Mechanical Engineers are responsible for designing and producing various types of machinery. They combine knowledge from engineering, materials science, physics, and other maths and sciences to create and improve mechanical products.
The field first emerged during the industrial revolution in the 18th century, making it one of the oldest engineering disciplines. There are approximately 280,000 mechanical engineers currently employed. STEM careers such as mechanical engineering are in high demand today, and are very lucrative to prospective engineers due to their high base pay.
A mechanical engineer may design and work on industrial machinery, transport systems, automobiles, computers, weapons, heating and air systems, and many other subtypes of machinery. There are many sub-specializations within the field of mechanical engineering that all require specialized knowledge. A mechanical engineer will primarily use CAD (Computer Aided Design) software to test new ideas.
Average Mechanical Engineer Salary
The average mechanical engineer makes $88,190 per year. The pay scale of a mechanical engineer ranges all the way from $53,640 to $128,430. The exact amount a mechanical engineer will make per year varies one their career subfield, location, and demand.
63,070 mechanical engineers are employed in fields of general and architectural engineering, making $93,260 per year. This amounts for nearly a quarter of engineers currently employed. The lowest paying field of engineering is Motor vehicles parts engineering at $78,830 per year. The highest paying engineering field is Oil and Gas Extraction, paying $146,740 annually.
By and large, Michigan employs the most mechanical engineers, with 40,490 currently on the workforce. California trails behind in 2nd place with 23,850 total employed. Texas takes 3rd with 19,630; Ohio in 4th with 14,260; and Illinois in 5th place with 11,910.
Mechanical engineers in Alaska are paid the most, making $130,420 per year. In more rural/nonmetropolitan areas such as Wisconsin and Minnesota, they may only earn $49,050.
How to Become a Mechanical Engineer
Before considering education, an ideal mechanical engineer should have a marked interest and genuine passion for their work. All fields of engineering are extremely rewarding, but just as grueling and demanding, thereby making it essential for engineers of any kind to enjoy their work. They must also be creative and be able to “think outside the box” to create new ideas and solutions for modern products. They must also be well-versed in fields of math, physics, and science and be able to process large amounts of data to troubleshoot different kinds systems. As with almost every other field, they must have good listening and interpersonal skills.
A mechanical engineer needs a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering or mechanical engineering technology. Additionally, they must have a license to sell their services in all states as well as the District of Columbia. The program they choose should ideally be ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) approved, as ABET approved programs are usually necessary to become a fully licensed mechanical engineer.
Entry level positions do not require licensure. However, one who wishes to advance to a higher earning or more advanced position must acquire a PE (Professional Engineering) license. PE licensed engineers can oversee other projects, sign off work, and sell their own work.
Many universities offer students 5-year master’s programs that combine study and internships to better prepare students for work as well as help them earn money while they study. Since a master’s degree and real world experience are extremely desirable to employers, this is usually the best approach.
The average accreditation process for mechanical engineers goes as follows: After acquiring a bachelor’s degree from an ABET approved program, mechanical engineers can take the FE (Fundamentals of Engineering) engineering. Upon passing, they are called EITs (Engineers in Training). After meeting the on-site experience requirements of their workplace (usually 4 years), they may take the Principles and Practice of Engineering Exam.
Most states will accept licenses from other states as valid. They also may require licenses to be renewed yearly. In some cases, engineers must be competent in multiple subfields of engineering for their licenses to be valid.