Mechanical engineers design, create, and make tools and machinery. There are many different aspects of mechanical engineering, which offers you a broad range of positions. Overall, however, the field has a wide range of advantages and disadvantages. Here’s a look at the pros and cons of being a mechanical engineer.
Pro: Many positions are available with just a bachelor’s degree.
One of the great things about mechanical engineering is that you don’t have to spend a decade in school before you can enter the field. A bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering is sufficient for many entry level jobs—in some positions you can even get a little farther with just on-the-job training. Additionally, it gives you an opportunity to get practical experience, which can come in handy with further education. You also have the opportunity to figure out where you want to be within mechanical engineering—working for an oil company, in the automobile industry, a machine company.
Con: You may have to get licensed periodically, and may eventually want more formal schooling.
Mechanical engineering, just like many other disciplines so heavily influenced by technology, is changing rapidly. To stay on top of your game, you may need to periodically get re-licensed. Different states may have different requirements as well. Additionally, although you can get a job with just a bachelor’s degree, to really move up the ladder in this field, you’re most likely going to want at least a master’s degree. Eventually, you may find a doctorate is necessary for what you really want to do—and that’s a lot of money and a lot of time.
Pro: The work can be extremely gratifying.
Mechanical engineers who love their jobs can’t sing its praises enough. This profession is also necessary for almost every type of business to run successfully. A degree in the field is most definitely an intellectual investment that can pay off big time and can even be useful outside of its own discipline. Depending on what you’re doing, you may be relying on your technical, critical, problem solving, and even creative skills. Finishing projects that revolutionize a whole industry can be incredibly rewarding and an amazing experience.
Con: You often spend a lot of time stuck at a desk.
If you’re thinking about mechanical engineering because you’re a hands on kind of person, consider the other side of things. A lot of your work week is going to be spent at a computer or desk designing. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself in an office much of the time. On the bright side, sometimes you get to go make your ideas a reality.
Pro: You can make great money, and it’ll just keep getting better.
Mechanical engineers make great money. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the mid-range salary for mechanical engineers is over $80,000 a year—higher than most jobs. Top earners made well over $100,000 a year, although the lowest salaries were less than $50,000 a year. However, if you aren’t happy with your salary, you can always do something to make it better by going back to school or taking specialized courses (weekend workshops). In any case, the longer you’re in the field, the more desirable you’ll be to employers—which means the more money you’ll be making.
Con: The hours can be long and taxing.
The BLS reports that about one-third of mechanical engineers worked more than 40 hours a week. That’s a lot of overtime. For the most part, mechanical engineering is a nine to five job, but special projects can come up that require more attention. If you don’t like what you’re doing, this can get frustrating and boring. Just another reason to make sure that mechanical engineering is really what you love before you make a career out of it.