Studies & Degrees in Mechanics
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Mechanics, which includes such fields of study as engineering mechanics, applied mechanics, and mechanical engineering (the names of these fields are more or less interchangeable), focuses on the design and construction of machines and mechanical devices. In scientific terminology, the word “mechanics” refers to the study of motion and the forces that produce it. For an engineer, mechanics is all about harnessing those forces and using them to create productive and useful devices. Mechanical engineers need to have strong knowledge of physics, calculus, and often chemistry.
Degree programs in mechanical engineering, applied mechanics, and engineering mechanics all have slightly different approaches. Typically, a program in mechanical engineering has a much broader focus area – it may include thermodynamics, computer programming, optics and sometimes even quantum mechanics. Applied mechanics and engineering mechanics, however, usually focus more narrowly on the design and construction of actual machines. These disciplines are more concerned with the details of design and construction than with the underlying scientific principles.
- Affinity for mathematics
- Logical thinking, strong problem-solving skills
- Patience and acute attention to detail
- Desire to solve real-world (sometimes mundane) problems
- Fascination with machines and mechanical devices
Thanks to the enormous quantity and diversity of machines in our technology-laden societies, there are a huge variety of subjects to study within the field of mechanics and mechanical engineering. Most programs in this discipline require students to choose an area of concentration, such as automotive mechanics, aerospace mechanics, or industrial mechanics. The selection of a concentration or area of focus is not final (it is usually possible to cross over into a different field from the one that you focus on in college), but it will nonetheless have a significant impact on your eventual job-search process.
Depending on your specific career goals, choosing between applied mechanics/engineering mechanics and mechanical engineering will also be important. Those who hope to become engineers, filling the leading roles on projects and taking responsibility for their success, are better off choosing mechanical engineering. This field typically requires several years of schooling beyond the college level, but also leads to the most lucrative and challenging careers. Studying engineering mechanics or applied mechanics, on the other hand, is a good way to reduce the amount of time you will spend in school. The drawback is that it prepares students for careers that do not pay as well.
Mechanical engineering, applied mechanics, and engineering mechanics are all highly career-specific fields of study. Careers in mechanical fields, however, are fairly diverse. There are many jobs available to graduates with degrees in these areas, which can be separated into 2 categories: applied and academic. The overwhelming majority of mechanical engineers work in real-world industries such as transportation or energy, but a select few obtain advanced degrees and go into academia. These hard-working individuals contribute to the advance at of engineering knowledge and help to train the world's next generation of mechanical engineers.