Mechanical engineers
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Overview
Mechanical engineers design, develop, build, and test mechanical and thermal sensors and devices, including tools, engines, and machines.
Predicted employment growth
Over the next decade, jobs for mechanical engineers are expected to grow by 9%, and should have about 21,200 job openings a year.
Safety from automation
Mechanical engineers are less likely to be automated than 91% of other careers.
Workforce size
Mechanical engineers, with 288,800 workers, form a larger workforce than 84% of careers.
Education
About 76% of mechanical engineers have at least a bachelor's degree.
Education attained by mechanical engineers
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Context: workers with bachelor's degrees
More mechanical engineers have bachelor's degrees than 83% of other careeers.
Salaries
The median (middle) salary for mechanical engineers is higher than 88% of all other jobs' middle salaries. The graph shows inflation-adjusted salaries for most mechanical engineers.
This job's median $87KAll jobs' median $39K$89K$38K20142015201620172018$0$50K$100K$150K
Context: Median Salary
Gender
Women account for 8% of mechanical engineers -- that's a smaller percentage than 80% of other jobs.
Gender of mechanical engineers
Men
Women
Context: Salary inequity
For each career, we compared the median (middle) men's salary to the median women's salary. For mechanical engineers, the median men's salary was 6% more the median woman's salary.
Race/Origin
About 18% of mechanical engineers are minority, and 19% are foreign-born.
Race/origin of mechanical engineers
White
Black
Pacific Islander
Hispanic
Asian
American Indian
Multiracial
Other
Context: Foreign-born workers (19%)
Where are the most jobs?
We ranked the number of jobs in Mechanical Engineers per thousand workers in each state, DC, and Puerto Rico. The darker the blue, the higher the job density.
AKMEVTNHWAIDMTNDMNMINYMARIORUTWYSDIAWIINOHPANJCTCANVCONEMOILKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
Job benefits
Employer or union-sponsored pension plans are offered to 66% of mechanical engineers, and 79% have company-sponsored health insurance (15% have dependents enrolled in their employer's health plan).
Employer-provided health coverage for mechanical engineers
100% premiums covered
Partial premiums covered
Plan with no cost sharing
No health insurance
Top college degrees
Here are the top college degrees held by the 77% of people in this job who have at least a bachelor's degree. Some of degrees may link to multiple programs due to the way Census classifies college majors. Click on a program to learn more about career opportunities for people who major in that field.
The downside
Some jobs are more stressful than others, and some are just plain dangerous. The following list gives the percentages of mechanical engineers who report hazardous or difficult situations typically occurring at least once a week.
  • Time Pressure (55%)
  • Responsible for Others' Health and Safety (39%)
  • Consequence of Error (31%)
SOURCES:24.0 O*NET
Salary and diversity
Salary overview
What do mechanical engineers earn?

In this section, we want to give you a clear idea of what you can expect to earn in this career. We use two sources of data here: the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which asks employers to classify their workforce and to report salaries using the SOC-specialty level of reporting, and the American Community Survey (ACS), which asks people to classify their jobs using the broad classifications that ididio uses for career profiles, and to self-report their salaries. For some jobs, the differences in survey approaches between BLS and ACS can paint a very different end-picture. Whenever possible, we provide data from both sources.

The BLS-compiled salary data is reported by companies for their employees. This data excludes self-employed workers. We first show the distribution of salaries for mechanical engineers, and then we show how the middle (median) salary for mechanical engineers compares to the BLS-computed median salaries of other careers.
Distribution: Salaries for mechanical engineers (BLS Salary Data)
$87K$0$50K$100K$150K
Context: Median salaries across careers (BLS Salary Data)
$87K$0$50K$100K$150K
We compiled household data from the ACS to determine the salaries that people working at least 35 hours a week report themselves to earn. Unlike the BLS estimates, this data includes self-employed wages. We first show the full salary distribution for all mechanical engineers, and then we show how the median (middle) salary for mechanical engineers compares to the median ACS-reported salary of other careers.
Distribution: Salaries for mechanical engineers (ACS Salary Data)
$83K$0$50K$100K$150K
Context: Median salaries across careers (ACS Salary Data)
$83K$0$50K$100K$150K
Employers and salary
A look at employers and corresponding salaries
The donut shares the break-down of workers by employer type, and following we show the salary distributions for these workers based on those employer types. For some careers, the salaries can be vastly different between private, government, and self-employment. As with our salary overview, we view the both the BLS economists' salary profiles and the household-reported salaries from ACS to get a thorough understanding of where mechanical engineers work and for what salary. We have the great faith in the accuracy of economist-vetted BLS data; however, the BLS restrictions on which employers are surveyed skews the data a bit (read more in the sources), and the ACS responses provide different and useful categorizations of employers and salaries.
Employers of Mechanical engineers (ACS)
Private for-profit (94.3%)
Private not-for-profit (1.0%)
Local government (0.4%)
State government (0.4%)
Federal government (2.7%)
Self-employed incorporated (0.6%)
Self-employed not incorporated (0.6%)
Working without pay (0.0%)
Distribution: Salaries of mechanical engineers by type of employer (ACS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type calculated by aggregating individual household survey responses.
$83K$83K$87K$78K$86K$82K$73K$0$50,000$100,000$150,000Self-employed incorporatedFederal governmentState governmentLocal governmentPrivate not-for-profitPrivate for-profitAll
Distribution: Salaries of mechanical engineers by type of employer (BLS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type as reported by BLS based on large employer-focused surveys. We note that smaller employer categories are not included by BLS.
$87K$99K$95K$87K$72K$0$50,000$100,000$150,000Federal governmentState governmentLocal governmentPrivateAll
Age and career advancement
Salary growth for mechanical engineers

