When you are studying to be a mechanical engineer, you may put in long hours of study and work.
You may wonder if your career will be similar, demanding dedicated, long hours or if mechanical engineering allows for flexible work hours and shorter shifts.
Follow along with this guide to learn more about the work-life of a mechanical engineer.
Many prospective job seekers look for flexible hours as it is a workplace perk.
Flexible hours mean you can dictate when you start or finish your shifts on a semi-regular or regular basis.
In many cases, employers grant engineers, especially mechanical engineers, flexible work hour benefits.
As you may know from your studies, mechanical engineers work on distinct projects.
Basically, as long as you finish your project by the deadline or your designated work or tasks for the day, you can set your own hours.
Whether your work takes you two hours or five hours, your employer will pay you according to workload and qualifications, as a salary, rather than by the hour.
However, other employers may prefer all their employers to work a standard shift every day, whether that is a part-time position or a full-time position.
You may be able to secure paid part-time off as a benefit so that you can take advantage of short shifts at some point.
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Many people consider work-life balance an important aspect of their careers and workplaces.
Work-life balance emphasizes how the demands of your career and demands of your personal life are equal or weighted well according to your own assessment.
Many prestigious companies, such as Google or NASA, famously offer excellent work-life balance.
They understand that engineers who have adequate, leisure and personal activity time perform better and enjoy their jobs more.
Since this is the case, they provide benefit packages with paid time-off, flexible hours, annual paid vacations, and part-time positions.
This way, you can determine how many hours you need to work to fulfill your work needs and how many hours you need to meet personal needs.
That said, many recent mechanical engineering graduates do work long hours and sacrifice that balance at the beginning of their careers.
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Most mechanical engineers do not work by the hour, but they still put in the average workweek hours (40 hours per week).
They may differ from this standard if they have flexible hours; however, flexible hours can swing in either direction.
If mechanical engineers work on a short deadline, they may need to work overtime hours to finish a project.
In these cases, mechanical engineers may need to do as many as 80 hours in a week.
It is important to ask about workload and average hours during your interview and hiring process.
As each company and organization has different expectations and standards, you should know a specific employer’s policies before joining the team.
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The good news is that flexible hours are becoming more and more popular.
If you are searching for a position using a job listing website, such as Indeed or Monster, you can simply narrow down your search terms to include “flex”, “flex work”, or “telecommute.”
You can also look on a popular job listing website, FlexJobs, dedicated to flexible opportunities.
If you have an interest in a particular company, be sure to look up their work policies or ask about flexible work opportunities during your interview.
During the interview, you may be able to arrange flexible hours with your potential employer.
Engineering professors warn students that they may need to put in overtime regularly.
It may be common for recent graduates to work more hours than usual, but it is not the norm for engineers who have been in the field for years.
Often, graduates begin their careers by working at smaller companies that may not have complete benefits packages.
They may feel pressure to prove themselves to themselves and their employers.
When they have accomplishments, experience, and further qualifications under their belt, they have more opportunities to obtain advanced job positions or work at well-known organizations.
After accomplishing this, they tend to work more accommodating hours.
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You can earn high salaries and have a chance to work in a future-forward field.
However, as with any career, there are a few disadvantages:
- Large organizations are the main employers who offer reasonable hours, high salaries, sufficient benefits, and a preferable work-life balance. However, it is hard to get into these companies as a new mechanical engineer.
- Competition for jobs at larger corporations is higher and the qualification requirements are more extensive.
- If you do have flexible hours, they can be a double-edged sword. With certain projects, you can end up working overtime.
- Most of your work as a mechanical engineer depends on teamwork. Since this is the case, your workload can depend on others completing their tasks properly.
Engineering jobs are not intrinsically high-stress.
However, in an unhealthy work environment, engineering can be incredibly stressful.
You may encounter undefined goals, unorganized projects, short and strict deadlines, unhelpful peers, or poor management.
Ask any questions you may have about your potential work environment during the interview process.
You may be able to obtain a better snapshot of workplace practices by asking about employee morale, engagement, retention, and benefits as well.
As with any job, it is important to ensure the company you work for has your best interest in mind.
Each company has different policies and practices that determine your schedule, your work-life balance, your workplace dynamic, and your engagement with your work and your company overall.
To enjoy your mechanical engineering work, you must make sure these values align with your needs.