Mechanical engineering is the study of objects and systems in motion. Individuals in this career take products from idea to marketplace. The field traces nearly every aspect of modern life, from the smallest micro-particle to machines to space crafts and even the human body.
The field of mechanical engineering offers a vast array of career choices. This can be intimidating at first, but as students move through their education, they can find a career that aligns just right with their preferences and abilities.
Rewarding Aspects of Career
- Secure career with a promising future
- Generally a great salary - well above the national average - and your job will generally include benefits.
- Opportunity for career progression - most mechanical engineering graduates go on to further their education, leading to more and higher-level opportunities. Their skills are highly transferable. Some of the world’s most successful companies (Microsoft, Amazon, etc.) are lead by an individual with an engineering background.
- You make a difference! - You could help solve the world’s major problems like climate change and cyber security. You could create or assist in the production of a world-changing invention. You could save somebody’s life with a medical device or alter it forever by developing a much needed prosthetic limb.
- Not only is it lucrative, it is filled with diverse opportunity. You can do anything, and you can do it anywhere in the world.
2026 Projected Employment
The Inside Scoop
- Biomedical - medical devices, prosthetic limbs etc.
- Aerospace - planes, rockets, choppers
- Nuclear Energy
- Acoustical - work with sound and vibration
- Manufacturing - design the product and figure out how it will be built
- Thermal - work with thermodynamics. Heating/cooling equipment and management of power
- Transportation systems - building new and improving old
- Vehicle - automobile, marine, and aeronautical engineering
Skills Needed on the Job
- Math - trigonometry, calculus, etc.
- Research techniques
- Proactivity and abilitiy to think outside of the box
- Communication - many projects will require teamwork
- Degree and license
- Fiber sensors
- Proximity sensors
- Autodesk AutoCAD
- MAYA Nastran
- Ladder Logic
- Sigmetrix CETOL 6 Sigma
- The Mathworks MATLAB
- Computer engineer
- Electrical engineer
- Sales engineer
- Petroleum engineer
- Architectural and engineering manager
- Materials engineer
- Mechanical Drafter
- Computer Programmer
Education and Training Needed
- Bachelor’s Degree
- Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering - According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most entry-level mechanical engineering jobs require a Bachelor’s Degree.
- 4 year degree
- Students learn how to design, test, and construct products. They gain a robust understanding of how to take these products from idea to marketplace.
- Gain technical skills, like how to use computer-aided design software (CAD)
- Gain interpersonal and critical thinking skills that aid in working on a team and making sure that products are effective and safe
- *Make sure the engineering program you enter is ABET-accredited.
- Obtain engineering license
- This is required for all mechanical engineers in the US who directly service the general public. To get this license, you must pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, offered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying.
- After four years in the field, you can take the Principles and Practices of Engineering (PE) exam, and obtain the Professional Engineer (PE) title. In several states, you must actively continue your education in order to maintain your license.
- Obtain certification (optional) - This is not mandatory, although it may help to demonstrate your competency in specific fields like advanced control systems design, dynamic systems, and stress analysis.
- American Society for Quality - Certified Reliability Engineer
- American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers -
- High-Performance Building Design
- Certified HVAC Designer
- American Society of Mechanical Engineers International - Geometric Dimensioning & Tolerancing Professional - Technologist
- Associated Air Balance Council - Test and Balance Engineer
- Association for Facilities Engineering - Certified Plant Maintenance Manager
- Association of Energy Engineers -
- Certified Building Commissioning Professional
- Certified GeoExchange Designer
- Autodesk -
- Certified Instructor Autodesk Inventor for Mechanical Design
- Certified Professional in Inventor for Mechanical Design
- Automotive Transmission Rebuilders Association - Chassis Technician
- Bearing Specialists Association - Certified Bearing Specialist
- Green Business Certification Inc. -
- LEED AP Homes
- LEED AP Interior Design + Construction
- Institute of Packaging Professionals - Certified Packaging Professional
- International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials - Residential and Commercial Mechanical Plans Examiner
- International Council on Systems Engineering -
- Associate Systems Engineering Professional
- Certified Systems Engineering Professional
- Expert Systems Engineering Professional
- International Fluid Power Society -
- Fluid Power Hydraulic Specialist
- Fluid Power Engineer
- Fluid Power Accredited Instructor
- Fluid Power Connector and Conductor
- International Ground Source Heat Pump Association -
- Certified GeoExchange Designer
- Certified Residential Geothermal Designer
- International Society of Automation - Certified Automation Professional
- National Ground Water Association - Certified Ground Water Professional
- National Inspection, Testing and Certification Corporation -
- Mechanical Plans Examiner
- Mechanical Inspector
- North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners - Solar Heating Installer
- North American Transportation Management Institute - Certified Director of Maintenance/Equipment
- Society for Maintenance & Reliability Professionals -
- Certified Maintenance & Reliability Professional
- Certified Maintenance and Reliability Technician
- Society for Manufacturing Engineers - Certified Manufacturing Engineer
- Society of American Value Engineers - Value Methodology Associate Certification
Educational Options to Match Goals and Needs
- Online Degree
- Provides flexibility to schedule classes and course work around your life - family, full time job, etc.
