There are several important steps to take to prepare for a mechanical engineer career. Mechanical engineers must have an academic background in engineering which can include an associate's degree, bachelor's degree or master's degree. In many cases, mechanical engineers must also be licensed. Design courses, mathematics courses, statistics courses and other technical classes might be required to become a mechanical engineer, and hands-on technical experience in a related field may also be useful.
Usually a minimum of a bachelor's degree is required to begin a mechanical engineer career in the United States. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that most entry-level jobs require a four-year engineering degree. In some cases, a degree in math or the natural sciences may qualify as experience for one to begin a mechanical engineer career. As of 2008, there were approximately 1,830 accredited engineering programs in the U.S. and another 710 accredited programs that offer a degree in engineering technology.
The Accreditation Board for Engineering Technology provides accreditation for engineering programs in the U.S. A mechanical engineer career is one of the broadest fields of engineering; many accredited programs offer degrees in this specialty. Some programs also offer an additional two- to four-year degree program that allows those hoping to begin a mechanical engineering career to get an advanced education within the field. This can make one more competitive when jobs are in high demand.
Admission to a bachelor's degree program in the U.S. requires good grades in math and science. Most bachelor's programs last four years, but many students take up to five years to finish all the general and specific requirements necessary to begin a mechanical engineer career. Many students also continue on to get a master's degree. This is especially important if one wants to do research or teach within the field.
Within the U.S., engineers who work directly with the public are also required to have a license. In order to get a license, engineers must obtain a degree from an accredited program and have four years of relevant work experience. Engineers must also pass two exams: a Fundamentals of Engineering examination and a Principles and Practice of Engineering Exam. Many states also require license holders to complete continuing education requirements each year in order to maintain their license.