Creating a career as a mechanical design engineer

Despite there already being 186,000 mechanical engineers employed in the UK (EngineeringUK State of Engineering report, 2017), they are still in high demand.  Playing an important part in every engineering sector, mechanical design engineers are highly sought after to work on a number of major projects in the UK.

But how do you get into this profession and what career path can you expect? David Baisan, Engineering Design & Management Lead Consultant, shares his insight.


To begin a career in mechanical engineering, you’ll need a relevant engineering degree. Upon leaving university, you can then look for graduate engineer roles and start getting the real work experience you need to get your career underway. Another great way to get into mechanical engineering is through an apprenticeship with a major company. Typically these run for 3-4 years and give you an excellent platform to succeed in the industry.

Aside from any placements you may have completed as part of your degree, work experience is key for developing your career. Looking for a job at a large engineering consultancy is a good move as big companies tend to have good training programmes in place and high volumes of work to keep you busy and put your skills to the test. Bigger companies can also give you better career progression opportunities.

Yes. Mechanical design engineers come from a range of backgrounds including electrical engineering, public health engineering and even fire engineering. This skill set is transferable across sectors such as buildings/commercial, oil & gas and rail. Whilst different sectors will have different standards and codes to conform to, the design skills required and the process followed (for example to create an air flow diagram) will be similar across these sectors.

Your next step after a graduate engineer role will be the role of Engineer. After this, your next move would likely be becoming a Senior Engineer, at which point most employers will expect you to be Chartered. Following this is Principle/Lead Engineer and then you have two options – Design Manager or Associate Director. Both are excellent options where you will manage projects and teams and have a strong influence in all the designs.

Attention to detail and accuracy are probably the most important traits a mechanical design engineer needs. The best, most sought after engineers have a real interest in the projects and programmes they work on and pride themselves on the quality and content of their designs and work in general. At the interview stage, employers are impressed with people who are well-presented and good communicators. The ability to work in a team is also important as well as being able to work independently.

Gain the relevant qualifications and then try and get experience on as many major projects as possible to broaden your skill set. Take pride in your work and be confident when presenting in front of others.

There are huge opportunities across the High Speed Two (HS2) stations with some consultancies hiring now. There’ll be a massive push this first half of the year so there is no better time than now to express an interest.

Already in mechanical design engineering? Browse our latest mechanical design jobs here.

To see current vacancies on the HS2 project, visit our HS2 project page.

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