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Career Information

Mechanical Engineers: Career, Salary and Education Information

Career Profile: What do Mechanical Engineers do?
Mechanical engineers use their skills and training to design, develop, and test all things mechanical. Devices like tools, engines, and generators all fall under the scope of mechanical engineers. They can work on teams to create more efficient air-conditioning units or solo in a research capacity.

A Day in the Life of a Mechanical Engineer
Creative skills turn technical for mechanical engineers, who create efficient tools for a range of industries. A team of mechanical engineers may work together to build a better air-conditioner or examine an internal combustion engine to check for flaws. Computers play an increasing role in the daily life of mechanical engineers because designs and documents are often created using computer-aided design (CAD) programs.

The specific work environment of mechanical engineers depends on their industry and job description. Time spent in the office behind a computer is not uncommon, although the career can also require hands-on work with the materials that mechanical engineers create.

Mechanical Engineer Training and Education
A bachelor's degree is considered a minimum requirement for most entry-level jobs in the field. Engineers with bachelor's degrees enjoy some of the highest average starting salaries for all industries. Moreover, a mechanical engineering degree can be applied to other engineering specialties, making mechanical engineers a relatively versatile group.

Mechanical engineering coursework typically includes courses in statics and dynamics, mechanism design, fluid mechanics, drafting, and instrumentation. Many mechanical engineers are licensed professional engineers (PEs). Licensure generally requires classroom experience and a degree, four years of work experience, and completion of an examination.

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Mechanical Engineer Employment & Outlook
The number of mechanical engineers is second only to civil engineers. About 227,000 mechanical engineers were employed nationwide in 2006, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The majority of mechanical engineers worked in the architectural and engineering industry, though many also worked in transportation equipment manufacturing.

Slower than average growth is expected for mechanical engineers through 2016, although about 9,400 new jobs are expected to be added to the field. Total employment in manufacturing industries is expected to decline, creating one reason for slow growth. However, emerging technologies in biotechnology, nanotechnology, and materials science may have a positive effect on mechanical engineering careers.

Typical Mechanical Engineer Salary
A report by the BLS notes that mechanical engineers saw mean annual earnings of $75,130 in 2007. Top employers include architectural and engineering services, followed by navigational, measuring, electromedical and control instruments manufacturing, and scientific research and development services. Mechanical engineers working for the federal government earned $84,720. The state of Michigan has the highest concentration of mechanical engineers in the nation.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Engineers
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Mechanical Engineers