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Mechanical Engineer: Employment & Career Info

Find out the work responsibilities of a mechanical engineer. Learn about job outlook, and salary in addition to educational requirements and necessary skills to decide if this is the right career for you.

Career Definition for a Mechanical Engineer

Mechanical engineers apply knowledge in mathematics, physics, manufacturing, and mechanical systems to develop, improve, and test new designs. They are responsible for ensuring that the complete design process is in accordance with manufacturing regulations and customer expectations. They communicate proposals and assembly procedures with vendors, clients, and other professionals on the design team.

Required Education Bachelor's degree
Job Skills Analytical skill, communication, mathematics, technical skill
Median Salary (2015)* $83,590 (all mechanical engineers)
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 5% (all mechanical engineers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Required

Before they are allowed to practice independently, mechanical engineers complete their formal education and then train under close supervision for years. A bachelor's degree in engineering is required for all entry-level positions, though some more specialized research fields, like biomedical or chemical engineering, will need a master's degree. There are 17 specializations in engineering recognized by the Federal Occupational Classification. Though most engineers specialize in one area, it's not necessary to major in mechanical engineering in order to work as a mechanical engineer; desirable skills and abilities overlap and many engineers fluctuate between several fields of engineering throughout their careers. All engineers will be required to pass both state and national examination in order to obtain a Professional Engineer title (PE).

Required Skills

Engineers work with a team of professionals and demonstrate their abilities not only in design, testing, and assembly of product prototypes, but also by effectively explaining project proposals, assembly, and operating procedures to professionals and clients. They must exhibit superior mechanical and engineering leadership, interaction, and communication skills. Employers will also require their engineers to be fluent in Computer Aided Design systems (CAD).

Career and Economic Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) reports that employment within mechanical engineering is expected to grow by about 5% between 2014 and 2024, slower than the average for all occupations. The BLS published the median annual income for a mechanical engineer as $83,590 in May 2015.

Alternative Careers

Those pursuing an education in mechanical engineering may be interested in similar occupations, such as mechanical engineering technician and electro-mechanical technician.

Mechanical Engineering Technician

If designing and testing mechanized equipment in a lab environment sounds intriguing, but the education and licensing requirements for an engineer do not, consider becoming a mechanical engineering technician. Working with mechanical engineers, these technicians check engineering drawings of new products for accuracy, produce drawings and diagrams of the manufacturing process, create and assemble new mechanical parts, run performance tests and compile data into written reports.

To enter the field, earning an associate degree in mechanical engineering technology is usually the norm for most workers. According to the BLS, mechanical engineering technicians should see job opportunities increase by 2% from 2014-2024, resulting in the creation of 900 new positions. In May of 2015, the BLS reported that these technicians received a median yearly wage of $53,910.

Electro-Mechanical Technician

For those with more of an interest in the installation and repair of robotic assembly equipment and other computer-controlled mechanical devices, becoming an electro-mechanical technician could be a good career move. After referring to diagrams and blueprints, these technicians assemble equipment components and calibrate the machinery. They also troubleshoot performance issues, craft new parts and run operational testing.

Most electro-mechanical technicians have either earned a certificate or associate degree in mechanical or electronic technology. Professional certification from the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies or the International Society of Automation can provide a competitive advantage when seeking employment.

Slower than average growth of 1% is predicted for this occupation during the 2014-2024 decade, and the BLS determined in 2015 that electro-mechanical technicians earned a median salary of $53,340.

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