What’s a Mechanical Engineer and is the Career Outlook Any Good?


What’s a mechanical engineer?

A mechanical engineer combines the principles of engineering, physics, and math to design products. The products can be almost anything: water bottles, furniture, appliances, medical devices, robots, large machinery, etc.

Mechanical engineers need to be proficient in computer-aided design (CAD) software like SOLIDWORKS, AutoCAD, or Inventor.

Most mechanical engineers are also expected to have a strong understanding of geometric dimensioning and tolerances (GD&T). GD&T is a set of rules, symbols, and tools engineers can use to easily communicate design intent while lowering costs.

RELATED ARTICLE: The Complete GD&T Training Checklist

Mechanical is the broadest engineering discipline because mechanical engineering career paths span all industries. This is what makes it one of the most popular engineering degrees.

What does a mechanical engineer do?

We reviewed several open mechanical engineering job postings on LinkedIn to compile the most common roles and responsibilities mechanical engineers perform day-to-day:

  • Lead or participate in customer and product research
  • Develop concepts and ideas for new and existing products
  • Create sketches, 2D drawings, and 3D models
  • Generate bills of materials (BOMs)
  • Evaluate manufacturing processes to improve performance
  • Communicates well and works within multidisciplined teams and third-party vendors

What software does a mechanical engineer use?

There are so many different software options available to mechanical engineers. These tools vary by industry, project, and even company. Here are some of the most popular CAD tools used today:

  • AutoCAD
  • Autodesk Inventor
  • Autodesk Fusion 360
  • Creo
  • Onshape

While mechanical engineers spend most of their time in CAD software, they also need to be proficient in finite element analysis (FEA) and product data management (PDM) tools. FEA is often taught to engineering students while PDM is typically learned on-the-job.

RELATED ARTICLE: Quickly Create Better Products wityh FEA

How much does a mechanical engineering make?

The mechanical engineering salary range in the U.S. is between $61,000-$114,000, according to Glassdoor.

The average base pay of a mechanical engineer in the U.S. is $84,982. These roles are sometimes referred to as associate mechanical engineers or design engineers and require 0-4 years of experience.

The average base pay of a lead mechanical engineer in the U.S. is $112,595. These roles are sometimes referred to as mechanical engineering supervisors or senior mechanical engineers and require 2-8 years of experience.

The average base pay of a principal mechanical engineer in the U.S. is $123,968. These roles are sometimes referred to as senior principal mechanical engineers or mechanical engineer IV and require a minimum of 4-8 years of experience.

The mechanical engineering career path can take you as far as you want it to. Some companies even have a VP of engineering or a chief engineer, which comes with a higher salary and more responsibilities.

With all that said, mechanical engineering salaries vary depending on several factors including

  • where you live,
  • which industry you work in (e.g., high-tech or transportation),
  • what company you work for (e.g., a Fortune 100 company or a small machine shop), and
  • years of experience.

Is mechanical engineering a good career?

If you’re considering taking the mechanical engineering career path, it’s objectively a good one!

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the job growth is expected to climb 7% from 2020 to 2030, which equates to about 20,000 new positions each year over the next decade.

Job satisfaction is above average for mechanical engineers. U.S. News reports that for mechanical engineers, stress levels are average, work-life balance is above average, and the opportunity for advancement and increased salary is high.

If you think the mechanical engineering career path is right for you, you’ll want to consider earning a bachelor’s degree since 84% of mechanical engineers have one. Students who know they want to begin their careers as mechanical engineers commonly major in mechanical engineering, engineering mechanics, or electromechanical engineering.

Online courses for mechanical engineering

SolidProfessor is the leading platform for online courses for mechanical engineering, architecture, and manufacturing design. We work with individual learners, schools, and businesses to educate beginners and advanced professionals to teach real skills and inspire innovation.

Here are our most popular online courses for mechanical engineering:

Interested in other engineering careers?

Explore other engineering career articles just like this one.

Madie Norris Forcier
About the Author

SolidProfessor content writer and self-appointed World’s Greatest Dog Mom