This section will address how to select which program you should attend.
MOTIVATIONS FOR DEGREE
In a Mechanical engineering, you will study the maintenance, analysis, design, and manufacture of machinery. This ranges from designing the tiny parts of machines, as well as the handling of large-scale machinery. You should look into this degree if you have a strong grounding in core concepts like thermodynamics, material sciences and structural analysis.
TYPES OF DEGREE
In a nutshell, the following degrees + sub-fields/ specializations are available for Mechanical Engineering:
- Masters in Mechanical Engineering (can take 1-2 years to complete)
- PhD in Mechanical Engineering (can take 4-7 years to complete)
To view admission tips for a Master’s in Mechanical Engineering, view this page.
How to select the best option for yourself (among degrees/programs within this field)
When choosing between a Master’s and PhD in Mechanical Engineering, keep the following points in mind:
- Look at the sorts of jobs you want to go for and see if they specifically require PhDs or if a Master’s will do. Often, a PhD can give you an edge in job applications, which is why it can be a good idea to go for them. Typically, research related jobs will require PhDs, while industry jobs will accept Master’s.
- If you wish to enter the research field or academia, then a PhD would make more sense for you. Do note, that these jobs are competitive and risky in the US.
- If you are on a time constraint, going for a Master’s degree makes more sense. Keep in mind that a PhD is rigorous and will take a considerable amount of time to complete
- Go through this link and this link to help you decide between the two options.
How to select the best option for yourself (among specializations and sub-fields within this field)
There are a large amount of topics and subfields that you can specialize in when doing a PhD in Mechanical Engineering. Some of these are as follows:
- Design, Manufacturings, and Tribology
- Dynamics, Control, Robotics, Neural Engineering
- Solid Mechanics
- Fluid Dynamics
It is important that you research different programs in order to find universities that are offering subfields that you wish to pursue in your own research. If you are not too sure what you want to do yet, try to find a program that gives you more room to explore. A lot of programs will let you pursue a PhD in General Mechanical Engineering as well.
If you are interested in Mechanical Engineering, you might also like::
- Aerospace Engineering
- No. of Universities to Apply: 4-8
Complement the above field-specific tips with general tips on program selection (under the tab of ‘selection’).
A lot of our tips talk about how you can strengthen your application, but you can build a stronger application when you’ve done the things this program values in the years prior to the application. The application itself is the communication part (in which you communicate what you've done to the admission committee); but this section gives guidance on the substance part (what you can actually do before you apply). In this section we talk about what you can do in the years leading up to applying that can make you an ideal candidate. Supplement the following tips with general tips (under the tab of ‘Pre-Application’) to become a competitive applicant.
Students interested in applying for a PHD in Mechanical Engineering in the USA should ideally have a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, Physics, or a comparable science program. Admission without one of these is extremely difficult, but possible. In both cases, you need to show that you have a strong foundation knowledge of mechanical engineering by doing engineering courses (see coursework section below).
Note that some universities require you to have done a Bachelor’s degree specifically in Mechanical Engineering. Make sure you find out about requirements like this before deciding to apply.
CourseWork and Transcripts:
Specific course requirements can vary across universities, so make sure to carefully find and read these requirements before applying. If course requirements are not explicitly stated, you should try to do courses that focus on solid mechanics, dynamics, fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, heat transfer, materials, control, design and manufacturing. In general, try to do as many engineering (specifically mechanical) engineering courses as possible.
Most universities will mention a cut-off of 3.0 on their websites, but a competitive GPA is at least 3.5 or higher, especially for higher ranked schools.
This is one of the most important parts of your application. Publishing a paper in a refereed journal, as a co-author or author, is the best indication of great research experience. If this is not possible, do not get disheartened. You can also show your interest in research by perhaps being a Research Assistant for a professor working on a paper, or even being part of a smaller project and present your findings at a conference. Students often make posters and manage to present them at conferences both big and small. Always keep an eye out for conferences and attend as many as you can, even if you are unable to present at them, as they are excellent for networking with the right people. Even unpublished research can be helpful for your application. It is useful to go to university websites and look at potential topics for research — a lot of universities will have specific pages just for this.
Work experience is not a strict requirement in most schools, but can certainly boost your application, especially if you do not have particularly high grades. Relevant work experience where you get to work directly in the mechanical engineering field can help tremendously in your application.
This is not a requirement for this program, but any volunteer work (such as helping organizing conferences relevant to the field) that can be linked to the field can make your application better.
This section provides an overview of general guidelines pertaining to the application process. It also delineates the key components of the application process.
Refer to the Program Selection Section for further information.
Is this component required?
How important is this component (in the overall review of the application for admission)?
Standardized tests or entry exams
General GRE usually required
TOEFL/IELTS or equivalent required
Transcripts (past academic records)
Letters of recommendation
Resume or CV
Important; can boost application
Do not usually take place
- At this point, if you are seriously considering graduate school, begin your search by reading this guide and by searching the websites from the following links:
Complement the above field-specific tips with general tips on overview (under the tab of ‘overview’).
