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Mechanical Engineer Vs. Structural Engineer

The products that mechanical and structural engineers design can differ greatly. This article explores the differences between mechanical and structural engineers' incomes, job growth prospects, training requirements and work environments.

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Comparing Mechanical Engineers to Structural Engineers

Mechanical engineers and structural engineers perform a lot of similar core job tasks and have comparable education requirements. Structural engineers are expected to see a slightly higher job growth rate in their field from 2016 to 2026 while mechanical engineers earn slightly higher salaries. They are both involved with design work but they typically work in different industries.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Outlook (2016-2026)*
Mechanical Engineers Bachelor's degree $84,190 9%
Structural Engineers Bachelor's degree $83,540 (for all civil engineers) 11% (for all civil engineers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Mechanical Engineers vs. Structural Engineers

Mechanical and structural engineers both use computer design software to produce design plans and technical specifications for the projects they work on. Mechanical engineers often build prototypes, conduct performance tests, assess malfunctions and oversee the manufacturing of the mechanical devices they design or modify. Structural engineers are involved with all aspects of their projects. They apply for permits, prepare budgets, develop design plans and oversee construction. Since structural engineers work on things like bridges and buildings they spend a lot of time working at construction sites.

Mechanical Engineers

Mechanical engineers are required to have a bachelor's degree. They typically study mechanical engineering to prepare to produce mechanical devices and machines professionally. A license is required for some positions in this field and may be necessary to pursue roles in management. Mechanical engineers can be employed in a wide range of fields, including architecture, manufacturing and research. Some concentrate on working with machines that heat or cool people or products while others specialize in robotics or automobile design.

Job responsibilities of a mechanical engineer include:

  • Operating computer design software programs
  • Producing prototypes
  • Evaluating how prototypes perform
  • Altering design plans of new or existing products
  • Monitoring product manufacturing

Structural Engineers

Structural engineers spend their careers working on infrastructure projects. They play a key role in the construction of things as varied as sewage systems and roadways. It's common for structural engineers to study civil engineering or a similar discipline and they must have a bachelor's degree. Licensing is required for some roles in this field. While most structural engineers work in engineering and divide their time between their office and construction sites, some structural engineers also work for the government.

Job responsibilities of a structural engineer include:

  • Familiarizing themselves with long-term development plans
  • Assessing the infrastructure needs related to development
  • Providing budget proposals for projects
  • Developing design plans and specifications
  • Monitoring the construction process
  • Ensuring all building codes and applicable regulations are followed

Related Careers

The links provided below connect to information about aerospace engineers and construction managers. Mechanical engineers may be interested in working on aircraft design and structural engineers share a lot of common duties with construction managers so these career fields may be of interest to those thinking about mechanical or structural engineering.

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