Is a PhD in Mechanical Engineering Worth It?

Jul 13, 2018

Gaining a PhD in Mechanical Engineering helps to expand upon the potential career choices of individuals and gives them the tools and skills necessary to secure management positions. We'll take a look at some of these careers and the graduation requirements for a doctorate.

In the process of obtaining a Doctorate in Mechanical Engineering, students will gain greater insight into fluid mechanics and dynamics, hydraulics and mechanism design. You'll find a table below which showcases five careers that those with a doctorate tend to permeate.

PhD in Mechanical Engineering Jobs/Salary

For those who choose to pursue a PhD in Mechanical Engineering, there will be a great amount of experience and education gained in the area of research and data analysis. These same individuals will have a better understanding of pneumatics and fluid mechanics and dynamics, and have taken classes in mathematical physics, advanced engineering and mathematical methods, allowing them to expand upon their career choices. In an ever-changing field, recent graduates will have hands-on experience with cutting-edge tools and technology, and be able to understand more complex mechanical and electrical systems. For those wishing to secure jobs in management or research, having a doctorate will put them ahead of others. For better understanding on the types of jobs you can expect with such a degree, there is a table below listing five potential careers and their job growth and salary information.

Job Title Median Salary (2017)* Job Growth (2016-2026)*
Industrial Production Managers $100,580 -1%
Research & Development Managers $96,261 (2018)** NA
Mechanical Engineers $85,880 9%
Petroleum Engineers $132,280 15%
Postsecondary Engineering Teachers $98,360 15%

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics', **

PhD in Mechanical Engineering Jobs

Industrial Production Managers

Industrial production managers help to determine how to best use employees and equipment within a factory setting to meet production goals. They go through the processes of hiring and training, as well as conducting evaluations of employees. In addition, they monitor a factory's divisions and their programs to ensure that they are meeting both safety and performance standards. While a bachelor's is needed for lower-end production, higher-end production requires more experience and education, with most employers seeking applicants with a master's or better in their engineering discipline.

Research & Development Managers

Research & development managers oversee a team of individuals and lead them in conducting research and development tasks for an organization. They work to improve company logistics and aid in keeping project budgets on target. Those with a PhD will have the degree that employers seek and the research experience necessary to carry out daily tasks. They will use a deeper knowledge of engineering to develop new products and services for their respective employers. In addition, they will have the technical expertise to help in guiding the company through all phases of production.

Mechanical Engineers

Mechanical engineers use the same research and development skills that are developed during the pursuit of a doctorate in their field. They make modifications to existing mechanical and thermal devices, as well as design and develop new ones. Mechanical engineers run tests and analyses of current systems and determine what changes need to be made to improve efficiency. Furthermore, they provide oversight during each step of the manufacturing process. Those with a doctorate will have a better chance of gaining senior positions and remaining competitive within their careers.

Petroleum Engineers

Petroleum engineers use their educational background to implement new methods for improving gas and oil production. They monitor efficiency and make alterations to drilling systems or create new tools to help increase extraction of such materials. Individuals within this job also oversee drilling operations and advise employers and employees on the various ways in which they could achieve their current project progression and economic goals. Those with a PhD will be able to work not only in academia, but also within research and development in the field of petroleum engineering.

Postsecondary Engineering Teachers

Postsecondary engineering teachers lecture within courses pertaining to the application of physical laws and principles of engineering as it relates to the development of machines, materials, processes and services within the field of engineering. They conduct research in their field and update their course outline accordingly to ensure their students have the most up-to-date information possible. Although a master's is sometimes accepted, most professors are required to hold a doctorate in their field.

PhD in Mechanical Engineering Graduate Program Information

The amount of credits required depends on the degree you are starting from, and those who begin from a bachelor's will need around sixty credits on average while those coming from a master's will only need thirty two credit hours. Those who wish to be admitted into such graduate programs typically need to have their Bachelor of Science degree in engineering, physics or a related science, while earning a 3.3 GPA or better. During their pursuit of a PhD, students will need to complete two or more years of coursework, finishing with a dissertation defense in their final two years. There is a time limit of five years within most doctorate programs and while Cornell University indicates that students could pay $29,500 a year in tuition on average, graduate programs tend to cover this cost through scholarships and grants, stipends and teaching assistantships. Coursework in a PhD program tends to focus on areas such as numerical analysis, mathematical physics, and probability and statistical applications.

While not every career within mechanical engineering requires a PhD, having such a degree can help to secure management positions down the road and help to secure one's job against competition. It will give prospective job applicants a leg up on those with lesser degrees and give them the education required to go into research and development.

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