Mechanical Engineering as a Major

By: Cameron (an ME major!)

Is your major undecided? If so, you may want to look into mechanical engineering. Generally, engineering is a path that requires your full attention for the entire four years of college. It is a major that is much easier to switch out of than into. It is also one of the broader majors available. For these reasons and more, mechanical engineering may be a good place to start when deciding on a major.  Within this blog post I will do my best to give you an overview of what mechanical engineering really is. I hope it helps you find a major by either solidifying or eliminating mechanical engineering as an option.

ME as a major

What is Mechanical Engineering?

The dictionary definition of engineering is, “The application of scientific and mathematical principles to practical ends.” This is just a fancy way of saying that engineering is improving or creating processes and products using math and science. Mechanical engineering is engineering of moving components, such as vehicles. Civil engineering deals with stationary components such as bridges and roads. Industrial engineering is the improvement in efficiency of processes. Other engineering majors include chemical, electrical, nuclear, and aerospace, which are all pretty self-explanatory.

What skills make a good mechanical engineer?

First and foremost, you should have an aptitude for math. Mechanical engineering is highly math based and also requires a basic knowledge of chemistry. I have heard people describe professional engineers as analytical, logical, creative, mathematical, and problem solvers. Another characteristic that is valuable in engineering is common sense. In order to be successful in this career path it is important to always be thinking about the problem and choose the solution that makes the most sense.

A misconception that I had freshman year was that you needed to know stuff about cars and motors in order to like mechanical engineering. This statement is false, although if you like cars then mechanical engineering would be a great fit for you. Several of my classmates and I know very little about these things and we still enjoy the major coursework.

What does the mechanical engineering major entail?

I am only half way through my junior year so I can’t talk about certain courses from personal experience, but I can tell you that mechanical engineering majors are required to participate in a senior design project during their last semester at UMD. This project brings the students together to build a real world product for a real world company. The senior students are supervised during this project by a professor who has a doctorate. Right now, I believe there are seniors working on a computer-operated machine that evaluates the quality of a product. They are building this machine for Graco, a successful engineering company in the Twin Cities. If this kind of experience excites you, then great! If this project sounds intimidating, don’t worry. Your previous required courses will prepare you with all the necessary skills to complete this project.

Related courses you would be required to take:

  • General Chemistry I; Introduction to Visual Basic (Basic Computer Programing); Calculus I, II, and III; Advanced Writing; Physics I and II; Introduction to Solid Modeling (Computer 3D Modeling); Engineering Mechanics; Differential Equations; Introduction to Material Science; Electrical Circuit Analysis; Material Processing; Statistics; CAD/CAM (Computer 3D Modeling); Machine Design; Controls and Kinematics; Dynamics; Thermodynamics; Fluid Mechanics

Among these major courses you are required to take additional electives. You are able to select these electives yourself, even if they are not related to the major. This will give you a chance to explore opportunities unrelated to engineering if you are still unsure about your major.

What are mechanical engineering majors doing with their degree?

Most undergraduates with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering eventually become certified as a Professional Mechanical Engineer. Graduates from UMD are specifically hired as design engineers, applications engineers, product development engineers, technicians, supervisors, process engineers, and sales engineers at companies such as 3M, Barr Engineering, Cargill, Cirrus Aircraft, and Graco. For more information related to post graduate activity visit the Career & Internship Services website and click on the graduate follow-up report to search by major.

Hopefully you were able to find something useful in this post, whether that be progress in you’re a major selection or just a better understanding of mechanical engineer majors. Keep exploring new opportunities and good luck on your chosen path!

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