How to become a Mechanical Engineer
Mechanical Engineers design, develop and supervise the manufacturing of tools, engines, machines, and other types of equipment. They are often responsible for producing steam and gas turbines, electric generators, and internal combustion engines, and also work on refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment, machine tools, elevators and escalators, and robots used in manufacturing. Mechanical engineers will find their skills in demand in a variety of fields and industries including medical, scientific research, construction, aerospace, acoustics, combustion, and automotive engineering.
Mechanical Engineering Education Requirements
A bachelor's degree in engineering is required for most entry-level mechanical engineering jobs. Some mechanical engineers have training in other areas like electrical engineering, or civil engineering, which gives them flexibility to work with a variety of employers. A bachelor’s engineering degree program takes anywhere from 4 to 5 years to complete, and covers areas of engineering, math, design, and physical and life sciences.
There are several options to earn a degree in mechanical engineering, besides earning a four year bachelor degree. Some engineering schools have arrangements with 2 year colleges, where the college provides the initial engineering education, and then the engineering schools accepts the student for the remainder of their education. There are also master’s degree programs which take 5 years to complete. Another option are cooperative programs which take five or 6 years to complete, an include classroom learning and paid work experience.
To become a licensed engineer, you must earn a degree from an ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc.) accredited college or university, have 4 years of relevant work experience, and pass a state examination. Mechanical engineers must have a license if they plan to work in any of the 50 states or District of Columbia. Licensed engineers are called professional engineers (PEs). Various certification programs are also offered by organizations in specific fields of engineering.
Job Opportunities for Mechanical Engineers
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of mechanical engineers is expected to grow 6 percent between 2008 and 2018. Mechanical engineers will continue to produce and improve many products. Some job opportunities will come from biotechnology, materials science, and nanotechnology. Also, the skills and training required to earn a mechanical engineering degree can be applied to other areas within engineering areas. In 2008, the median annual salary for mechanical engineers was $74,920. The lowest 10 percent of mechanical engineers earned $47,900, and the highest 10 percent earned $114,740.
Source: Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-2011 Edition; Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.