How Much Do Mechanical Engineers Make?

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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:

  • Analyzing problems to see how thermal and mechanical devices might help in solving a problem
  • Investigating equipment failures
  • Designing or redesigning thermal and mechanical devices
  • Developing and testing prototypes of devices
  • Analyzing test results and changing the design of systems
  • Overseeing the manufacturing process

Read on to learn how much mechanical engineers make, where they are employed, and the top-paying specializations.

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Mechanical Engineering Salaries Overall

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):

  • Average annual salary (mean): $97,000
  • 10th percentile: $60,750
  • 25th percentile: $76,050
  • 50th percentile (median): $95,300
  • 75th percentile: $120,180
  • 90th percentile: $136,210

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:

  • Indeed.com – $81,349 per year
  • Payscale.com – $73,009 per year
  • U.S. News & World Report – $90,160 per year (median)
  • Salary.com – $72,300 per year

Top-Paying Cities for Mechanical Engineers

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
Albuquerque, NM 1,360 $124,110
New Orleans-Metairie, LA 360 $123,230
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 5,330 $117,200
Peoria, IL 1,380 $114,680
Santa Rosa, CA 210 $114,060
Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX 430 $113,610

Top-Paying States for Mechanical Engineers

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
New Mexico 1,620 $120,040
Louisiana 1,040 $119,380
District of Columbia 680 $113,840
California 28,450 $113,130
Alaska 330 $111,850

Most Popular Work Environments for Mechanical Engineers

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

Top-Paying Industries for Mechanical Engineers

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

Top-Paying Specializations for Mechanical Engineers

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):

Specialization Average salary
Project Management $75,301
Engineering Design $73,126
Computer-Aided Design (CAD) $72,909
SolidWorks $70,787
Microsoft Office $70,913

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