Fascinated by the way things work? Ever wonder how a machine might be improved? If you've answered yes to these questions, then a career as a mechanical engineer could be a great choice for you. You'll need at least a bachelor's degree to become a mechanical engineer, but it is strongly recommended that you seek more advanced degrees in order to be competitive in the job market.
Mechanical engineers apply physics and mathematics to help construct and improve buildings, building systems and products ranging from tools to generators. As such, mechanical engineers may work in a number of industries, such as the automobile or manufacturing industries. Mechanical engineers need at least a bachelor's degree. Professional engineering licensure is not a firm requirement for all mechanical engineers, but many may need it, depending on their industry and job duties.
|Required Education||Bachelor's degree|
|Licensure||Professional Engineer (PE) license is sometimes required|
|Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)*||4% (for mechanical engineers)|
|Median Salary (2018)*||$87,370 (for mechanical engineers)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Mechanical Engineer Career and Education Information
Many mechanical engineers work for companies in manufacturing or production, designing new products and modifying existing ones. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the skills acquired from a mechanical engineering degree program may also make individuals suitable for jobs in other engineering disciplines (www.bls.gov).
Prospective mechanical engineering students may wish to consider programs that are approved by ABET, Inc., formerly the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. According to ABET, many engineering licensing boards require applicants to have graduated from an approved program (www.abet.org).
The BLS reported that the median annual salary for mechanical engineers was $87,370 in May of 2018. The BLS also reports that the job outlook for mechanical engineers is expected to grow slower than the national average, only by 4% between 2018 and 2028.
A bachelor's degree is typically required for entry-level mechanical engineering jobs. Theses curricula have significant coursework in advanced math and science. Mathematical requirements consist of calculus and differential equations. A sequence in physics and a chemistry course encompass the required sciences.
The coursework specific to mechanical engineering involves topics in energy and machine mechanisms. Energy-related topics include thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, and heat transfer. Courses in machine mechanisms cover materials, manufacturing processes and system design. Mechanical engineering students may take some courses from the computer science, civil engineering and industrial engineering departments.
Licensing standards for mechanical engineers vary, depending on an individual's career interests. The BLS indicates that engineers who want to offer their services to the public need to be licensed. To become a licensed professional engineer, individuals must pass two exams and gain work experience.
The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) administers both qualifying exams (www.ncees.org). The first is the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, which has a version specific to mechanical engineers. After passing the FE exam, mechanical engineers must work for four years before they can sit for the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam to become a Professional Engineer (PE). The NCEES reports that the PE exam is offered in several mechanical engineering specialties and usually completes the licensing process.
Continuing education through seminars, workshops and other opportunities may lead to professional certifications. Many states have periodic requirements that professional engineers must meet to maintain their license. Both the NCEES and state licensing boards have standards for what constitutes acceptable continuing education credits.
Mechanical engineers must have great problem solving skills and be able to communicate their ideas and findings clearly. They must also have extensive knowledge in mathematics and physics. If you're an aspiring mechanical engineer or even if you already are one, it's suggested that you pursue an advanced degree, obtain licensure, and professional certification to stay competitive.