The biggest take-away from the following two charts is the relationship between salary and experience that we can infer from age. Does this job seem to attract especially younger or older workers? Does it reward experience?

Take a minute a look at how much you might expect your salary to increase with each five years' experience, as well as how the numbers working in this career changes. We only provide this data when there are enough consistent ACS survey responses to allow a reasonable margin of error, so for some careers you will see gaps in our reporting of salary by age.

$96K$79K$68K$95K$93K$85K$92K$46K$92K$0$50K$100K$150KSalary distribution20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64
010K20K30K40KNumber employed20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Gender and Equity
Mechanical engineers and gender

With 8% women, this occupation has a lower percentage of women than 80% of careers.

Context: Women in the workforce
8%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Gender of Mechanical engineers
Men (92%)
Women (8%)
Distribution: Salaries by gender

As we'll illustrate at the bottom of this section, the median salary for all full-time male workers in the US exceeds the full-time median salary for women by 20%. The situation is a little better for mechanical engineers, with the median salary for men 6% higher than the median salary for women. This chart shows you the salary range for most workers by gender.

$78K$83K$0$50K$100K$150KWomenMen
Context: Salary Inequity

Nationwide there are twenty careers for which men do not have a higher median (middle) salary than women. The chart below shows the salary inequity, the percentage by which the median men's salary is higher than the median women's salary, for most jobs. Mechanical engineers have one of the smaller percentage increases for men's salary, with the increase the men's median salary over the women's median salary in this job lower than that for 83% of other jobs.

6%0%20%40%60%80%100%

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Race/Origin
Race and origin of mechanical engineers

The representation of minority and foreign-born workers is quite different between careers, and the relative pay of those workers also varies significantly between careers. The percentage of minority mechanical engineers falls in about the middle of all careers' percentages. This career hires a larger percentage of foreign-born workers than most other careers.

Race/origin of mechanical engineers
White (81% )
Asian (12% )
Black (3% )
Multiracial (2% )
Other (1% )
American Indian (0% )
Hispanic (0% )
Pacific Islander (0% )
Context: Representation of minorities in the workforce
18%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Context: Representation of foreign-born workers
19%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Distribution: Salaries for mechanical engineers by race/origin

For some careers, there is a pay disparity depending on race or origin, though this is not prevalent. We calculate standard errors for all of our calculations, and when the error is high we do not show results. Therefore, for some jobs will have omitted race/origin categories.

$76K$76K$77K$77K$80K$83K$85K$0$50K$100K$150KAmerican IndianMultiracialOtherHispanicBlackWhiteAsian
Distribution: Salaries for mechanical engineers by nativity
$82K$85K$0$50K$100K$150KAll native citizensAll foreign-born

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Pathways to this career
Education requirements and salary
Education attained by mechanical engineers

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), mechanical engineers typically hold a bachelor's degree.

Sometimes the typical education identified by the BLS differs a bit from the reality of the how much education current workers actually have. The donut shows the education level held by people currently working as mechanical engineers as reported in responses to the American Community Survey. Following, we investigate whether education level influences salary for mechanical engineers.

Education attained by mechanical engineers
None
High School
Some College
Associate's Degree
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Professional Deg/Doct
Doctorate
Details: Education and training recommended for mechanical engineers

Mechanical engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering or mechanical engineering technology. Mechanical engineering programs usually include courses in mathematics and life and physical sciences, as well as engineering and design. Mechanical engineering technology programs focus less on theory and more on the practical application of engineering principles. They may emphasize internships and co-ops to prepare students for work in industry.

