What is the difference between a mechanical engineer and a mechanical designer?

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While the careers of a mechanical engineer and a mechanical designer are similar in some ways, there are significant differences in responsibilities, educational requirements and salary. For example:

Mechanical engineers design mechanical products, machines, and systems. Mechanical designers create technical drawings based on the mechanical engineer's specifications and plans.

Mechanical engineers use mathematics and physics in order to determine the best plans and designs for a project. Mechanical designers use CAD programs (computer aided design) to create detailed drawings.

Mechanical engineers must have at least a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering. Mechanical designers must complete as associate's degree in drafting.

Mechanical engineers are not required to be licensed, however many pursue a professional engineering (PE) license for future advancement. Mechanical designers are not required to be licensed, however certification is available through The American Drafting Design Association for future advancement.

Mechanical engineers earn a median annual salary of $85,880 (according to Payscale). Mechanical designers earn a median annual salary of $54,170 (according to Payscale).

Job responsibilities of a mechanical engineer include:

  • applying physics, engineering, mathematics, and materials science principles
  • determining how mechanical devices can help to solve a manufacturing problem
  • developing a prototype of the mechanical product
  • analyzing complex tests to determine the reason for components failing in mechanical equipment
  • understanding and using blueprints to determine how mechanical systems work with other components
  • overseeing the installation of their mechanical products and systems
  • overseeing the manufacturing process
  • traveling to various manufacturing sites to ensure specifications are followed

Job responsibilities of a mechanical designer include:

  • turning the mechanical engineer's roughly sketched designs into technical drawings
  • designing 3-D models using computer-aided design software
  • adding in any manufacturing procedures to their schematics
  • following specific drafting standards and regulations
  • going over the details and dimensions of each part in the drawing
  • changing drawings based on engineer's feedback
  • redesigning older systems based on efficiency measurements

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