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Mechanical Engineer
Mechanical engineers research, develop, design, manufacture and maintain machines, machine components and systems in various fields of application.

They work on power-producing machines such as generators, engines, and steam and gas turbines. They also work on power-using machines such as refrigeration and air-conditioners, robots used in manufacturing, elevators and escalators, and industrial production equipment. Mechanical engineering can be considered to be the cornerstone of modern technology because it applies the principles of natural science in a way that leads to the greater convenience, progress and safety of mankind.

Mechanical engineers usually specialize in one of the fields set out below:

Transportation: these engineers, together with other engineering specialists, design and develop equipment such as aircraft, helicopters, missiles, ships, motorcars, trains, as well as the steam and gas turbines and petrol and diesel engines needed for propulsion.

Power generation: engineers in this field attempt to provide the energy required by consumers. The demand on existing natural resources provides a challenge for engineers to provide energy and power without harming the environment or depleting resources.

Agriculture: by providing modern equipment such as threshing machines, tractors, harvesters and milking machines for food producers, engineers in this field assist in the economic production of food.

Mining: the wealth-producing minerals and mining industry is one of the sectors where great demands are made on the initiative of the mechanical engineer. Pumping plants, hauling machines, winding equipment, ventilation fans, conveyor belts, drilling-machines and underground railways are a few of the devices which require the input of a mechanical engineer.

Environmental engineering: specialist mechanical engineers create the controlled indoor environment that people need in order to work in comfort. Factors such as humidity, temperature and cleanliness of the air in the workplace are monitored, adjusted and controlled by these engineers. In this field of study the mechanical engineer works particularly closely with engineers from other disciplines.

Biomedical engineering: heart-lung machines, artificial kidney machines, heart valves, pacemakers and operation monitors are all examples of the work of a biomedical engineer. Without this equipment the medical profession could not progress (see the article on the biomedical engineer).

Industrial engineering: mechanical engineers also play a major role in industrial and manufacturing processes such as production technology and quality control (see the article on the industrial engineer).

Other areas of specialization include:

- transportation equipment
- fluid mechanics
- heating, ventilation and air-conditioning
- instrumentation
- machines for specialized industries such as rubber, petroleum and plastics
- construction

Mechanical engineers usually work in offices where the computer plays a major role. It is also necessary that the premises, for which the engineer designs equipment or coordinates maintenance, be inspected beforehand.

Engineering graduates usually begin work under the supervision of experienced engineers and are gradually given more responsibilities as they gain experience. Some engineers with experience and additional education move into administration or management. Many high-level executives in industry began their careers in engineering.

Mechanical Engineering Technician
Mechanical engineering technicians carry out technical support functions in mechanical engineering research, design, manufacture, operations and maintenance. Mechanical engineering technicians may work under the direction of mechanical engineers in all stages of planning, design, maintenance and production.

They develop and design machinery and equipment, often with the aid of computer-aided design or drafting (CAD), and implement mechanical engineering technology. Some design precision equipment, machine tools and production machinery. Technicians fill the gap between the tasks performed by engineers, technologists and scientists and those performed by artisans.

Mechanical engineering technicians develop many different machines and are involved in the manufacture, construction, layout, operation, maintenance and supervision of moving machinery and mechanical appliances. This includes transport (ships, railways, aircraft, automobiles), power generation (steam, oil, gas, nuclear), air-conditioning, as well as other services such as water supply to mines, factories, buildings and so forth.

Mechanical engineering technicians study the project instructions of engineers to ensure that the test specifications and proposed procedures are suitable for the artisan to construct. They determine the nature of technical problems and put forward possible solutions, such as modifications to existing designs, techniques and procedures. The work also often requires the design and evaluation of materials and components by means of information collected from experiments.

They may also perform workshop and field tests using standard instruments and methods, and assist in developing quality control tests for products and parts. Mechanical engineering technicians can specialize in such areas as: boiler testing, hydraulic controls, mechanical detail drafting, mechanical engineering drafting, pipe testing or tool design detail drafting.

Mechanical Engineering Technologist
Mechanical engineering technologists fill the gap between the tasks performed by engineers and those performed by technicians.

Mechanical engineering technologists are involved with the design, development, production, marketing, installation, maintenance and general research of machinery and mechanical equipment, in almost every type of industry and technology.

The work of mechanical engineering technologists is mainly practical and involves planning, designing, modelling and testing of systems. They assist engineers in design and development by making sketches and rough layouts of proposed machinery and other equipment. The cost and practical value of designs is also analysed.

They usually specialize in one of the different fields described in detail under Mechanical Engineer in this book.

Satisfying Aspects
- solving problems
- the challenge and variety of the work
- many areas of specialization available in this field
- good salaries
- advancement opportunities

Demanding aspects
- having to work long hours to finish a project
- the long period of preparation and study required to register as a professional engineer
- having to continue your education throughout your career to keep up with the latest technological advances in your field

A mechanical engineer should:
- have an aptitude and preference for experimenting, planning and research;
- enjoy detailed work;
- enjoy solving problems
- have above average intelligence and an analytical mind;
- be meticulously accurate in calculations and drawings;
- have mathematical and mechanical aptitude;
- ability to visualize objects three-dimensionally and interpret 3D drawings;
- be a good decision-maker;
- prepared to accept responsibility - defects in designs can affect lives
- be creative;
- work well with others;
- have managerial qualities.

School Subjects
National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course
National Senior Certificate meeting diploma requirements for a diploma course

Each institution will have its own minimum entry requirements.

Compulsory Subjects: Mathematics, Physical Sciences
Recommended Subjects: Information Technology, Technical Drawing, Mechanical Technology

Note: the Engineering Faculties of some universities offer a support programme to help students to become self-sufficient and capable of completing the very demanding engineering course. The programme is aimed at students with good grades, from communities which lack proper education facilities.

Degree: BSc in Mechanical Engineering can be followed at UCT, UKZN, NWU, NMMU, UP, UJ, US and Wits.

Afterwards, a period of 2 years practical training is required before a person may register as a professional engineer with the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA).

Diploma: universities of technology now offer a degree in Mechanical Engineering in collaboration with universities. The course is a minimum of 4 years’ study and is presented by the following: CUT, CPUT, DUT, MUT, TUT, VUT, WSU and UNISA.

Some TVET colleges offer courses, e.g. Buffalo, Capricorn, Coastal KZN ,College of Cape Town.

- Manufacturing industries
- Government departments and such organizations as: CSIR, Eskom, NECSA, AECI, Sasol, Genmin, JCI, MINTEK, SABS
- Mining companies
- Consulting engineering firms
- Universities and universities of technology
- Self-employment, a registered mechanical    engineer with the necessary experience and initiative can work as a consultant in any of the above-mentioned organizations or can also start own manufacturing engineering company

Bursaries are available from many of these institutions.

Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA)
Private Bag X 691
Bruma, 2026   
Tel: (011) 607-9500 Fax: (011) 622-9295