Mechanical engineers held about 312,900 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of mechanical engineers were as follows:
|Architectural, engineering, and related services||20%|
|Transportation equipment manufacturing||11|
|Computer and electronic product manufacturing||7|
|Scientific research and development services||6|
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.
Most mechanical engineers work full time and some work more than 40 hours a week.
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.
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.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
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.
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.
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 engineers typically have an interest in the Building, Thinking, and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Thinking interest area indicates a focus on researching, investigating, and increasing the understanding of natural laws. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.
If you are not sure whether you have a Building, Thinking, or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as a mechanical engineer, you can take a career test to measure your interests.
Mechanical engineers should also possess the following specific qualities:
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 other engineers and professionals, such as architects. They must listen to and analyze different approaches to the task at hand.
Math skills. Mechanical engineers use the principles of calculus, trigonometry, and other advanced topics 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.
Problem-solving skills. Mechanical engineers take scientific discoveries and seek to make them into products that would be useful to people, companies, and governments. Experience gained through laboratory courses at university or a cooperative education program in college helps mechanical engineers develop skills that are useful in solving real-world problems.
The median annual wage for mechanical engineers was $88,430 in May 2019. 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 $57,130, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $138,020.
In May 2019, the median annual wages for mechanical engineers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
|Scientific research and development services||$101,780|
|Computer and electronic product manufacturing||95,260|
|Architectural, engineering, and related services||90,560|
|Transportation equipment manufacturing||90,350|
Most mechanical engineers work full time and some work more than 40 hours a week.
Employment of mechanical engineers is projected to grow 4 percent from 2018 to 2028, about 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. However, employment declines in some manufacturing industries will temper overall employment growth of 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.
For more information about general engineering education and mechanical engineering career resources, visit
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For more information about licensure as a mechanical engineer, visit
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