- Bachelor’s Degree
- Provides a solid foundation for obtaining entry-level job and license
- Master’s Degree
- Allows you to become an expert in a specific area of mechanical engineering
- Provides the education needed to become a professor of mechanical engineering, and/or to conduct your own research in the field.
Top Educational Institutions
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Georgia Institute of Technology
- Stanford University
- University of California - Berkeley
- University of Michigan - Ann Arbor
- California Institute of Technology
- University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign
- Purdue University - West Lafayette
- Cornell University
- Carnegie Mellon University
- University of Texas - Austin
- Northwestern University
Things to do in High School and College
- Stock up on courses in math, engineering, applicable life sciences, physical sciences, design, English, and writing
- Decide what sort of Mechanical Engineer you want to be, such as an automotive engineer, HVAC engineer, or robotics engineer
- Gain practical work experience through Mechanical Engineer internships
- Technology and software to become familiar with include:
- C++, Perl, Python, R
- Cloud-based data sharing
- Computer-aided design / computer-aided manufacturing
- Computer numerical control software
- Configuration management programs like Perforce Helix software
- Customer relationship management software
- Enterprise resource planning software
- Financial analysis software
- Geographic information systems such as — ESRI ArcGIS
- Human-machine interface
- Industrial control software
- Materials requirements planning logistics
- Microsoft Project
- Microsoft Visio
- Microsoft Visual Basic
- Scientific software such as ReliaSoft Weibull++ and MathWorks MATLAB
- Supervisory control and data acquisition
- Supply chain software
- Read articles and watch tutorials about Mechanical Engineering
- Interview a working Mechanical Engineer or see if you can shadow one for a day
- Join professional organizations to learn about trends and grow your network
- Get specialized with an in-demand certification
How to land your 1st job
- Build a career portfolio
- Basically, a story about yourself that will help you sell yourself to potential employers
- bio page
- info about your coursework
- volunteer work
- language proficiency
- testimonials/recommendations from people you’ve worked with like professors, bosses, or clients
- evidence of your technical skills, like projects you’ve completed or tables/flowcharts you’ve created
- evidence if your non technical skills; explain the character traits that you possess which make you an asset to a business
- Choose the field that interests you
- With so many opportunities within the mechanical engineering field, you’ll eventually have to choose a discipline. You can always change this throughout your career, but work on finding your niche so that you can focus on obtaining specific jobs
- Get an internship
- This will open doors and could even lead to your first job
- Invest in yourself
- Never stop building your skills. Consider joining a professional network like the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), or the Society of Women Engineers (SWE)
- Take an online course in your discipline
- Build experience. Look for short-term or freelance jobs. Complete personal side projects
- Make sure the people around you know that you’re looking for a job. Networking with your colleagues, friends, and family can lead to opportunity
- Reach out to alumni. Find out about college alumni networks associated with your school. Very often, alumni are more than happy to help a young person from their alma mater!
- Work part time or volunteer after graduation
- Even if it’s in an unrelated field, employers will like to hear that you’ve been using your time since graduation to generate revenue or volunteer for a good cause. This will also expand your network
- If it is in a related field, this will hugely benefit your network and may lead to more connections and full time jobs in the field
Words of Advice
- Think like a businessman. Understand the monetary implications of your products. How with their total production cost affect your team’s decisions?
- Think outside of the box and outside of your specialty. There will be times when issues or questions arise that are outside of your primary engineering discipline. Be able to learn the basics of whatever it is you’re working on for your client.
- Be a good teammate. In this field, the best work often comes from collaboration. When engineers from various disciplines collaborate, issues are solved and products are created, but more issues may also be created if the team is not cohesive. Know how to network and communicate effectively.
- Follow the rules/know where you work. While some of the defining aspects of this career include creativity and ingenuity, you must also know your client and your boss, and remain within the confines of their boundaries and what they want.
- Innovate! Always be open to new ideas. Avoid the Not-Invented-Here attitude; don’t discredit ideas simply because they originated outside of your group/company.
- Keep a positive attitude and have fun. Engineering offers so many opportunities that you can always move throughout the field until you find your perfect fit.
- Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology
- American Society for Engineering Education
- Engineering Clicks
- Engineering Toolbox
- Engineers Edge
- Interesting Engineering
- MIT Online Courses
- National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying
- National Society of Professional Engineers
- SAE International
- Society of Women Engineers
- Technology Student Association
- The American Society of Mechanical Engineers
- The Manufacturer