Mechanical engineering is one of the broadest of all engineering disciplines, and it offers a number of opportunities to aspiring engineers. Anything that moves or uses energy requires the expertise of a mechanical engineer. Mechanical engineers apply the principles of materials science, physics and dynamics to design and build systems, processes, machines and devices of all types. They create a diverse range of products — from common consumer goods such as air conditioning and heating systems to automobile engines or personal computers — and then oversee the manufacturing process for these products, testing, analyzing and changing the design or system as needed.
Mechanical Engineering Industries
Mechanical engineers can pursue careers in many industries, including aerospace, automotive, construction, consumer goods, electronics, energy, entertainment, government, medical and pharmaceutical, and utilities. Mechanical engineers held more than 277,500 jobs in 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The industries that employed the most mechanical engineers were engineering services (19 percent) and machinery manufacturing (15 percent), followed by computer and electronic product manufacturing; research and development in the physical, engineering and life sciences; and aerospace product and parts manufacturing. The BLS reports that the projected job growth for mechanical engineers is 5 percent into 2024, which is about as fast as the average across all occupations. The median annual wage for a mechanical engineer in May 2014 was $83,060, but professionals with at least 10 years of experience and those with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering can expect advanced positions that pay a higher annual income. According to a survey conducted by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the average salary for a mechanical engineer is almost $10,000 higher with an advanced degree.
Education Needed to Become an Engineer
Mechanical engineers typically need a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering or mechanical engineering technology, which usually takes about four years to earn in a program accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). To move into more advanced positions, to become a licensed professional engineer, or to conduct research, a master’s degree in mechanical engineering is commonly necessary. Some colleges and universities offer five-year programs that allow students to obtain both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering. Generally, obtaining a master’s degree will take an additional two years of study beyond a bachelor’s degree.
Some roles that prefer or require a master’s degree in mechanical engineering include management and administrative positions, assistant teaching at a higher education institution, business consulting, or developing healthcare treatment equipment or robotic surgical equipment. The minimum requirement to become a microsystems engineer is a master’s degree in mechanical engineering or electrical engineering. Some mechanical engineers become lawyers specializing in patent or products liability law. Other mechanical engineers may go on to become physicians, while entrepreneurial engineers may launch their own firms. Future job opportunities emerging from biotechnology, nanotechnology and materials science will likely also require a master’s degree.
Some colleges and universities, including the University of Cincinnati, offer mechanical engineering degrees online. The online engineering master’s degree curriculum typically includes courses in mathematics, computer-aided engineering, bioengineering, thermodynamics, fluid mechanics and electrical circuits. Students pursuing an engineering degree online can maintain full or partial employment while they complete their degree.
Learn more about the University of Cincinnati online M.Eng. in Mechanical Engineering program.
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