Lesson 2, Topic 2
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Defining the different types of mechanical engineering courses

December 5, 2018
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The thing with mechanical engineering is that there are various types of mechanical engineers. Many people first view mechanical engineers as automobile mechanics – the people that get greasy and work under cars. This is a view that rubs a more academic mechanical engineer up the wrong way.

Where you study largely defines the type of environment and industry you’ll be able to work in with your qualification. Each qualification covers different types of content and theory. Hence, the different types of industries available to you.

Studying through a TVET College will equip you in a more practical industry. This will allow you to enter into a more hands-on career where you will most likely get your hands dirty. Essentially, you’ll be a mechanic. 

A university of technology offers more of a balance between to practical and theory. After completing your qualification here, you’ll qualify as a mechanical engineer technician. This will allow you to work under a mechanical engineer to ensure that the engineer’s design is realised in practical terms.

Universities offer the academic, theoretical option. This allows you to enter into design, consulting and project management positions. You’ll head up projects and make use of the technician’s practical skills to bring your designs to fruition.

The unfortunate truth in South Africa is that many people automatically choose the university route to obtaining their mechanical engineering qualification. In SA, there is a huge amount of emphasis placed on obtaining a degree. It is viewed as highly prestigious and the only route to career and financial success. However, there is a huge need for each type of mechanical engineer – not just the university route. When you go through this course, don’t let the general expectation of obtaining a degree over any other qualification cloud your decision. In the end, you need to do what you think is best for yourself and what you would view as the best decision based on your own marks, interests and strengths. As well as the best decision based on job availability and need. 

At the end of each qualification type you will need to register with ECSA – Engineering Council of South Africa. Without doing this, you will not be able to work legally within the various engineering fields.