Some colleges and universities offer 5-year programs that allow students to obtain both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. Some 5-year or even 6-year cooperative plans combine classroom study with practical work, enabling students to gain valuable experience and earn money to finance part of their education.

ABET accredits programs in engineering and engineering technology. Most employers prefer to hire students from an accredited program. A degree from an ABET-accredited program is usually necessary to become a licensed professional engineer.

Details: Licensing and certification recommended for mechanical engineers

Licensure is not required for entry-level positions as a mechanical engineer. A Professional Engineering (PE) license, which allows for higher levels of leadership and independence, can be acquired later in one’s career. Licensed engineers are called professional engineers (PEs). A PE can oversee the work of other engineers, sign off on projects, and provide services directly to the public. State licensure generally requires

  • A degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program
  • A passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam
  • Relevant work experience typically at least 4 years
  • A passing score on the Professional Engineering (PE) exam.

The initial FE exam can be taken after one earns a bachelor’s degree. Engineers who pass this exam are commonly called engineers in training (EITs) or engineer interns (EIs). After meeting work experience requirements, EITs and EIs can take the second exam, called the Principles and Practice of Engineering.

Several states require engineers to take continuing education to renew their licenses every year. Most states recognize licensure from other states, as long as the other state’s licensing requirements meet or exceed their own licensing requirements.

Several professional organizations offer a variety of certification programs for engineers to demonstrate competency in specific fields of mechanical engineering.

Distribution: Salary by education level

What level of education is truly needed for mechanical engineers? Below we see the distribution of mechanical engineers salaries based on the education attained. These comparisons are based on all survey responses by those who identified themselves as mechanical engineers, and are not intended as a statistical analysis of salary differences that would correct for non-educational factors that could contribute to high or low earnings.

$62K$66K$72K$73K$81K$96K$103K$108K$0$50K$100K$150K$200KNone (1%)High School (4%)Some College (9%)Associate's Degree (9%)Bachelor's Degree (54%)Master's Degree (19%)Professional Deg/Doct (1%)Doctorate (2%)
Bachelor's degree pathways
College majors held by mechanical engineers

This table shows the college majors held by people working as mechanical engineers. Select any degree to see detailed information. We are able to connect careers to degrees using the American Community Survey (ACS), and their degrees are defined a little differently from our programs, which are based on standard CIP classifications. Therefore, selecting some degrees will lead to a selection of CIP-level programs from which to choose.

If you see "**" before the name of a degree/program, that means this field is one that the Department of Education believes is preparatory for this career. However, you can see from this list that those recommendations are far from your only path to this job!

Degree
Select any title to learn more about that degree
Percentage of Mechanical engineers with this degree
Salary for all majors
Salary distribution (across jobs). Showing 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
Final education level of all people with this major
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Gender
Gender of people this bachelor's degree
Men
Women
The link between degrees and careers
The link between degrees and careers

With the following "sankey" diagram, you can follow the top ten bachelor's degrees held by people working as mechanical engineers, and then, in turn, you can see the 10 occupations that hire the most of each degree's graduates. This visualization links fields of studies and careers, suggesting both similar careers and options for degrees. The full list of bachelor's degrees held by mechanical engineers given in the previous section reminds us that there are many paths to these careers beyond what we can summarize here.

This job
Top 10 majors
Each major's top ten jobs
Mechanical engineersEngineers (specialized areas)Managers (specialized areas)Applications and systems software developersArchitectural and engineering managersIndustrial engineersCivil engineersAerospace engineersChief executives and legislatorsPostsecondary teachersElectrical and electronics engineersManagement analystsComputer and information systems managersComputer programmersGeneral and operations managersIndustrial production managersWholesale and manufacturing sales representativesAccountants and auditorsFirst-line supervisors of retail sales workersFinancial managersSecretaries and administrative assistantsHuman resources workersFirst-line supervisors of non-retail sales workersMarketing and sales managersAutomotive service technicians and mechanicsDesignersFirst-line supervisors of production and operating workersAircraft pilots and flight engineersChemical engineersPhysicians and surgeonsPhysical scientists (specialized areas)Retail salespersonsElementary and middle school teachersComputer occupations (specialized areas)Computer systems analystsComputer support specialistsNetwork and computer systems administratorsMechanical EngineeringGeneral EngineeringElectrical EngineeringIndustrial andManufacturing EngineeringBusiness Management andAdministrationMechanical EngineeringRelated TechnologiesAerospace EngineeringChemical EngineeringGeneral BusinessComputer ScienceAll other degrees
Switching Careers
Most common new jobs
The most common next careers for mechanical engineers

What jobs will most mechanical engineers hold next year?

