How To Become a Mechanical Systems Designer in 3 Steps

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published August 4, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Mechanical systems designers are essential workers who ensure that different systems in buildings and manufacturing facilities work properly. Often specializing in areas like heating or cooling, candidates for this job typically fulfill certain requirements before they can begin their careers. Understanding how to qualify for a role in their field can help you learn the right skills and prepare for career success. In this article, we discuss how to become a mechanical systems designer, share what they do and review the competencies they often develop.

What is a mechanical systems designer?

A mechanical systems designer is a science and technology professional who helps to create complex systems for their customers. They often focus on the specific parts of equipment, like manufacturing equipment or building components. These professionals gather requirements, draw plans and create prototypes as they build these parts that can support different environments. Common mechanical systems include:

  • HVAC: HVAC, or heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, are the air systems within a building. Mechanical systems designers ensure that these can provide a safe and comfortable environment for those in a building.

  • Refrigeration: Refrigeration systems are those that regulate cooler temperatures for buildings like retail locations, restaurants or warehouses. This requires a knowledge of conductivity and engineering to understand how liquids and gasses interact and maintain cooler temperatures.

  • Hydronic systems:Hydronic systems are heating systems that often use machines like boilers or steam to heat a location. This heat-transfer method helps keep buildings warm in ways other than gas or electric burning.

Related: What Is Mechanical Design? (With Types and Skills)

What does a mechanical systems designer do?

There are several essential responsibilities of a mechanical systems designer:

Design solutions

The primary responsibility for this role is to design solutions for their customers. For example, a new office might explore new ventilation options and your responsibility would be to outline how that could work. This includes identifying the parts needed to build equipment, the placement of equipment and how these different machines interact to provide a safe and comfortable solution. During this design phase, you can expect to use design software, like computer-aided design (CAD) software to insert measurements and create blueprints.

Related: What Is Mechanical Engineering?

Write specifications

Mechanical systems designers also write the specifications for the machinery or equipment they design. This includes identifying what materials they need, precise measurements and plotting spaces for equipment to work properly. For example, you might design a refrigeration system in a small space, you might gather the floor plans and determine where it might fit and what you might need. This can also include mechanical specifications, like the temperature necessary for it to function properly or switches or gears that might contribute to a functioning system.

Perform inspections and testing

Mechanical systems engineers also test systems and equipment once installed. They might first perform testing on prototypes to refine the specifications before a full installation. When equipment is in place, they might inspect it to verify the proper temperatures, functions and connections before their customers can use the equipment regularly.

How to become a mechanical systems designer

Here are some steps you can follow to become a mechanical systems designer:

1. Earn an education

Most systems designer positions require at least a bachelor's degree to get a job. This is most commonly a degree in mechanical engineering or a related field. Though not required, some people may pursue advanced degrees, like a master's in mechanical engineering, to develop their knowledge further. This can also help if you hope to enter supervisory positions in the field. Many jobs require schools that have certifications with the American Board for Engineering and Technology.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Related: A Guide to Careers in Mechanical Engineering

2. Explore certifications

Certifications can show your specialization in certain areas. Some jobs require CAD or AutoCAD certifications that can show you're proficient in using computer software to perform design duties. If you're focusing on a specific type of system, you might pursue certification in that area. For example, you might earn an HVAC certification to design ventilation, heating and cooling systems.

3. Get experience

Some jobs in this field require several years of experience before hiring. Often, they hope to see you have specific design experience, like those in HVAC or areas like electro-mechanical design. To get experience in some of these areas, you can work as a technician for several years to learn the terminology, tools and processes that can prepare you for a designer role.

Mechanical systems designer skills

There are several technical and soft skills mechanical systems designers have:

  • Drafting: Drafting, typically using online software, can be essential for this role. Drafting skills show that you know how to use these tools, create blueprints and diagrams and edit specifications to create prototypes.

  • Problem-solving: As customers often come to mechanical systems teams to solve issues they may have, the ability to understand a problem, consider possibilities and decide on the right solution is essential. You can develop this by practicing with several use cases and designing systems before applying this to actual jobs.

  • Science: This profession commonly works with engineers, manufacturers and other professionals who understand complex science and math theories and applications. This can help you determine designs that have appropriate temperatures and functions and understand the effects of different design choices.

  • Communication: You'll deal with complex situations in this role, so written and verbal communication can be essential. You might need to explain unique topics to people who don't understand systems and write clear documentation and specifications for other team members.

Related: Mechanical Engineering Skills: Definitions and Examples

Salary and job outlook

The salary for a mechanical systems designer can vary depending on education, location and experience. Though there is limited data on this specific role, Indeed salaries indicate that the average salary for a mechanical engineer is $80,124 per year. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment for these roles may grow by 7% from 2020 to 2030, which is about the national average for job growth.

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