Mechanical engineering courses aimed at people with ambitious personal goals are not hard to find, but deciding on exactly the right study route in such a complex and fast-moving field can be a little more problematic.

At least part of the whole experience is going to be “cultural”, in the sense of relating the key areas of study to the way the real world of business development functions, so that – as a random example – a course carried out exclusively in Tokyo might seem a logical choice for somebody following a particular stream of engineering endeavour relevant to modern Far East product development and business streams.

The same argument could be made for universities in the UK and USA, where the particular study route is generally expected to dovetail with an array of post-graduate opportunities within relevant fields, and of course these all have to be rigorously studied own merits.

Meanwhile it has to be worth seriously studying the sort of package represented by the AUS – American University of Sharjah – which encapsulates American-standard course systems with the sort of “cultural” regimen you would expect from an institution operating at the centre of a dynamic Gulf state wholly geared to the evolving demands of advanced mechanical engineering in a multitude of vital domestic programmes.

At the UAE a mechanical engineering degree has design projects directly incorporated into the classroom, giving a sharp practical edge to the study of theory – an approach which allows students to focus on the practical realities of every development stage while gaining a minutely-informed appreciation of the scientific theory.

Some of the past projects have included, for example, a solar car, a mini-Baja SAE all-terrain car, and a formula SAE race car, as well as participation in the Supermileage Vehicle Competition and the Aircraft Design Build and Fly AIAA-DBF Competition.

The UAE generally, boasts one particularly important attribute, meanwhile, which is difficult to pin down but perhaps none the less real for that – a stimulating environment in which people from all racial backgrounds interact in one very positive atmosphere of cultural optimism, where students assuredly have to check in any “dull” credentials at the university door.

On leaving the AUS graduate will ideally possess a whole catalogue of important attributes, not least of which is the need to “communicate effectively” – there’s an implicit recognition throughout the university’s mission statement that progress can only be achieved through positive interaction on the broadest possible front.

Objectives include “serve the engineering profession and support sustainable development” – which again points towards a graduate ethos which always stresses the vital wider context.

Meanwhile among many other things the graduate will be expected to be able to “design a system, component or process to meet desired needs within realistic constraints” – again highlighting the need for optimum efficiency within strictly finite resources.

The university also has an active American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) student chapter, as well as membership in the Society of Automotive Engineering (SAE) and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) – which forges unmistakeable links with core US practice where it matters most.

Exactly how success in this sort of milieu translates into job opportunities is a matter as fluid and rich in possibilities as the courses appear to be, since with modern top mechanical engineering degrees the line between study and practical experimentation and actual employment is increasingly blurred.

Certainly students who have gained sound experience on significant “real world” projects, inevitably in association with major engineering interests, will find themselves presented with a number of different “lanes” towards employment.

Exactly which starting point will be most profitable in the long run depends largely on which area of specialisation the budding mechanical engineer wishes to follow – and, underlining why the “right” course is so vital, that can only emerge through the experience of university.

The opportunities in a rapidly-evolving global sector are literally unlimited, and arguably the “best” course is the one which best equips the graduate for employment progression in the most career-rewarding way.

All of which means that a whole range of factors has to be taken into consideration before going all out to win admission to the university of choice – and that’s a detailed career reconnaissance guaranteed to yield brilliant results in the long term.