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Mechanical Engineer

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Overall Score
(7.2 out of 10)

Number of Jobs

11,600

Median Salary

$80,580

Unemployment Rate

3.1 percent

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This Job is Ranked in
Best Technology Jobs #7
The 100 Best Jobs #19

It takes creativity to shepherd a theoretical device into a practical reality. To do so, mechanical engineers employ a methodical process that entails research, design, developing, building and testing various devices. Computers are vital for tweaking a design and gauging how it will function. But to produce a fully refined product, mechanical engineers use grittier items such as electric generators, industrial production equipment and material-handling systems. When confronted with the more complex and analytical portions of the occupation, being a wiz in areas like calculus and trigonometry is a major bonus.

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, employment in the field is expected to grow by 4.5 percent over the next decade, bringing along 11,600 new positions. But the broad opportunities within that small hiring window should leave aspiring mechanical engineers feeling encouraged. Architecture, alternative energies, remanufacturing and nanotechnology are subsets of this profession that will have open doors for candidates with the right education and experience. "One of the fun things about engineering is that there's something in it for anybody," says Tom Loughlin, executive director of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Salary

According to the BLS, mechanical engineers earned a median salary of $80,580 in 2012. The best-paid earned about $121,530, while the lowest-paid earned less than $52,030. Industries that pay well include oil and gas extraction, and audio and video equipment manufacturing. The top-paying metropolitan areas for the occupation include Bloomington, Ill., Idaho Falls, Idaho and Taunton, Mass.

Salary Range

75th Percentile $100,620
Median $80,580
25th Percentile $64,530

Training

For most mechanical engineering jobs, you'll need a bachelor's degree bearing the occupation's name. Hopeful managers have an even higher educational standard to meet: a master's degree, in most cases. Along with a degree from an accredited program and four years of relevant work experience, those offering their services on an independent basis must pass a state exam for licensure – a requirement in all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia. According to Loughlin, however, an associate's degree can be enough to land an entry-level job.

Reviews & Advice

"Like other professions, it helps to have some inside demonstrative ability in the field," Loughlin says. “Many schools are using capstone-type projects which give students a chance to sharpen their engineering skills, but also their organizational, management and communication skills." While job prospects look good, mechanical engineers with training in software tools for computational design and simulation, as well as those knowledgeable about 3-D printing, will likely have a leg-up over other candidates. Joining professional organizations can also help you can pick up practical experience and broaden your network. Some organizations include Engineers Without Borders, Engineering for Change and demographic-specific groups like the Society of Women Engineers.

Job Satisfaction

Upward Mobility good High
Stress Level fair Average
Flexibility good Above Average
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Last updated by Harriet Edleson.


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