Mechanical Engineers

What Mechanical Engineers Do

Mechanical engineers design, develop, build, and test mechanical and thermal sensors and devices.

Work Environment

Mechanical engineers generally work in offices. They may occasionally visit worksites where a problem or piece of equipment needs their personal attention. Mechanical engineers work mostly in engineering services, research and development, and manufacturing.

How to Become a Mechanical Engineer

Mechanical engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering or mechanical engineering technology. All states and the District of Columbia require mechanical engineers who sell services to the public to be licensed.

Pay

The median annual wage for mechanical engineers was $88,430 in May 2019.

Job Outlook

Employment of mechanical engineers is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Job prospects may be best for those who stay abreast of the most recent advances in technology.

Mechanical engineers research, design, develop, build, and test mechanical and thermal sensors and devices, including tools, engines, and machines.

Duties

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.

Mechanical engineers held about 316,300 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of mechanical engineers were as follows:

Architectural, engineering, and related services 20%
Machinery manufacturing 14
Transportation equipment manufacturing 11
Computer and electronic product manufacturing 7
Scientific research and development services 6

Mechanical engineers generally work in offices. They may occasionally visit worksites where a problem or piece of equipment needs their personal attention. In most settings, they work with other engineers, engineering technicians, and other professionals as part of a team.

Work Schedules

Most mechanical engineers work full time and some work more than 40 hours a week.

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of mechanical engineers.

Occupation Job Duties Entry-Level Education Median Annual Pay, May 2019

Drafters

Drafters use software to convert the designs of engineers and architects into technical drawings.

Associate’s degree $56,830

Materials Engineers

Materials engineers develop, process, and test materials used to create a wide range of products.

Bachelor’s degree $93,360

Mathematicians and Statisticians

Mathematicians and statisticians analyze data and apply mathematical and statistical techniques to help solve problems.

Master’s degree $92,030

Mechanical Engineering Technicians

Mechanical engineering technicians help mechanical engineers design, develop, test, and manufacture mechanical devices.

Associate’s degree $56,980

Natural Sciences Managers

Natural sciences managers supervise the work of scientists, including chemists, physicists, and biologists.

Bachelor’s degree $129,100

Petroleum Engineers

Petroleum engineers design and develop methods for extracting oil and gas from deposits below the Earth’s surface.

Bachelor’s degree $137,720

Physicists and astronomers

Physicists and Astronomers

Physicists and astronomers study the ways in which various forms of matter and energy interact.

Doctoral or professional degree $122,220

Sales engineers

Sales Engineers

Sales engineers sell complex scientific and technological products or services to businesses.

Bachelor’s degree $103,900

Nuclear Engineers

Nuclear engineers research and develop the processes, instruments, and systems used to derive benefits from nuclear energy and radiation.

Bachelor’s degree $113,460

For more information about general engineering education and mechanical engineering career resources, visit

American Society of Mechanical Engineers

American Society for Engineering Education

Technology Student Association

For information about engineering summer camps, visit

Engineering Education Service Center

For more information about accredited engineering programs, visit

ABET

For more information about licensure as a mechanical engineer, visit

National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying

National Society of Professional Engineers

For information about certification, visit

American Society of Mechanical Engineers

O*NET

Automotive Engineers

Fuel Cell Engineers

Mechanical Engineers


Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Mechanical Engineers,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/mechanical-engineers.htm (visited ).