The short answer is: it depends!
Mechanical engineering is a branch of engineering that combines engineering mathematics and physics principles with materials science for designing, analyzing, manufacturing, and maintaining mechanical systems. It is one of the broadest and oldest branches of engineering.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2021), “mechanical engineers research, design, develop, build, and test mechanical and thermal sensors and devices, including tools, engines, and machines”.
The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) is one of the main professional associations for mechanical engineers. This organization helps the global engineering community in developing solutions to real-world challenges. Founded in 1880, ASME is a non-profit professional organization that enables knowledge sharing, skill development, and collaboration across all engineering disciplines, while also promoting the vital role of the engineer in society.
Mostly working in offices, mechanical engineers may occasionally visit worksites where a piece of equipment or problem needs personal attention. They generally work with engineering technicians and other professionals as part of a team. Most mechanical engineers may work full-time, while some may work more than 40 hours per week.
Typical duties of a mechanical engineer include:
Read on to learn how much mechanical engineers make, where they are employed, and the top-paying specializations.
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The earning potential of mechanical engineers depends on several factors, including previous work experience, one’s place of employment, specializations, and the cost of living in a state or metropolitan area. In general, here is a breakdown of the 278,240 mechanical engineers’ salaries in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2021):
Aspiring mechanical engineers may be glad to know that the reported level of job satisfaction is high for this profession. According to the U.S. News & World Report, this is a “job with a low stress level, good work-life balance and solid prospects to improve, get promoted and earn a higher salary.” It states that job satisfaction in terms of opportunities for advancements and salary is high among mechanical engineers.
Self-reported data from PayScale.com (June 2022) also shows mechanical engineers to be highly satisfied with their jobs with a score of 3.72 out of 5 based on 4,405 individual responses.
U.S. News & World Report (2022) ranks mechanical engineers as the second best among best engineering jobs, 59th on the list of the best 100 jobs, and 21st among the best STEM jobs. With a bachelor’s degree and no previous professional experience required for entry-level positions, becoming a mechanical engineer has an easy, smooth, fast career pathway.
Employability is another crucial benefit for those seeking careers as mechanical engineers. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2021) shows that the need for mechanical engineers is growing at a rate of 7 percent (2020-2030), which is almost as fast as the national average for all occupations (8 percent). An estimated 20,900 new mechanical engineering positions are expected to be needed by the year 2030.
The BLS states that mechanical engineers typically just need a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering or mechanical engineering technologies, while licensure is not required for entry-level positions as mechanical engineers. They may acquire a professional engineering (PE) license later in their career which allows for higher levels of independence and leadership.
The average salaries earned by mechanical engineers also differ according to the source of data. Apart from the BLS, here are some other sources that offer information on average mechanical engineer salaries in the US as of June 2022:
Below is a list of the top-paying cities and their corresponding metropolitan areas with the highest salaries for mechanical engineers. Also shown are the estimated number of employed mechanical engineers (not including self-employed workers), and the annual mean wage as reported by the BLS.
The cities and metropolitan areas listed here pay mechanical engineers average annual salaries between $113,610 to $137,540 (BLS May 2021).
|City/Metropolitan area||Employment||Annual mean wage|
|San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA||4,460||$137,540|
|Baton Rouge, LA||380||$128,790|
|San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA||3,780||$127,030|
|Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX||8,480||$125,970|
|New Orleans-Metairie, LA||360||$123,230|
|Santa Rosa, CA||210||$114,060|
|Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX||430||$113,610|
Below is a list of the states with the highest salaries for mechanical engineers, an estimated number of employed MEs (not including self-employed workers), and the annual mean wage as reported by the BLS. States listed here pay mechanical engineers average annual salaries between $111,850 to $120,040 (BLS May 2021).
|State||Employment||Annual mean wage|
|District of Columbia||680||$113,840|
Occupational data from the BLS reports that mechanical engineers accounted for 299,200 jobs in 2020 (BLS May 2021).
Here is a list of the top five sectors and their percentages of employed mechanical engineers with data sourced from the BLS.
|Work environment||Percentage of employed mechanical engineers|
|Architectural, engineering, and related services||21 percent|
|Machinery manufacturing||14 percent|
|Transportation equipment manufacturing||12 percent|
|Computer and electronic product manufacturing||8 percent|
|Scientific research and development services||5 percent|
Below is a list of the industries with the highest salaries for mechanical engineers, an estimated number of employed MEs (not including self-employed workers), and the annual mean wage as reported by the BLS. Industries listed here pay mechanical engineers average annual salaries between $124,860 to $157,210 (BLS May 2021).
|Industry||Employment||Annual mean wage|
|Pipeline Transportation of Crude Oil||50||$157,210|
|Other Pipeline Transportation||40||$153,940|
|Oil and Gas Extraction||300||$131,280|
|Petroleum and Coal Products Manufacturing||610||$125,280|
|Land Subdivision||Estimate not released||$124,860|
Mechanical engineers can choose to specialize in a particular area in pursuit of career fulfillment and higher salaries. Here is a list of five mechanical engineering specializations and their correlating salaries based on self-reported data from PayScale.com (June 2022):
|Computer-Aided Design (CAD)||$72,909|
As with other engineering disciplines, mechanical engineering is complex, and the success of a mechanical engineering project can often be mission-critical. Given that, it is essential to learn from the best, and these professors represent the most accomplished and involved in the field, ready to inspire and impart their knowledge to a new generation of engineers.
Mechanical engineering coursework explores manufacturing systems analysis, manufacturing design, manufacturing systems and analysis, metals and alloys, data analysis, and biofluid mechanics, among other topics.