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How to Become a Mechanical Engineer (+Skills and Salary)

Lauren Pope
Lauren Pope  |  December 2, 2019

Have you ever wondered who builds the big ideas of the world? How do design schematics become products that we can purchase and enjoy?

The answer is engineering. Long before the assembly line produces your iPhone, a team of engineers designs every piece of the puzzle to ensure a smooth launch. Engineers do more than build iPhones, though.   

Mechanical engineering is one of the most diverse engineering fields out there. There is an almost unlimited number of industries and career opportunities available to mechanical engineers because the work they do touch every part of our day-to-day lives.

Interested in learning something specific about becoming a mechanical engineer? Use the links below to jump ahead:

What is a mechanical engineer?

Mechanical engineering is a specialized career field for engineers that study the mechanics of how the world works. Mechanical engineers focus on engineering work in the fields of mechanics, dynamics, thermodynamics, materials science, structural analysis, and electricity.

What does a mechanical engineer do?

There are a few assumptions that can be made about the work mechanical engineers do from the name itself. But on a more granular level, computer aided design (CAD), product lifecycle management, and even some branches of robotics can fall under the scope of work suited for a mechanical engineer. Manufacturing plants, transportation and logistics companies, and even military grade weaponry are made possible by mechanical engineers.

Some of the most common mechanical engineer job duties include:

  • Analyze and solve common problems associated with mechanical and thermal devices
  • Design mechanical devices, processes, or subsystems
  • Monitor and investigate equipment failures and recommend solutions
  • Work to ensure compliance in all aspects of the organization
  • Test and analyze new processes and products
  • Oversee the manufacturing processes

The good news is that there’s no shortage of need for mechanical engineers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the job outlook for mechanical engineers at 4% growth year over year, with an expected 12,800 jobs to be added over the next decade.

According to the BLS, these were the top five fields for mechanical engineers in 2018:

  • Architectural engineering – 20%
  • Machinery manufacturing – 14%
  • Transportation equipment manufacturing – 11%
  • Computer and electrical product manufacturing – 7%
  • Scientific research and development – 6%

It seems that - at least for now - the bulk of mechanical engineering jobs are in manufacturing or research. Keep those two fields in mind as you begin pursuing internships or applying for jobs in the industry.

What skills do you need to become a mechanical engineer?

When applying for jobs in engineering, the focus will be primarily on STEM-related skills. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Medicine (STEM) refers to career paths that focus more heavily on hard sciences and technology as opposed to soft skills.

That’s not to say that STEM careers don’t value skills such as communication or writing, but the primary focus is on math or science. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most sought after skills for mechanical engineers.

mechancial engineering skills

While the focus for engineering tends to be centered more on hard skills like math and mechanical skills, soft skills like communication and creativity are also crucial. Being able to identify a problem is only one half of the solution. Communicating with teammates and finding unique solutions to difficult problems is what makes good engineers great.

What experience do you need to become a mechanical engineer?

Most employers expect candidates applying for mechanical engineering jobs to have completed a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from an ABET accredited school.

Many universities offer five-year programs where students can complete both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering. There’s also a huge competitive edge in securing mechanical engineering internships while you’re in school.

Mechanical engineering as a vocation focuses more on practical application than theory, which makes on-the-job experience important. You may also be required to become licensed in the state you work in at some point in your career.

In order to gain a Professional Engineering (PE) license, you’ll need to complete the following:

  • 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 good news is that acquiring your PE licensure isn’t required for immediate work as a mechanical engineer. In many cases, you can wait until you’re a few years into the workforce to pursue your PE accreditation.

How much does a mechanical engineer make?

According to Glassdoor data, mechanical engineers make about $77,682 annually.

This doesn’t take into account years of experience, certifications, or advanced degrees. If you’re hoping to find a more accurate look at what salary you should be asking in your next role, visit a job search website to get things started.

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Other types of engineering

Find yourself reading the above description and feeling like it doesn’t quite fit? That’s okay! The field of engineering is broad. There are countless other roles that you can explore that can utilize similar skills to the ones mentioned in this article.

If mechanical engineering doesn’t sound like it’s the right path for you, there are other options you can explore:

Exploring your options before you choose a degree program is important, as many of these fields require specialized degrees. These are just a few of the countless career paths available to anyone interested in a career in STEM.

Engineer your career path

We’ve only scratched the surface of what it means to be a mechanical engineer. Always explore other resources to get the full picture. And keep coming back to the G2 Learning Hub for more career advice articles like this one!

Ready to start applying for mechanical engineer jobs? Learn how to write a resume that communicates your skills.

Lauren Pope
Author

Lauren Pope

Lauren is a Senior Content Specialist at G2 with five years of content marketing experience. You can find her work featured on CNBC, Yahoo Finance, and on the G2 Learning Hub. In her free time, Lauren enjoys listening to podcasts, watching true crime shows, and spending time in the Chicago karaoke scene. (she/her/hers)