Thermal process engineering seeks to discover new catalysts for transforming energy. Industrial applications of thermal process engineering include food sciences, biofuels and petroleum. Heat transfer graduate certificate programs that provide training in this field take one semester to complete and do not require the completion of a final project. Professionals and graduates of undergraduate programs in math, engineering or a related field can apply.
Master's degree programs in mechanical engineering take 18-24 months to finish, and both thesis and coursework-only options are available. Applicants must have earned an undergraduate degree in engineering, math or a related field. Required minimum grade point average for admission includes a 3.0 in engineering classes.
Qualified applicants to doctoral degree programs in mechanical engineering have earned at least a bachelor's degree in math or an engineering science. Additional requirements for entrance into the program may include recommendation letters and a personal statement.
These programs, some of which may be available online, may translate to careers as research assistants, quality assurance managers or design engineers. Professional engineers who have acquired significant supervised work experience may be expected to pass an engineering examination before being granted a license.
Graduate Certificate in Heat Transfer
Heat transfer graduate certificate programs are run through mechanical engineering departments. Students learn about fluid dynamics and how to design technical systems applicable to life support in outer space. Coursework provides students with an overview of computer modeling, thermodynamics and thermal management as applied to electronics. Commonly offered courses include:
- Advanced mathematics
- Convection heat transfer
- Fluid dynamics
- Gas dynamics
- Numerical methods
- Thermal stress analysis
Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering
Concentrations in thermal sciences are commonly available through graduate programs in mechanical engineering. Students explore thermal radiation, thermodynamics, fluid technology and state-specific thermal equilibrium laws. Because of the cross-disciplinary nature of heat engineering and its applications, collaboration with researchers in disciplines such as aerospace or chemical engineering is common.
Graduate coursework in heat transfer and fluid mechanics trains students to create computational models and design smart materials that bend in response to changing temperatures. Topics of study include:
- Computer-aided engineering
- Convection processes
- Engineering analysis
- Fluid dynamics
- Solids mechanics
Doctor of Philosophy in Mechanical Engineering
Mechanical engineering programs at the doctoral level allow students to specialize in thermal and fluid dynamics. Graduate students investigate issues such as microfluidics, granular flows and fluid mechanics. They apply solutions to problems in data storage, electronics design, energy use and the creation of new materials. Research from this field helps scientists prevent spacecrafts from overheating and is pertinent to lower heating bills. Doctoral program graduates have experiments funded by NASA, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.
Doctoral degree students use multi-scale modeling and statistical physics to gain advanced understanding in heat transference as it applies to nanoscale and material applications. Program courses include:
- Engineering thermodynamics
- Gas dynamics
- Mechanical engineering analysis
- Nonlinear data filtering
- Turbulent flows
Popular Career Options
Jobs within the thermal processing field are found in educational institutions, aerospace industries and governmental agencies, like the U.S. Air Force. Because heat transfer includes both high-tech and practical applications, government agencies with the core goals of exploration and homeland defense subsidize research in this field. Full-time employment is also found in private industries and academic pursuits. Job titles available to graduates include:
- Aerospace engineer
- Calibration engineer
- Modeling and simulation engineer
- Research assistant
- Consultant analyst
- Design engineer
Career Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), materials engineers were forecast to see little to no change in job growth from 2014-2024, and mechanical engineers are expected to have a 5%, or average, increase over the same period (www.bls.gov). According to the BLS, the mean annual wage of mechanical engineers was $88,190 in May 2015, while materials engineers reportedly earned an annual mean wage of $94,690.
Continuing Education and Licensure
The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying administers the comprehensive national licensure examinations for engineers and surveyors. The licensure process includes passing the fundamentals of engineering exam and completing a certain amount of supervised work experience before passing the professional engineer exam. Licensed engineers are required to earn sufficient continuing education credits to maintain licensure.
Graduate certificates in heat transfer and master's and doctoral degrees in mechanical engineering can train students to work as mechanical or materials engineers who specialize in the applications of thermal processing. Graduates will need to obtain the proper licensure to practice as professional engineers.