Mechanical engineers essential career information:
- 2011 median pay: $79,230
- 2011, number of jobs: 238,260
- Employment growth forecast, 2010-2020: 9 percent
- Entry level education requirements: Bachelor’s degree
Mechanical engineers; what they do:
Mechanical engineers are the ‘jack of all trades’ in the engineering world; they do it all, from start to finish! Very thorough problem solvers, mechanical engineers fully immerse themselves in every step from design to development through testing and teaching.
Mechanical engineers determine how mechanical devices can solve problems. If a mechanical devise does not currently exist to solve an issue, the mechanical engineer designs blueprints, builds a prototype, and conducts tests on a new device until it can successfully resolve the issue at hand. A mechanical engineering career sometimes involves overseeing the manufacturing of a mechanical device once its prototype has passed all tests.
In order to conduct their work, mechanical engineers work with an extremely wide variety of tools, engines, and machines. They might work with machines as large as electric generators and internal combustion engines, small tools held by a hand, tools as intricate as a robot, and just about any mechanical device in-between.
Mechanical engineers heavily rely on computers for design production and analyzing, simulating machine tests, monitoring product quality, and controlling manufacturing and production.
Mechanical engineers job titles:
- Mechanical Design Engineer
- Design Engineer
- Product Engineer
- Design Maintenance Engineer
- Process Engineer
- Equipment Engineer
- Commissioning Engineer
- Systems Engineer
Mechanical Engineers Education, Certification and License Requirements
Many entry-level mechanical engineering positions require a bachelor in mechanical engineering degree. It is not uncommon for a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from an ABET (formerly the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) accredited university to take students four to five years to earn, as internships and co-ops are often done in conjunction with the university program, which stretches out the completion time but may provide students with valuable work experience.
Some engineering schools award a dual bachelor’s degree to students who spend three years in a liberal arts college studying pre-engineering subjects followed by two years in an engineering school focused on core subjects.
Some colleges offer a five-year program where students can concurrently earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree. There are also universities that offer five and six-year cooperative plans providing students with engineering work experience through classroom study and practical work cooperative plans.
Mechanical engineers programs cover subjects such as:
- Fluid mechanics
- Heat transfer
- Machine mechanisms
Every state requires mechanical engineers who sell services directly to the public to obtain a professional engineer (PE) license. The license is obtained through taking the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam upon college graduation then, after obtaining some experience, engineers must take the Principles and Practices of Engineering Exam.
Many states also require continued education to annually renew the PE license. Many states will recognize a license obtained from a different state, so long as the requirements for the obtained license meets or exceeds the requirements for the current state’s license.
The American Society of Mechanical Engineers and other professional organizations offer various programs for engineers to obtain recognition for competency in specific areas of mechanical engineering.
Career Advancement Opportunities
Common advancement positions for mechanical engineers include a research and development program, joining a higher education faculty, or an administration or management position. All advanced positions require a graduate degree, typically in engineering or business administration.
Mechanical Engineers Job Outlook
Forecast: 9 percent employment growth from 2010 to 2020 for mechanical engineers, slower than the average for all occupations. The diversity of industries mechanical engineers can work in makes their projected growth hard to pinpoint; their growth depends on the industry hiring them.
Mechanical engineers can seek contract work in architectural, engineering, and related services, as businesses lean more toward temporary hire of engineers for cost cutting reasons. There will also be a demand for mechanical engineers in manufacturing industries, specifically developing more environmentally respectful modes of transportation for the general public, as well in industrial machinery.
New demand for mechanical engineers is expected in fields of alternative energies, remanufacturing, nanotechnology, and alternative energy sources – especially as the popularity of solar panels grows.
Mechanical Engineers Salary
- 2011 median annual wage: $79,230
- 2011, workers at the 75th percentile annual wage: $98,580
- 2011, workers at the 25% percentile annual wage: $63,470
Mechanical Engineers Major Employers
- Architectural, engineering, and related services
- Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences
- Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing
- Aerospace products and parts manufacturing
- Federal government, excluding postal services