting Association or Autodesk, may receive more opportunities in the job market. Certification typically involves passing a qualifying exam. Designers may consult the respective certifying organization or vendor for study guides and practice exams.
Job Outlook and Salary Info
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects that employment of mechanical drafters will likely drop 7% from 2014 to 2024. The BLS published the median annual salary earned by mechanical drafters as $53,520 in May 2015.
Mechanical designers develop designs for mechanical devices and equipment. Once they understand the intended function of a new product they may meet with engineers to discuss material options or other needs related to the product. They then use computer software to finalize the product design.