Mechanical Engineers Careers: Employment & Salary Trends for Aspiring Electrical Engineers

Mechanical Engineers at a Glance

Mechanical engineers design, manufacture, and install engines and machines in manufacturing processes. They are also responsible for the operation of engines and machines. In a nutshell, mechanical engineers’ job is to work with forces and motion. In addition to working with forces and motion, mechanical engineers should understand the societal, legal, and ethical implications of their work.

Mechanical engineers are trained in several areas of engineering, so they can expect to have many opportunities outside of their specific field. The number of mechanical engineering positions is expected to grow at a slower than average pace over the next 7 years, so having the necessary skills to move into other areas of engineering is a plus.

Mechanical engineers are employed in aerospace, automotive, chemical, computer and electronics, construction, consumer products, energy, and the engineering consulting industries. Mechanical engineers also have a heavy presence in government industries.

Schools to consider:

Employment Trends

Job Outlook: Slower than average
Annual Openings: 12,394
Percent Growth: 4.2%
Total Jobs Held: 226,000
Projected Employment: 235,000 by 2016
The Best 500 Jobs Overall Ranking: 232

Source: “Best Jobs for the 21st Century,” JIST Publishing 2009. Farr, Michael and Shatkin, Laurence, Ph.D.; “Salary Facts Handbook,” JIST Publishing 2008. Editors @ JIST.

The nation’s poor economy has resulted in a large number of job losses in the manufacturing industries. This has resulted in fewer jobs for mechanical engineers. Fortunately, (as stated earlier) mechanical engineers have the skills needed to move into other engineering specialties. In addition, the industry expects to see new jobs in materials science, nanotechnology, and biotechnology. As these technologies continue to emerge and grow, opportunities will increase.

Salary Trends

In 2009, mechanical engineers earned an average salary of $72,300 per year. This figure represents a 3.5% increase over 2008 ($69,850). Mechanical engineers in the 90th percentile can expect to earn around $104,900 per year, while 75th percentile mechanical engineers can expect to earn $87,500 per year. Entry-level mechanical engineers can expect to earn an impressive starting salary of around $45,170 per year.

Degrees and Training Programs

There are approximately 425 mechanical engineering degree programs in the U.S. that carry ABET accreditation. Aspiring mechanical engineers should stick to programs accredited by the ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) when searching for a mechanical engineering program.

Employers look for at least a bachelor’s degree when selecting employees, but a master’s degree will increase the employee’s chances of advancing faster. Currently, 57.9% of all mechanical engineers hold bachelor’s degrees, while 15.8% hold master’s degrees.

If a mechanical engineer plans to work directly with the public, he must become a professional engineer (PE). To obtain a PE license, the engineer must graduate from an accredited engineering program (ABET Accreditation), work for at least 4 years as an engineer, and pass the state licensing exam. Each state may have different requirements.

Coursework Required

Aspiring mechanical engineers excel in math and science. They will be required to take a number of calculus and physics courses, as well as courses like energy conversion, dynamics, thermal fluids, robotics, vibrations, stress analysis, heat transfer, and solid mechanics. All mechanical engineering undergrads will be required to take the basics as well including chemistry, humanities, English, and social sciences.

Did you know that the U.S. produces about 70,000 engineering graduates each year? Sound impressive? Sorry to disappoint you, but this is still not enough to keep up with countries such as China and India. China produces more than 600,000 engineers each year and India produces nearly 500,000 annually.