Pakistani applicants suffer most because of inadequate information -- or wrong information -- about essays and personal statements. This section will address those inadequacies specifically in relation to applying for this program. Supplement the following field-specific tips with general tips (under the tab of ‘essay’) to craft a stellar personal statement.
You will be required to enter at least one personal statement, or statement of purpose into your application. Some universities will have a prompt or question that you will have to answer, as well as instructions on what the word or page limit is, and what format the essay needs to be submitted in. Make sure you read these instructions extremely carefully and follow them. If you are given no instructions on the word or page limit, try to aim for 1-2 pages and do not go beyond 3 pages.
- It is recommended writing your own statement, and not using some pre-prepared format. Just give yourself enough time to do it.
TIPS ON GOOD AND BAD STATEMENTS
What is essential in the statement:
- Include a description of your education and experience as it relates to your future graduate career. Mention all research experience you have or special projects you may have done in a course, and try to combine this with your interests in Mechanical Engineering. Mention any specific faculty members you want to work with at the university you are applying to, and why your background and interests suit this professor.
- Mention, and explain clearly, any abnormalities in your application or in your path to graduate school. You may have a low GPA, or a low GRE score, or you may have taken a gap year or switched colleges or majors in the middle of your degree. You will need to give context to any of these issues or they could become a red flag or cause of suspicion for the committee. You do not have to go too far into your personal issues to explain, just give a big picture.
- Try to answer this question at all times with your essay: what makes you qualified to attend the program you are applying to? This will ensure that you stay to the point, because this is the question that the committee is most interested in when looking at your application and personal statement.
What are some elements of exceptional statements:
- Treat your personal statement like a personal letter to a professor that you want to work with. How can you convince them that they need to work with you over other potential applicants?
- Be aware of the research going on in the universities that you are applying to, and show it in your statement. Highlighting potential areas where your prior experience overlaps with the research going on in the departments you are applying to will be golden and will make the committee consider you more closely.
- Make sure your personal statement exhibits the following: passion for research, a high level of motivation, organization skills, and good verbal and written skills.
- Indicate your interest, experience, and potential as best as possible through previous work and future ideas.
What are bad statements/ what things to avoid:
- Stay relevant and do not spend too much time writing about childhood wishes or experiences. This is not like your undergraduate personal statement, you have to stay on point and mention recent experiences and how they will help your graduate career. If you focus on flowery stories from years past, it will not leave a good impression.
- Try not to mention a topic you are interested in if you know that the university you are applying to has no one working on that topic. You want to show that you are the perfect fit for a specific program, so if you talk about something that the department itself is not interested in, they will rank your application lower than people who fit in more with their research plans.
This section will cover the basics about recommendation letters, which are one of the most important parts of the application process. Supplement the following field-specific tips with general tips (under the tab of ‘recommendations’) to ensure you have strong letters of recommendation.
You will be expected to have 2-3 letters of recommendation in your application. You will typically not be allowed to see your recommendations, and will just enter your recommenders’ contact information into your application. Your recommenders will then be sent instructions on where to complete the recommendation.
Good recommenders are mentors, professors who have taught you relevant courses, and research supervisors. Out of these, the best recommendations will come from research supervisors who have worked directly with you. If you have work experience in mechanical engineering, then a supervisor or employer could also be a good third recommender. Often universities will specify the need for at least 1-2 purely academic recommendations.
TIPS ON GOOD AND BAD LETTERS
What is essential in the LoRs:
- Explanations of how you are fit for a PhD program, and how you are suited for this specific program and university. They need to talk about positive qualities that make you a good PhD candidate for mechanical engineering such as: passion for the subject, great research skills, excellent academic abilities, good organization skills, and a lot of motivation.
- Explanations of any shortcomings in your application such as bad grades, a bad GRE score, etc. They do not need to go into too much detail, but just confirm anything that you have talked about in your personal statement.
What are some elements of exceptional LoRs:
- Getting a recommender who is well-versed in research to talk about any exceptional research skills that you have is golden.
- If your recommender makes meaningful comparisons between you and other students/workers they have supervised, this can be very useful for the admissions committee.
What are bad LoRs/ what things to avoid
- Duplicating the student’s personal statement and repeating the same things without adding any personal comments or elaboration.
- Not having the right tone. The reference needs to be an objective and analytical appraisal; it should not be too personal or emotional.
This section will cover everything else related to the application process; including transcripts, interviews, resumes, and standardized tests.
The General GRE is usually required in Phd Programs for Mechanical Engineering. For high ranked programs, a good quantitative score would be 160+ and a good Verbal Reasoning score would be 153+.
The TOEFL or equivalent are almost always required to prove English language proficiency.
Complement the above field-specific tips with general tips on preparing for standardized tests (under the tab of ‘tests’).
FINAL COMMENTS ON APPLICATIONS
Complement the above field-specific tips with general tips on final comments on applications (under the tab of ‘overview’).
The following sources were consulted in developing this tip-sheet and we encourage you to consult these sources for additional information and guidance on your application.
Furthermore, the following sources were also consulted in developing this tip-sheet: University of Illinois, Matt Might, The Princeton Review, Drexel University, Stanford, Cornell University, MIT, University of Illinois Chicago, Northwestern, Abisola Kusimo