Mechanical engineers

Mechanical engineering is one of many categories of engineering that professionals can choose, and it can be applied to a wide variety of fields and industries. Within this category are many further specialties to choose from, depending on the engineer's focus and interest. But even though it is a versatile category, mechanical engineering involves the same skills and training to succeed in the work. Engineers use calculations and principles of math and science to guide their work, along with assistance from computer technology.

Mechanical engineers focus on every aspect of the design, development, production, maintenance, and repair of devices, machinery, and equipment. This can include everything from to the production of laptops to the repair of commercial airplanes, medical devices to robots. They apply, adapt, and employ new technology to create new products that will be useful to industries

Duties may include:

  • Designing prototypes
  • Creating blueprints, schematics, and designs for products, parts, equipment, machinery, including prototypes and upgrades
  • Analyzing problems and malfunctions within the operation or process and developing alternatives and solutions
  • Evaluating systems and machinery to ensure they meet safety codes, regulations, and operating procedures
  • Supervising mechanical, manufacturing, and production operations
  • Consulting with engineers, architects, technologists, technicians, and other workers on a project
  • Operating, maintaining, and repairing mechanical equipment and processes
  • Testing prototypes and performance of equipment and processes


A bachelor's degree in engineering is necessary to work as a mechanical engineer, and professional organizations encourages students to earn their degree from an accredited program. Internships while in school are also encouraged, to give students real-world experience before entering the job market..

Mechanical engineers must have a license to make their services available to the public. Obtaining a license typically requires a degree from an accredited program, work experience, and passing one or more exams. There may be additional training required over the years in order to keep the license, but regulations vary by state. Mechanical engineers can also demonstrate their skill competency by earning professional certifications.


  • Creativity Landscape architecture work is often intricate and complex, involving many factors that must be considered and accounted for.
  • Math skills Because designing new products and systems is a central task for mechanical engineers, creativity is highly valued.
  • Mechanical skills Mechanical engineers work with all kinds of machinery and equipment and need solid understanding of and skills with machines and mechanical processes.
  • Problem-solving skills. Engineers are, in many ways, problem-solvers by trade. It is not enough to have a viable design-they have to ensure that the product or system will function as designed when used in the real world. This, of course, is much harder than it sounds! The engineer must analyze a problem and have a complex understanding of its components and construction in order to find a workable solution.

Job Outlook

Mechanical Engineers

Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Total, all occupations




Mechanical engineers









Employment of mechanical engineers is projected to grow 5 percent from 2012 to 2022, slower than the average for all occupations. Job prospects may be best for those who stay informed regarding the most recent advances in technology. Mechanical engineers can work in many industries and on many types of projects. As a result, their growth rate will differ by the industries that employ them.

Mechanical engineers should experience faster than average growth in architectural, engineering, and related services as companies continue to contract work from these firms. Mechanical engineers will also remain involved in various manufacturing industries—specifically, transportation equipment and machinery manufacturing. They will be needed to design the next generation of vehicles and vehicle systems, such as hybrid-electric cars and clean diesel automobiles. Machinery will continue to be in demand as machines replace more expensive human labor in various industries. This phenomenon in turn should drive demand for mechanical engineers who design industrial machinery.

Mechanical engineers are projected to experience faster than average growth in oil and gas extraction because of their knowledge and skills regarding thermal energy.

Mechanical engineers often work on the newest industrial pursuits. The fields of alternative energies, remanufacturing, and nanotechnology may offer new opportunities for occupational growth. Remanufacturing—rebuilding goods for use in a second life—holds promise because it reduces the cost of waste disposal. Training in remanufacturing may become common in mechanical engineering programs at colleges and universities.

Nanotechnology, which involves manipulating matter at the tiniest levels, may affect employment for mechanical engineers because they will be needed to design production projects based on this technology. Nanotechnology will be useful in areas such as designing more powerful computer chips and in healthcare.

Job Prospects

Although prospects for mechanical engineers overall are expected to be good, they will be best for those with training in the latest software tools, particularly for computational design and simulation. Such tools allow engineers and designers to take a project from the conceptual phase directly to a finished product, eliminating the need for prototypes. Along those lines, students who can take courses in 3-D printing will also improve their job prospects.

Employment projections data for Mechanical Engineers, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Mechanical engineers

17-2141 258,100 269,700 5 11,600 [XLS]
  Occupation Description Entry-Level Education 2012 Median Pay
Architectural and engineering managers Architectural and engineering managers

Architectural and engineering managers plan, coordinate, and direct activities in architectural and engineering companies.'

Bachelor's degree $124,870
Drafters Drafters

Before entering a technical drafting degree or program, high school students can prepare for this profession by taking certain classes. Math, science, computer skills, and drafting are all useful preparation. Drafters usually earn associate's degrees in drafting from a technical or community college, which can require general education courses, too. Drafting is not typically offered as a subject for a bachelor's degree, but further classes in related subjects like engineering and architecture can help drafters expand and refine their skills.

Associate's degree $49,630
Materials engineers Materials engineers

High school students can prepare for their engineering training by taking classes in math and science. Entry level work as a materials engineer requires a bachelor's degree in the field. Students also have the option of earning graduate degrees that continue their training in the classroom and the real world.

Bachelor's degree $85,150
Mathematicians Mathematicians

Mathematicians use advanced mathematics to develop and understand mathematical principles, analyze data, and solve real-world problems.'

Master's degree $101,360
Mechanical engineering technicians Mechanical engineering technicians

Mechanical engineering technicians can start their training in high school by taking classes in math and science. After earning their diploma, they can move on to a community college or a technical school to earn an associate's degree in the field. Students are encouraged to earn their degree from an accredited program.;

Associate's degree $51,980
Natural sciences managers Natural sciences managers

Natural sciences managers supervise the work of scientists, including chemists, physicists, and biologists. They direct activities related to research and development, and coordinate activities such as testing, quality control, and production.'

Bachelor's degree $115,730
Petroleum engineers Petroleum engineers

High school students interested in engineering should take classes in math and science. Petroleum engineers must have a bachelor's degree in engineering in order to qualify for entry-level work. Some schools offer combined programs for students to earn bachelor's and master's degrees together.

Bachelor's degree $130,280
Physicists and astronomers Physicists and astronomers Physicists and astronomers study the ways in which various forms of matter and energy interact. Theoretical physicists and astronomers may study the nature of time or the origin of the universe. Physicists and astronomers in applied fields may develop new military technologies or new sources of energy, or monitor space debris that could endanger satellites. ' Doctoral or professional degree $106,360
Sales engineers Sales engineers

Sales engineers sell complex scientific and technological products or services to businesses. They must have extensive knowledge of the products’ parts and functions and must understand the scientific processes that make these products work.'

Bachelor's degree $91,830

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