Mechanical Engineer Vs. Software Engineer

Mechanical and software engineers focus on designing very different types of products. Compare their duties, salaries, degree requirements, and expected job growth to help make a wise career decision.

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Comparing Mechanical Engineers to Software Engineers

Engineers dream up the items people use daily, including the medical equipment designed by mechanical engineers and the word processor applications or computer systems designed by software engineers. Though some of the engineering principles they use may be similar, the outcomes are very different.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2016-2026)*
Mechanical Engineers Bachelor's Degree $84,190 9%
Software Engineers Bachelor's Degree $102,280 (Software Developers) 24% (Software Developers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Mechanical Engineers vs. Software Engineers

Mechanical engineers create tangible consumer parts and products, while software engineers develop digital products and systems. Additionally, the work of mechanical engineers depends on their understanding of physics. Software engineers rely on algorithms and complex mathematics. Both, however, may work on teams with other engineers, artists, and production managers.

Mechanical Engineers

Mechanical engineers design technology for large items, such as vehicles, or small items, like printer components. With the help of computer-aided design, they can develop the mechanical sensors that warn of issues in cars or the electrical system for new drills. The ability to understand blueprints and technical drawings is pivotal for these professionals. This helps them determine the physics and forces influencing the electrical systems they design. For existing machines, mechanical engineers may test for component failures and suggest ways to fix them.

Job responsibilities of a mechanical engineer include:

  • Running simulations to test designs before building them
  • Testing prototypes of electrical components
  • Developing more efficient car and airplane engines, including electrical engines
  • Supervising production of their designs to ensure manufacturing standards for safety and reliability are met

Software Engineers

Software engineers develop computer programs, such as Excel or Firefox. They may also make applications for computers, phones, and tablets, as well as operating systems for cellphones and computers, such as Microsoft 10. When they design an entire network for a company, however, they first learn about the amount of data and level of security needed. These networks allow employees to share data related to inventory or billing. Software engineers may also suggest system updates to make a company more efficient.

Job responsibilities of a software engineer include:

  • Utilizing computer programming languages, such as Java, to build algorithms
  • Modeling the computer code needed to build the software by creating charts or other visuals
  • Ensuring that all parts of a network are integrated and function together
  • Addressing any issues or bugs during the software development by periodically testing it

Related Careers

If you think a career as a mechanical engineer could be fulfilling, you could also research a career as a materials engineer, since both work to develop new consumer goods. If a position as a software engineer seems interesting, however, you could explore a position as a computer hardware engineer, as both develop new technology.

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