The data in this chart comes from person interviews for the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. The survey interviews households eight times over a two-year period, allowing us a glimpse into how people move from job to job. You can see more details from the results of the survey in our last tab in this section, and you can read about our methodology in our source descriptions.

Here we see all of the jobs that at least 1% of mechanical engineers reported holding in their second year's survey. Is your future job on this list?

Mechanical engineersEngineers (specialized areas)Civil engineersIndustrial engineersElectrical and electronics engineersAerospace engineersArchitectural and engineering managersManagers (specialized areas)DesignersEngineering techniciansDrafters
Lateral career moves
Lateral job transitions for mechanical engineers

A lateral career transition is a move to a job with similar pay and responsibilities. A move to such a job can offer a change of pace without an increase in stress or a decrease in pay. The following table simply identifies all 8 jobs which were held by at least 1% of survey respondents before working as mechanical engineers as well as 1% of respondents after working as mechanical engineers. Select a row to investigate the job's full description and determine if it truly offers an opportunity for a lateral transition.

Full prior and next career listings
Prior and next careers for mechanical engineers: full listings

What do people typically do before and after they work as mechanical engineers? Here are the full lists of all jobs that at least 1% of mechanical engineers surveyed reported as holding a year earlier or later.

Choose which type of transition to view
Prior jobs
Next jobs
Prior careers for mechanical engineers
Annual openings
How many openings are expected each year?
Salary
Salary distribution for people in this occupation. Range is 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Gender
Men
Women
Percentage Transitioning
What percentage worked in this job the previous year?
Applications and systems software developers
118,900
$0$200K$96K
1.9%
Managers (specialized areas)
84,000
$0$200K$72K
1.5%
Designers
61,700
$0$200K$51K
1.9%
Civil engineers
25,900
$0$200K$81K
3.0%
Electrical and electronics engineers
23,100
$0$200K$93K
2.8%
Industrial engineers
21,600
$0$200K$77K
3.0%
Mechanical engineers
21,200
$0$200K$83K
44.0%
Architectural and engineering managers
13,600
$0$200K$121K
2.1%
Engineers (specialized areas)
10,900
$0$200K$90K
7.3%
Aerospace engineers
4,600
$0$200K$101K
1.8%
No occupation
5.4%
Read about mechanical engineers
Responsibilities and activities
Responsibilities and activities

Mechanical engineers typically do the following:

  • Analyze problems to see how mechanical and thermal devices might help solve a particular problem
  • Design or redesign mechanical and thermal devices or subsystems, using analysis and computer-aided design
  • Investigate equipment failures or difficulties to diagnose faulty operation and to recommend remedies
  • Develop and test prototypes of devices they design
  • Analyze the test results and change the design or system as needed
  • Oversee the manufacturing process for the device

Mechanical engineering is one of the broadest engineering fields. Mechanical engineers design and oversee the manufacture of many products ranging from medical devices to new batteries.

Mechanical engineers design power-producing machines, such as electric generators, internal combustion engines, and steam and gas turbines, as well as power-using machines, such as refrigeration and air-conditioning systems.

Mechanical engineers design other machines inside buildings, such as elevators and escalators. They also design material-handling systems, such as conveyor systems and automated transfer stations.

Like other engineers, mechanical engineers use computers extensively. Mechanical engineers are routinely responsible for the integration of sensors, controllers, and machinery. Computer technology helps mechanical engineers create and analyze designs, run simulations and test how a machine is likely to work, interact with connected systems, and generate specifications for parts.

The following are examples of types of mechanical engineers:

Auto research engineers seek to improve the performance of cars. These engineers work to improve traditional features of cars such as suspension, and they also work on aerodynamics and new possible fuels.

Heating and cooling systems engineers work to create and maintain environmental systems wherever temperatures and humidity must be kept within certain limits. They develop such systems for airplanes, trains, cars, schools, and even computer rooms.

Robotic engineers plan, build, and maintain robots. These engineers plan how robots will use sensors for detecting things based on light or smell, and they design how these sensors will fit into the designs of the robots.

Personality and skills
Personality and skills

Can you see yourself in the ranks of mechanical engineers? Here are the skills and traits that could lead to success.

