Mechanical Engineer

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Luke, 33

What does a mechanical engineer do?

As Luke sees it, mechanical engineers are "involved in design or manufacturing of components or systems" in everything from aircraft to toasters. "Being involved in the designing of systems requires an interest in processes that convert energy into motion and power, and a good grounding in strength of materials, stress and strain," says Luke.

What does a typical working day involve?

The daily work of a mechanical engineer is very much influenced by the industry they work in. "I work in the oil and gas industry," Luke explains, "so daily activities revolve around projects with refineries, gas plants, oil recovery and separation facilities, plus the odd chopper flight to offshore platforms."

Luke leads a team of 15 mechanical engineers, who work on various international projects from buying and installing new equipment to designing new systems to managing oil transportation.

What attracted you to mechanical engineering?

Because mechanical engineering is all about building things, Luke's natural interest in how things work meant he was destined to be a mechanical engineer. "Since I was young, I've always been interested in machinery and gadgets," he smiles. His early interest in "pulling things apart and hopefully putting them back together again" has become "a real opportunity to design and build systems."

What are the work opportunities for mechanical engineers like?

Since graduating ten years ago, Luke has had continuous employment as a mechanical engineer. He believes that mechanical engineers are "in short supply around the world" and that because training is universal "your skills are transportable and recognised all over the globe".

"I've had personal experience of working in the UK oil and gas industry, more or less just by turning up without pre-arranged work, and starting work within a week," Luke says.

What are some of the pros and cons of the job?

For Luke the big thrill comes from seeing a design come to life. "I really like finishing a project, and looking back to see that I was with involved with creating it. At the start of a project, the design is all on paper, and very early on, the design is often in a state of flux. So it's a great feeling to see it as a completed project."

For Luke, mechanical engineering is such a good fit he doesn't really see too many downsides to the job, though he concedes it can be tough when "the economic drivers behind the project change".

"Recently the design of a new magnesium plant was halted for economic reasons. I could imagine that the engineers involved would have been disappointed," Luke says.

Are there any tips for getting a job as a mechanical engineer?

Getting into mechanical engineering requires a four-year undergraduate qualification, but Luke sees this as a good time to develop individual skills that employers look favourably on.

"The most prestigious employers firstly look for respectable grades, but then other aspects of your life that help to indicate you will make a good engineer." Luke suggests that activities like sports can demonstrate that you have good teamwork and part-time jobs can show a commitment to hard work.

And if you're already enrolled in an engineering degree, forward planning your career can be helpful. As Luke says, "Early in your course, looking for vacation work with an engineering employer will be very beneficial."

Find out more about this career path at myfuture.edu.au (new window) (Note: free registration is required to access the myfuture site).