Mechanical Engineer Career Overview

Mechanical Engineer Career Overview

Most entry-level jobs for mechanical engineers require a bachelor’s degree in engineering or mechanical engineering. Research-based or supervisory mechanical engineering positions may require a master’s degree. Compared to other college graduates, graduating mechanical engineers earn the highest entry-level mechanical engineer salary. 

So, what is a mechanical engineer? What does a mechanical engineer do? What’s involved in a mechanical engineer job description? And, what mechanical engineering opportunities for advancement can you expect? 

What Is a Mechanical Engineer?

Mechanical engineers combine the principles of math and science to develop economic solutions to technical problems. They help to meet consumer and societal needs by linking science with commercial applications. Many mechanical engineers develop new products while specifying precise functional requirements, designing and testing components, producing a final design and evaluating the product’s reliability, effectiveness, cost and safety. 

Mechanical engineers make up one of the broadest engineering disciplines, working on power-producing machines including steam and gas turbines, internal combustion engines and electric generators. Some even design tools that other engineers use. Mechanical engineers may work in agriculture or manufacturing production, technical sales or maintenance. With their range of skills and base of knowledge, many mechanical engineers become managers or administrators. But, what does a mechanical engineer do? 

What Does a Mechanical Engineer Do? 

You’re wondering, “What Does a Mechanical Engineer Do?” The simple answer is that mechanical engineering jobs entry-level work involves several industries, specifically in areas of production, testing and maintenance. They may supervise production in factories, test products for quality or determine causes of malfunction. They must also estimate the time and cost for each project as part of the quoting and project management side. Thus, supervisors may oversee an entire project or the design and manufacturing of a major component.

Mechanical engineering career info involves using computers to produce and analyze designs, monitor quality, control efficiency and generate part specifications, as well as simulate and test how systems operate. Mechanical engineers develop, design, research, manufacture and test machines, engines, tools and other mechanical devices. 

Mechanical Engineer Job Description

Usually, mechanical engineers work in office buildings, factories or labs. Mechanical engineers work on construction sites or production sites, monitoring or directing operations or solving onsite problems. Travel is sometimes required for those mechanical engineers who visit plants or worksites. A 40-hour is typical for mechanical engineers. However, longer hours may be required when there is a deadline.

How Much Does a Mechanical Engineer Make?

A mechanical engineer’s salary can average $90,200 as of May 2020. That mechanical engineer average salary works out to ~$43 per hour, with no work experience required in a related occupation. That entry-level mechanical engineer salary is not too far off from the median annual wages of $96,300 for an engineer

So, how much does a mechanical engineer make? On average, mechanical engineers earn higher starting salaries compared with other graduates with bachelor’s degrees. Let’s look at the breakdown with the senior mechanical engineer salary, as well as the mechanical engineer starting salary. 

Mechanical Engineer Average Salary 

Mechanical engineers earn the median annual wage of $90,160 as of May 2020. 

Entry Level Mechanical Engineer Salary 

The lowest 10 percent of mechanical engineers earn less than $58,410 as of May 2020. 

Senior Mechanical Engineer Salary 

The highest 10 percent of mechanical engineers earn more than $141,060. 

How To Become a Mechanical Engineer

Mechanical engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in engineering or a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering to qualify for entry-level jobs. However, some college graduates with natural science or mathematics degrees can find jobs in mechanical engineering, especially when those employees are in high demand. 

Even with a degree in mechanical engineering, mechanical engineers can work in another branch such as civil engineering, electrical engineering or electronics engineering. So, mechanical engineers have the flexibility to go after the best employment prospects possible even in competitive markets.

  1. Most mechanical engineers take courses in math, sciences, general engineering, design, computers, laboratories, humanities and social sciences.
  2. Beyond the typical four-year engineering degree, many colleges and universities offer two- and four-year programs in engineering technology. These hands-on programs focus on the most current issues and applications in the field to prepare graduates for practical design or production work rather than theoretical or scientific knowledge.
  3. Graduate training is a must for faculty positions as well as research and development jobs. Experienced engineers may seek a master’s degree to broaden their education or technical knowledge.
  4. Mechanical engineers must be licensed if they offer their services directly to the public. So, they must attend an engineering and engineering technology program, accredited by The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). To earn their license, they must complete four years of relevant work experience and pass an exam. 
  5. Recent graduates can begin the program right away by taking an exam to become engineer interns. 
  6. After logging suitable work experience they can take the second part of the exam. Many mechanical engineers are licensed professional engineers (PEs).

In addition to a college education, mechanical engineers should be creative, detail-oriented, inquisitive and analytical. Teamwork and communication skills are also important. To work for the federal government, mechanical engineers must have US citizenship. Depending on their background and experience, they may need to hold a security clearance.

Mechanical Engineer Requirements

For entry-level jobs, many mechanical engineers work under more experienced engineers. With experience and knowledge, they’ll take on more challenging assignments and work more independently. Later mechanical engineers may become supervisors or technical specialists. Others become engineering managers or enter other sales or managerial jobs.

A variety of professional certifications are available to mechanical engineers and can be especially beneficial to those individuals who are looking to advance in their chosen career field with senior, technical or managerial positions.

Mechanical Engineering Job Market

Roughly 1.6 million engineers are working in the US, with an estimated 238,700 of them having mechanical engineering backgrounds. Most engineering jobs are found in manufacturing and the professional, scientific and technical services industries. Many also work in wholesale trade, telecommunications and construction. About 12 percent of engineers work for the government and three percent work for themselves.

Over the next decade, mechanical engineers should see an employment growth of about seven percent, about as fast as average compared to all occupations. With about 20,000 openings for mechanical engineers projected every year, openings reflect the trend of workers moving to other occupations or leaving the workforce by retiring. 

Mechanical engineers work on the manufacturing of a variety of products. Their roles are ever more important they help plan for and design equipment to meet the needs of automation. Mechanical engineers are instrumental in improving the performance and range of electric and hybrid cars. New job opportunities for mechanical engineers are tied to emerging technologies for nanotechnology, biotechnology and materials science. 

Keeping up with the latest technology through continuing education is of utmost importance to mechanical engineers. They need cutting-edge technical knowledge to find the best solutions and offer the greatest value to employers. Those who don’t keep current in the field will find themselves at a disadvantage for promotions, layoffs and seeking new employment. The job outlook is good for mechanical engineers, as employment is expected to grow at an average rate with mechanical engineering opportunities for advancement. 

Scroll to Top