Occupation Thesaurus Entry: Mechanical Engineer

Jobs are as important for our characters as they are for real people. A character’s career might be their dream job or one they’ve chosen due to necessity. In your story, they might be trying to get that job or are already working in the field. Whatever the situation, as with any defining aspect for your character, you’ll need to do the proper research to be able to write that career knowledgeably.

Enter the Occupation Thesaurus. Here, you’ll find important background information on a variety of career options for your character. In addition to the basics, we’ll also be covering related info that relates to character arc and story planning, such as sources of conflict (internal and external) and how the job might impact basic human needs, thereby affecting the character’s goals. It’s our hope that this thesaurus will share some of your research burden while also giving you ideas about your character’s occupation that you might not have considered before.

Find the perfect job to highlight your character's personality and serve you plot line with the Occupation ThesaurusOccupation: Mechanical Engineer

Overview: Mechanical Engineering involves the study of motion, force, and energy. Engineers call upon their knowledge in this area by researching, designing, building, and maintaining mechanical tools, engines, machines, and large-scale plants and facilities. The  products and systems created and developed by mechanical engineers is vast, from space shuttle vehicles to escalators to biomedical devices to power plants.

Their skills are needed in a variety of industries, including aerospace, automotive, pharmaceutical, robotics, construction, oil and gas, utilities, and more—meaning there are many employment options for someone in this field.

Necessary Training: To work in this field, one must acquire a four-year mechanical engineering degree. Coursework leans heavily on advanced mathematics, calculus, chemistry, and physics.

Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: Mechanically inclined, repurposing

Helpful Character Traits:

POSITIVE: Analytical, cooperative, creative, curious, decisive, efficient, enthusiastic, focused, industrious, intelligent, meticulous, observant, organized, proactive, resourceful, responsible, sensible, studious

Sources of Friction: Working on a team with uncooperative or unmotivated members, racial or gender prejudice, being unable to find the solution for a particular project, being led by someone lacking sufficient knowledge or experience, dealing with paperwork and red tape that keep one from doing one’s job, working within unrealistic deadlines, losing funding in the middle of a project, unknowingly working with inferior parts (resulting in machines breaking down or not working), one’s machine malfunctioning and causing an injury, being passed up for the projects one is excited about, being pigeon-holed into only working on certain projects, being great with machines but not so good with people, one’s ideas being stolen (by a boss, team member, or client), one’s project being sabotaged by a jealous or competitive co-worker, a physical injury (such as a traumatic brain injury or one affecting the hands or fingers) that makes it difficult to work

People They Might Interact With: Clients, a boss, office personnel, team members and co-workers, project managers, construction foremen and general contractors, other engineers

How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:

  • Self-Actualization: Because this career field is so vast, people may enter it with different goals. If a character was passionate about working in a certain area but gets stuck working on certain products or in one space, they may become dissatisfied, feeling they’re not able to do what they really want to do.
  • Esteem and Recognition: Someone who is always being out-performed by co-workers or is bypassed repeatedly for promotions may begin to doubt himself or lose esteem in the eyes of his peers.
  • Safety and Security: A mechanical engineer involved in the manufacture and testing of machinery may find herself in danger if something goes wrong.

Common Work-Related Settings: Big city street, boardroom, break room, construction site, elevator, factory, office cubicle, parking lot, parking garage

Twisting the Fictional Stereotype: 

  • Engineers have typically been drawn as nerdy, bookish types. What about a sexy, adventurous, engineer?
  • While it’s true that mechanical engineers spend a lot of time in the office, spice yours up by giving them a project that requires them to visit interesting locations or places that are strategic to your plot.

Visit the other Occupations in our collection HERE.


Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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8 Responses to Occupation Thesaurus Entry: Mechanical Engineer

  1. :Donna says:

    This one is SO in my wheelhouse 😀

  2. Interesting career choice.

  3. Being a mechanical engineer, this description is very accurate. Thank you.

    There are lots of uncommon mechanical engineering jobs. Intelligence communities, such as NSA & CIA, use mechanical engineers to design components for in-house use. Authors can let their imaginations run wild with this one.

    Ordnance design (warheads, ammunition, projectiles) is also unconventional. I’ve worked with more than one person with missing fingers when what they were handling unexpectedly initiated. This was an eye-opener in regards to safety. I’ve set off explosive machines in airports when traveling home after doing testing because my backpack had explosive residue on it. There are lots of opportunities to put your characters in uncomfortable (or funny) situations–like having TSA THOROUGHLY search your purse and luggage in public.

    • Thank you so much for adding some ideas here based on your own experiences. I agree, that’s some story gold!

    • Thanks for the input, Renita. I knew virtually nothing about this career before researching it for this post, so I’m glad to know it rang true. One of the most interesting thing was seeing all the options for mechanical engineers; they can work in just about every industry.

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