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Career Information for a Degree in General Mechanical Engineering

Degrees in mechanical engineering generally cover calculus, physics and energy principles. Find out about the curricula of these programs, and learn about career options, job growth and salary info for mechanical engineering graduates.

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A degree in general mechanical engineering can prepare individuals to pursue careers as mechanical engineers or mechanical engineering technicians. Mechanical engineers are required to have a bachelor's degree, though master's degree programs in this field are also available to individuals who want to continue their education. Mechanical engineering technicians need an associate's degree to begin their career.

Essential Information

Mechanical engineering technology programs are available at the associate's degree level and offer more technical coursework. Mechanical engineering degrees through bachelor's and master's programs teach students topics in energy transfer and materials, as well as calculus and physics.

Career Titles Mechanical Engineering Technician Mechanical Engineer
Education Requirements Associate's degree Bachelor's degree
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 2% 5%
Average Salary (2015)* $56,390 $88,190

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Career Options

Individuals who complete a mechanical engineering technology program are prepared to work as engineering technicians. Those who complete a bachelor's or master's program in general mechanical engineering can go on to work as mechanical engineers.

Mechanical Engineering Technician

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), mechanical engineering technicians solve specialized technical problems while assisting scientists and engineers (www.bls.gov). Like other engineering technicians, those who work in mechanical engineering may concentrate in a particular area, such as research or design.

According to ABET, engineering technology programs are more practical than those in engineering and often require prerequisites like trigonometry and applied calculus. These programs may include courses similar to mechanical engineering programs, such as fluid mechanics and thermodynamics.

The BLS stated that employment opportunities for mechanical engineering technicians were expected to increase only two percent from 2014 to 2024. This minimal growth may be due to the manufacturing industry's decline and competition with firms offering contract labor. Opportunities may exist in closely related positions, such as civil engineering technician. In May 2015, the BLS stated that the annual average annual salary for mechanical engineering technicians was $56,390.

Mechanical Engineer

Most entry-level mechanical engineering jobs require a bachelor's degree. The bachelor's degree programs may include sequences in calculus and physics that are often completed with foundational engineering and general education coursework in the first two years. During the final two years, students complete courses that include topics in mechanical processes, mechanical design and energy transfer.

The BLS states that graduate school is typically required for engineering faculty positions or work in research and development. Master's degree programs can give students the option of completing either a thesis or a coursework-only curriculum. At the master's level, programs are offered that are specific to mechanical engineering, as well as concentrations in related areas, including energy engineering.

The BLS indicated that employment opportunities for mechanical engineers were expected to increase five percent from 2014 to 2024, which was close to the overall average for all occupations. The BLS stated that employment opportunities might arise out of emerging industries and the fact that mechanical engineers have the skill set to work in other engineering professions.

In May 2015, the BLS reported that the annual average salary for mechanical engineers was $88,190. Depending on the terms of their job, mechanical engineers may receive signing or performance-related bonuses.

While entry-level careers as mechanical engineering technologists are available to graduates of associate's degree programs, mechanical engineers need a bachelor's degree. Those who are interested in working in research, development or education will need to complete graduate studies. The BLS expects that from 2014 to 2024, there will be a higher rate of job growth for mechanical engineers than for mechanical engineering technicians.

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