Creativity
Mechanical engineers design and build complex pieces of equipment and machinery. A creative mind is essential for this kind of work.
Listening skills
Mechanical engineers often work on projects with others, such as architects and computer scientists. They must listen to and analyze different approaches made by other experts to complete the task at hand.
Math skills
Mechanical engineers use the principles of calculus, statistics, and other advanced subjects in math for analysis, design, and troubleshooting in their work.
Mechanical skills
Mechanical skills allow engineers to apply basic engineering concepts and mechanical processes to the design of new devices and systems.
Problem-solving skills
Mechanical engineers need good problem-solving skills to take scientific principles and discoveries and use them to design and build useful products.
Trends in employment
Salary trends
Distribution and trends: Salaries for mechanical engineers
Choose actual dollars or inflation-adjusted dollars to view
Adjusted for inflation
Historic dollars

In 2018, the median (middle) salary for mechanical engineers was higher than 88% of all other jobs' middle salaries. This graphic shows how the salary distribution (adjusted for inflation) has changed for this job over recent years. The gray line, as a comparison, shows the median salary of all US workers.

This job's median $87KAll jobs' median $39K$88K$38K200420052006200720082009201020112012201320142015201620172018$0$50K$100K$150K
Projected versus actual employment
Exploring actual employment trends versus projected trends

Currently, jobs for mechanical engineers are anticipated to grow by 9% over the next decade, which is faster growth than is predicted for 57% of other jobs.

The projected employment for mechanical engineers is the best guess created by talented economists and statisticians at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, as you look through several careers you'll notice that the projections are heavily influenced by past performance and may miss current trends. No one can tell the future, and as new information and better techniques are developed, actual counts and future projections may change. Here's a glimpse at the actual counts versus the projections over time.

20002010202020300100,000200,000300,000400,000
Employment counts
Actual measured employment
BLS 10-year predictions
Variation by state
Employment
State-by-state employment numbers

Some careers tend to be centered in specific parts of the country. For example, most jobs in fashion are in New York or California. Let's see if your dream job is easy to find in your dream location! We have a few choices for viewing the data that can help you get a full employment picture.

Job density versus job count

Which states hire the most mechanical engineers? We wonder if that's a fair question since states come in all sizes, so instead let's start with the question of which states have the highest density of people working as mechanical engineers. You can choose to view the number of jobs per state if you prefer.

BLS vs ACS data

This map defaults to employment information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which provides job totals carefully compiled for accuracy and with a primary focus on how employers describe their workers. The BLS job totals do not count self-employed workers. We've also compiled totals using the Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS) which are based on how workers describe themselves. Sometimes ACS results are quite a bit different from the employer-based BLS data.

Choose the metric to review
Jobs per 1000 working
Number of jobs
Use this data source
BLS
Number of Mechanical Engineers per 1,000 workers (BLS)
Select a state to see local area details
AKMEVTNHWAIDMTNDMNMINYMARIORUTWYSDIAWIINOHPANJCTCANVCONEMOILKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
0.02.04.06.08.010.012.0
Salary
Salaries by state
Let's get a feel for where mechanical engineers earn the highest salaries. There are several choices for which data we consider and how we view that data, and each can lead to different conclusions, so please read on...
Median salary versus state ratio

We use two methods to compare salaries across states:

  • In-state comparisons: the ratio of median (middle) salaries for mechanical engineers compared to the median salary for all people working in each state, or
  • Median salary: the unaltered median salaries for mechanical engineers.

We hope the ratio allows perspective about how salaries may compare to the regional cost-of-living.

BLS vs ACS data

We have two sources for statewide salary information with important distinctions. The BLS data is created by surveying companies, missing individuals who are self-employed or work for smaller companies. The ACS data is compiled from multi-faceted household surveys and may reflect the inconsistencies that people may have in reporting information.

Choose the metric to review
In-state comparisions
Median salary
Use this data source
BLS
Median salary ratio: Mechanical Engineers to all workers (BLS)
The darkest shading corresponds to states in which mechanical engineers earn the highest salary when compared to other jobs in the state. We think this ratio might be a better indicator than the actual salary for your buying power as a state resident.
Select a state to see local area details
AKMEVTNHWAIDMTNDMNMINYMARIORUTWYSDIAWIINOHPANJCTCANVCONEMOILKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
0.01.02.03.04.0
Compare to similar jobs

If this job interests you, then use the dots below to find other jobs you might like. The dots closer to the top represent jobs that are like Mechanical engineers (shown with a blue star). Look for the dots to the right to find the best salaries! (We pulled salary data from BLS, and they give a top salary value of just over $200K to protect privacy, so our graph would go much higher if the salaries were not top coded.)

How should the career similarity be computed

There are a number of ways to measure the similarity of jobs, here are a few we provide:

  • Interests: Also known as a Holland Code - Are you a thinker? A helper? What fits your personality?
  • Environment: Are there hazards? Will you be comfortable? Will it be stressful?
  • Knowledge: What do you need to know the most about?
  • Physical Abilities: Do you need to especially strong or coordinated?
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