Mechanical Engineers

Career, Salary and Education Information

Top 3 Mechanical Engineer Jobs

  • Mechanical Engineer II - Michael Baker International - Rosslyn, VA

    This is a mid-level position supporting senior engineers. Can you walk me through a typical day of a Mechanical Engineer? • You will develop

  • Senior Mechanical Engineer - SpineFrontier - Beverly, MA

    The environment is relaxed and fun, but we move at a fast pace. The culture is interactive with company basketball teams, group 5k races, summer

  • Intern-Mechanical Engineering - General Dynamics Land Systems - Sterling Heights, MI

    Will support various projects by

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What Mechanical Engineers Do[About this section] [To Top]

Mechanical engineers research, design, develop, build, and test mechanical and thermal sensors and devices, including tools, engines, and machines.

Duties of Mechanical Engineers

Mechanical engineers typically do the following:

  • Analyze problems to see how mechanical and thermal devices might help solve a particular problem
  • Design or redesign mechanical and thermal devices or subsystems, using analysis and computer-aided design
  • Investigate equipment failures or difficulties to diagnose faulty operation and to recommend remedies
  • Develop and test prototypes of devices they design
  • Analyze the test results and change the design or system as needed
  • Oversee the manufacturing process for the device

Mechanical engineering is one of the broadest engineering fields. Mechanical engineers design and oversee the manufacture of many products ranging from medical devices to new batteries.

Mechanical engineers design power-producing machines, such as electric generators, internal combustion engines, and steam and gas turbines, as well as power-using machines, such as refrigeration and air-conditioning systems.

Mechanical engineers design other machines inside buildings, such as elevators and escalators. They also design material-handling systems, such as conveyor systems and automated transfer stations.

Like other engineers, mechanical engineers use computers extensively. Mechanical engineers are routinely responsible for the integration of sensors, controllers, and machinery. Computer technology helps mechanical engineers create and analyze designs, run simulations and test how a machine is likely to work, interact with connected systems, and generate specifications for parts.

The following are examples of types of mechanical engineers:

Auto research engineers seek to improve the performance of cars. These engineers work to improve traditional features of cars such as suspension, and they also work on aerodynamics and new possible fuels.

Heating and cooling systems engineers work to create and maintain environmental systems wherever temperatures and humidity must be kept within certain limits. They develop such systems for airplanes, trains, cars, schools, and even computer rooms.

Robotic engineers plan, build, and maintain robots. These engineers plan how robots will use sensors for detecting things based on light or smell, and they design how these sensors will fit into the designs of the robots.

Work Environment for Mechanical Engineers[About this section] [To Top]

Mechanical engineers hold about 288,800 jobs. The largest employers of mechanical engineers were as follows:

Architectural, engineering, and related services 22%
Machinery manufacturing 13
Transportation equipment manufacturing 12
Scientific research and development services 7
Computer and electronic product manufacturing 7

Mechanical engineers generally work in offices. They may occasionally visit worksites where a problem or piece of equipment needs their personal attention. In most settings, they work with other engineers, engineering technicians, and other professionals as part of a team.

Mechanical Engineer Work Schedules

Most mechanical engineers work full time, and about 3 in 10 work more than 40 hours a week.

How to Become a Mechanical Engineer[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Mechanical Engineers near you!

Mechanical engineers typically need a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering or mechanical engineering technology. Mechanical engineers who sell services publicly must be licensed in all states and the District of Columbia.

Education for Mechanical Engineers

Mechanical engineers typically need a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering or mechanical engineering technology. Mechanical engineering programs usually include courses in mathematics and life and physical sciences, as well as engineering and design. Mechanical engineering technology programs focus less on theory and more on the practical application of engineering principles. They may emphasize internships and co-ops to prepare students for work in industry.

Some colleges and universities offer 5-year programs that allow students to obtain both a bachelor's and a master's degree. Some 5-year or even 6-year cooperative plans combine classroom study with practical work, enabling students to gain valuable experience and earn money to finance part of their education.

ABET accredits programs in engineering and engineering technology. Most employers prefer to hire students from an accredited program. A degree from an ABET-accredited program is usually necessary to become a licensed professional engineer.

