Mechanical Engineer Job Description

Mechanical engineers plan and design machines, engines, refrigeration systems, and other mechanical equipment. Once the equipment is built, they often oversee the maintenance, repair and installation of the equipment.

Mechanical engineers design many of the tools that we rely on each day. Take a look around your kitchen. Can you imagine your life without your refrigerator, microwave, or dishwasher? These were all are designed in part by a mechanical engineer.

Mechanical engineering is an extremely broad field, and most people in this occupation choose to specialize. Some mechanical engineers specialize in designing a particular type of equipment (like air conditioning units), or designing machinery to manufacture certain types of materials (like plastic bottles).

Most mechanical engineers are employed in manufacturing industries, research and development firms, and engineering firms. There are also employment opportunities with the federal government.

Mechanical engineers typically spend most of their time working in an office environment, but some are required to spend a lot of time at construction sites or manufacturing facilities. For example, if a customer is having trouble with their manufacturing equipment, an engineer may need to travel to the site to figure out what's going wrong. In some cases, mechanical engineers need to be away from home for extended periods of time.

This can be a stressful career at times. Mechanical engineering is a deadline driven occupation, and these engineers work under constant pressure to deliver their designs on time. When solving a particularly complex problem, it can be very easy to feel overwhelmed as a deadline approaches.

The majority of mechanical engineers work full time. Many are able to keep regular working schedules during normal business hours, while others need to work a lot of overtime to handle problems with existing equipment and to make sure that deadlines are met.

How to Become a Mechanical Engineer

A minimum of a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering is required for most entry level positions in this occupation, but most employers prefer to hire candidates with some real world work experience as well.

Some mechanical engineering programs include practical work experience as part of their coursework, but not all do. Either way, getting an internship can greatly improve your chances of getting a job after graduation. To learn about the internship options available to you, you should stop by your college's career center.

If you're planning on spending your entire career in mechanical engineering, it would be worth your while to get a master's degree. Without one, your opportunities for advancement will be limited. A master's is often required for upper management positions.

Some colleges offer five year programs in mechanical engineering. These programs take a year longer than a typical bachelor's, but graduates earn both a bachelor's and a master's degree.

Before you enroll in an engineering program, you should make sure that it's accredited by ABET. If it isn't accredited, you may have a harder time finding employment, and you may find yourself unable to get the license that's required to offer services directly to the public.

After graduation, there are two different exams that you have to take in order to become a licensed mechanical engineer. The first is the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam. This exam can be taken immediately after graduation.

The second exam you have to take is called the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam. To qualify for this exam, you need to have passed the FE exam and have four years of work experience.

In some states, continued education is required for engineers to keep their license. Continued education requirements ensure that engineers stay up to speed on changes within their industry.

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Employment Outlook

There are currently 243,200 mechanical engineers in the United States, with 9,960 new mechanical engineer job openings created each year.

Mechanical Engineer jobs are not expected to see much growth beyond their current levels in the next decade.

Mechanical Engineer Salaries

Salaries by State

Hover over your state to get an idea of what Mechanical Engineers make in your area.

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Overall Salaries

Mechanical Engineer salaries can vary depending on your experience, the location, company, industry, and benefits provided. Nationwide, most mechanical engineers make between $63,500 - $98,600 per year, or $30.52 - $47.39 per hour.

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Salary and statistical data provided by the BLS.