Asee peer logo

What Do Mechanical Engineers Do? A Content Analysis of Mechanical Engineers' Job Descriptions

Download Paper |


2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Empathy and Human-centered Design 1

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Elizabeth Rose Pollack Michigan State University

visit author page

Liz Pollack is a PhD student at Michigan State University studying Mechanical Engineering with a focus on Design.

visit author page


Gavan Alexander Sarrafian Michigan State University

visit author page

Gavan Sarrafian is a recent graduate from Michigan State University where he obtained a Bachelor's of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering with a concentration in Aerospace Engineering. He is now working as an Associate Engineer - Post Grad at SpaceX throughout the summer of 2021.

visit author page


Michele J. Grimm Michigan State University

visit author page

Michele J. Grimm is the Wielenga Creative Engineering Endowed Professor of Mechanical Engineering. Her research has focused on injury biomechanics – from characterizing important tissue properties to developing appropriate models for the assessment of injury mechanisms. Most recently, this has included working with obstetricians to identify the pathomechanics of neonatal brachial plexus injury. Based on this work, she served on the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Task Force on Neonatal Brachial Plexus Palsy.

In addition to her scientific research, Dr. Grimm has spent a large part of her career focused on curriculum development and enhancement of student learning in engineering. She served on the faculty of Wayne State University for 25 years, where she developed and implemented both undergraduate and graduate programs in biomedical engineering and helped to establish a department of biomedical engineering. Her endowed professorship at MSU focuses on research to increase the success of students in engineering through creative pedagogical techniques.

Dr. Grimm completed her B.S. in Biomedical Engineering and Engineering Mechanics at The Johns Hopkins University in 1990 and her Ph.D. in Bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania in 1994.

She recently finished a 3-year rotation as a program director for three BME-related programs at the National Science Foundation. During this time, she served as co-chair of the White House’s Office of Science & Technology Policy Task Force on Research and Development for Technology to Support Aging Adults. She was recently named to the National Academy of Medicine’s Commission on a Global Roadmap for Healthy Longevity. She has just completed her 5-year appointment as a commissioner with ABET’s Engineering Accreditation Commission and currently serves as a member of the ABET Board of Delegates.

She is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Biomedical Engineering Society, and the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering.

visit author page

Download Paper |


The engineering curriculum is intended to prepare students for their careers; however, academic literature lacks information regarding the specific activities engineers typically undertake once they enter the workforce. The field of mechanical engineering is often referred to as a “general concentration” of engineering. This can be seen within the typical mechanical engineering curriculum, which covers topics such as fluids, heat transfer, solid mechanics, dynamics, electronics, and design. Students are taught general theory and application throughout their undergraduate education in preparation for a career in mechanical engineering. This career may vary drastically from their peers in terms of industry, specialization, project scope, or expectations. The purpose of this study is to analyze the breadth of job responsibilities within a wide range of mechanical engineering positions in order to gain an understanding of the typical activities a mechanical engineer is expected to complete in the field.

This study analyzed 923 job postings collected through the job search and posting site “”, during a one-week period in the summer of 2020. The jobs represent various industries, geographic locations, and position titles. Design activities were used as a guiding framework to develop an ontology of engineering activities. This study developed an increased understanding of the overlap of Mechanical Engineering and Design.

Communication was found to be the most prominent activity within engineering job postings. The second and third most prominent activities were Management and Decision making. The resulting collection of engineering activities is intended to be a resource for engineering educators as they build informed pedagogy that better prepares students for their careers as mechanical engineers.

Pollack, E. R., & Sarrafian, G. A., & Grimm, M. J. (2021, July), What Do Mechanical Engineers Do? A Content Analysis of Mechanical Engineers' Job Descriptions Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2021 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015