Important Qualities for Mechanical Engineers

Creativity. Mechanical engineers design and build complex pieces of equipment and machinery. A creative mind is essential for this kind of work.

Listening skills. Mechanical engineers often work on projects with others, such as architects and computer scientists. They must listen to and analyze different approaches made by other experts to complete the task at hand.

Math skills. Mechanical engineers use the principles of calculus, statistics, and other advanced subjects in math for analysis, design, and troubleshooting in their work.

Mechanical skills. Mechanical skills allow engineers to apply basic engineering concepts and mechanical processes to the design of new devices and systems.

Problem-solving skills. Mechanical engineers need good problem-solving skills to take scientific principles and discoveries and use them to design and build useful products.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations for Mechanical Engineers

Licensure is not required for entry-level positions as a mechanical engineer. A Professional Engineering (PE) license, which allows for higher levels of leadership and independence, can be acquired later in one's career. Licensed engineers are called professional engineers (PEs). A PE can oversee the work of other engineers, sign off on projects, and provide services directly to the public. State licensure generally requires

  • A degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program
  • A passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam
  • Relevant work experience typically at least 4 years
  • A passing score on the Professional Engineering (PE) exam.

The initial FE exam can be taken after one earns a bachelor's degree. Engineers who pass this exam are commonly called engineers in training (EITs) or engineer interns (EIs). After meeting work experience requirements, EITs and EIs can take the second exam, called the Principles and Practice of Engineering.

Several states require engineers to take continuing education to renew their licenses every year. Most states recognize licensure from other states, as long as the other state's licensing requirements meet or exceed their own licensing requirements.

Several professional organizations offer a variety of certification programs for engineers to demonstrate competency in specific fields of mechanical engineering.

Other Experience for Mechanical Engineers

During high school students can attend engineering summer camps to see what these and other engineers do. Attending these camps can help students plan their coursework for the remainder of their time in high school.

Advancement for Mechanical Engineers

A Ph.D. is essential for engineering faculty positions in higher education, as well as for some research and development programs. Mechanical engineers may earn graduate degrees in engineering or business administration to learn new technology, broaden their education, and enhance their project management skills. Mechanical engineers may become administrators or managers after gaining work experience.

Mechanical Engineer Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

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Entry Level Experienced

The median annual wage for mechanical engineers is $84,190. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $54,420, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $131,350.

The median annual wages for mechanical engineers in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Scientific research and development services $96,360
Computer and electronic product manufacturing 89,330
Architectural, engineering, and related services 87,670
Transportation equipment manufacturing 84,940
Machinery manufacturing 75,480

Most mechanical engineers work full time, and about 3 in 10 work more than 40 hours a week.

Job Outlook for Mechanical Engineers[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of mechanical engineers is projected to grow 9 percent over the next ten years, as fast as the average for all occupations. Mechanical engineers can work in many industries and on many types of projects. As a result, their growth rate will differ by the industries that employ them.

Mechanical engineers are projected to experience faster than average growth in engineering services as companies continue to contract work from these firms. Mechanical engineers will also remain involved in various manufacturing industries, particularly in automotive manufacturing. These engineers will play key roles in improving the range and performance of hybrid and electric cars.

Mechanical engineers often work on the newest industrial pursuits, particularly in automation and robotics. The fields of alternative energies and nanotechnology will also offer new opportunities for occupational growth. Mechanical engineers design production projects to harness developments in nanotechnology, which involves manipulating matter at the tiniest levels. Nanotechnology will result in improvements of technology in fields such as healthcare and in the design of more powerful computer chips.

Job Prospects for Mechanical Engineers

Prospects for mechanical engineers overall are expected to be good. They will be best for those with training in the latest software tools, particularly for computational design and simulation. Such tools allow engineers and designers to take a project from the conceptual phase directly to a finished product, eliminating the need for prototypes.

Mechanical engineering students who can learn to create virtual simulations before proceeding to the design, build, and test stages might find themselves in high demand by companies because these skills will allow firms to reduce product development cycles.

Engineers who have experience or training in three-dimensional printing also will have better job prospects.

Employment projections data for Mechanical Engineers, 2016-26
Occupational Title Employment, 2016 Projected Employment, 2026 Change, 2016-26
Percent Numeric
Mechanical engineers 288,800 314,100 9 25,300


*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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