Creativity, Practicality Provide Real-Life Solutions to Challenging Problems
Were you the type of kid who always wanted to know how things worked? Mechanical engineers take that curiosity and an aptitude for science to find rewarding careers dealing with the design, construction, and use of tools and machines. Most mechanical engineers work in offices full-time during regular business hours, which can be an advantage in planning for child care.
Mechanical engineers use scientific and mathematic principles to find technical solutions for problems in construction, engine design and manufacturing. They use their expertise to construct and improve buildings and design power-producing machines such as generators, gas turbines and internal combustion engines. Mechanical engineers design and construct systems within buildings, such as air-conditioning systems and elevators.
The minimum requirement is a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. Coursework typically includes calculus, fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, physics and hydraulics. Students are expected to gain a basic understanding of other engineering specialties, such as civil, electrical and chemical engineering. They may also undertake coursework in fields in which mechanical engineering is applied, such as environmental science or the automotive industry. Mechanical engineering students complete projects to get hands-on experience.
To become a licensed professional engineer, you must first pass the Fundamentals of Engineering exam. Then, following a minimum of four years of work experience, you will sit for the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam. Both exams are administered through the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES). Licensing requirements vary from state to state. Continuing education through seminars, workshops and professional organizations can help mechanical engineers maintain licensure and earn additional certifications.
About the Industry
Mechanical engineers work in offices and laboratories. It’s typical, particularly in the early years of a career, to visit jobsites and undertake fieldwork. Opportunities exist with large firms and small companies, both domestically and abroad. Experienced engineers looking to exercise more control over their work schedules can find jobs in academia or as consultants. With their career choice, mechanical engineers typically experience low stress, good work-life balance and high job satisfaction.
Years of Experience
The median annual salary for a mechanical engineer is $80,020, which means that half of those in the field earn more, and half earn less. Geographic location, education and title are responsible for variations in salary across the U.S. Longevity in the field without increased responsibilities generally does not translate to huge pay increases. Some average range follow:
- Less than 1 year of experience: $75,343–$79,065
- 3–4 years of experience: $77,634–$81,495
- 5–6 years of experience: $79,065–$83,339
- 20+ years of experience: $80,020–$84,691
Job Growth Trend
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, expected job growth for mechanical engineers will be about average (9 percent) over the next decade when compared to all other occupations. Job prospects are likely to be strongest for individuals with advanced degrees and those who stay on top of the latest technologies.
Denise Dayton, M.Ed., M.S. teaches career readiness and workplace success, along with other business courses, at a small college in New England.