Recently, the United States has been placing a considerable focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) career paths in an effort to reinvigorate the economy and maintain a competitive edge in the global market. Given the relatively low rate of unemployment for engineers (some reports place it at 3.5%) and the competitive opening salaries for mechanical engineers (over $50,000 per year), many students are interested in learning more about the field. What does pursuing a career in mechanical engineering require? Where will the skills developed by mechanical engineers actually be put to use?
Pursuing a career in mechanical engineering usually requires a 4-year college degree in the field. This gives aspiring engineers a chance to both be trained for the field and get some exposure to the fields in which mechanical engineers might work. Many jobs for mechanical engineers require some measure of design experience, which is an important skill that mechanical engineering students will learn.
As mentioned above, mechanical engineering is a relatively stable field that opens up a number of specific career options. Mechanical engineers might find themselves working closely with heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) technicians to develop climate control and ventilation systems for new buildings. Automotive engineers have the chance to work on projects throughout the automobile industry, be they product design, safety, or engine manufacturing. Mechanical engineers might also work closely with environmental engineers in the development of clean energy technology and waste water treatment plants. In short, mechanical engineers have flexibility in selecting a career path.
Where to Go Next?
Advancement in the field of mechanical engineering is dependent on both experience and education. An engineer who has completed schooling for either an MA or PhD will likely be able to become more specialized in the work and see an increase in yearly salary. The median salary for mechanical engineers is close to $75,000 per year, while an experienced engineer might be able to make $100,000 or more per year, depending on the field. Some engineers jump from a position in their chosen field to do consulting work, taking on a number of small projects and providing technical expertise to their firm. Overall, there are a number of attractive factors to choosing a career path as a mechanical engineer, not least of which are the comfortable salary, career options, and ability to pursue your passions.