21 September 2023

An Overview of Mechanical Engineering Placements & Internships

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Are you working towards a mechanical engineering degree? Fancy yourself a bit of an expert on thermofluids, computing and material sciences? That’s smashing.

However, these days a degree without work experience just doesn’t cut the mustard – which is where this guide comes in.

Featuring essential advice to help you secure a mechanical engineering placement or internship, you’ll soon be up to scratch on everything you need to know to put your career in the right gear.

  • Getting mechanical engineering work experience
  • What is the best career path for a mechanical engineer?
  • Best Student Employers to work for in engineering

  • Getting mechanical engineering work experience

    There are hordes of fresh-faced students, just like yourself, who will do anything to get their hands on an engineering job – 91 of them per graduate vacancy, to be precise.

    If you want the upper hand, you’re going to have to arm yourself with professional work experience. So, let’s run through your main options…

    Mechanical engineering placements 

    For: 2nd or 3rd years
    Duration: 5-13 months
    When to apply: Sep-May

    A mechanical engineering placement is a brilliant opportunity to spend up to an entire year in full-time employment before you enter the rat race. It’s a real job that pays a real salary. In turn, you’ll be relied upon to deliver projects that have an impact on the world around you.

    This experience will give you the soft skills, technical knowledge and worldly wisdom you need to confidently take on the graduate job market.

    At ASM, for example, you’ll join a team of world-class engineers in designing industry-leading machines, engines and systems.

    You’ll learn what it’s like to work in an engineering environment and build the skills you need to thrive, including problem-solving, creativity and communication.

    As well as giving you an invaluable insight into the industry, ASM’s mechanical engineering placements offer a competitive salary, 25 days of annual holiday and flexible working hours. Not bad for a student.

    Mechanical engineering internships

    For: All students
    Duration: 1-4 months
    When to apply: Sep-Mar

    If your course doesn’t require you to do a year in industry, two or three stints as an intern will make a great impression on future employers. Internships last around 12 weeks and usually take place in the summer.

    A mechanical engineering internship is a chance to put theory into practice by taking ownership of a project; something that will give you the edge when applying for graduate jobs. 

    And if you perform well, your employer might even offer you a permanent role – which will take all the stress out of your final year!

    TOP TIP: Engineers are great at thinking outside the box. So, rather than waiting for a mechanical engineering internship to fall into your lap, go to as many careers fairs, employer presentations and recruiter workshops as possible. Meeting employers face-to-face is a unique opportunity to ask questions and find out more about specific roles and industries.

    For further career advice, read our in-depth guide to Engineering Placements, where we put the spotlight on engineering internships, placements and salaries.

    What is the best career path for a mechanical engineer?

    In a nutshell, mechanical engineers design, create and improve the mechanical components and systems that make the world go round. 

    They apply scientific principles, technical expertise and a dash of creativity to turn great ideas into reality.

    These ideas could be anything from prosthetic limbs, 3D printers and toasters, to high-speed trains, driverless cars and supersonic planes that fly you from Tokyo to San Francisco in less than six hours.

    With a degree and relevant mechanical engineering work experience under your belt, you too have a real shot at landing your dream job.

    Your ability to solve complex problems, manage projects and navigate tools like MATLAB and AutoCAD will set you up for a successful career in any one of the following industries:

    • Aerospace
    • Automotive
    • Biomedical
    • Construction
    • Cross-sector technologies
    • Defence
    • Energy
    • Manufacturing
    • Railway
    • Water

    Best Student Employers to work for in Engineering

    Once you’ve decided on a sector that interests you, you can start thinking about which companies you’d like to work for. 

    Each year we announce our Best Student Employers; a list that is based on the thousands of reviews submitted to RateMyPlacement.co.uk by previous placement students and interns.

    This year’s top companies for mechanical engineering placements and internships are:

    If you’re struggling to pick, have a think about what you want to get out of your placement. For instance, do you want a global brand like Dyson on your CV? Or would you rather make a bigger impression in a smaller company?

    Try securing mechanical engineering work experience with both types of employers so that you can make an informed decision once you graduate. 

    Browse thousands of reviews left by students like YOU to hear what it’s really like to do a placement or internship in mechanical engineering…

    How much will I earn as a mechanical engineer?

    Based on the thousands of reviews on RateMyPlacement.co.uk, the average salary for students undertaking work experience in the engineering sector is £17,781 a year.

    Mechanical engineers tend to bring home a considerably higher wage than the average Joe, and rightly so. Once you secure a graduate role, you can expect to start on an average salary of £28,500.

    It takes hard work, commitment and a high level of skill to get to the top – but if you do, there is the potential to earn a tidy average salary of £65,536 a year.