Mechanical Engineering Career Overview
Mechanical engineers are engaged in researching, developing, designing, manufacturing, and testing mechanical devices like tools, engines, machines, etc. They work on developing both power producing as well as power using machines. Examples of power-producing machines are electric generators, internal combustion engines, and steam and gas turbines. Examples of power-using machines are refrigerators and air-conditioning equipment, machine tools, material handling systems, elevators and escalators, industrial production equipment, and robots used in the production process. Mechanical engineers are also involved in designing tools and equipment that other engineers require for their work. These days, the field of nanotechnology (which involves the creation of high-performance materials and components by integrating atoms and molecules) is has introduced completely new principles to the design process.
The work of mechanical engineers differ as per the industry they are employed in and the function that they are expected to perform. These engineers specialize in energy systems; applied mechanics; automotive design; manufacturing; materials; plant engineering and maintenance; pressure vessels and piping; and heating, refrigeration, and air-conditioning systems and as such can be employed in various industries. Mechanical engineering is thus one of the broadest engineering disciplines. Mechanical engineers may either be hired in manufacturing operations in production or agriculture, maintenance, or technical sales; or may be involved in administrative or managerial tasks.
In 2002, mechanical engineers had around 215,000 jobs. About half of those jobs were in the manufacturing sector—mainly in machinery, transportation equipment, IT and electronic products, and fabricated metal products manufacturing industries. Architectural, engineering, and related services and the Federal Government employed the remaining engineers.
Mechanical Engineering Job and Employment Opportunities
The employment of mechanical engineers is predicted to increase in the period through 2012, bit at a rate which is slightly slower than the growth rate for other occupations. Although overall employment in the production sector (which hires the most mechanical engineers) is expected to fall a little, the employment of mechanical engineers in manufacturing should grow faster than normal because the demand for more efficient and advanced machinery and machine equipment is increasing as industrial machinery and operations become more and more complex. Even the new developed advanced technology in the fields of biotechnology, materials science, and nanotechnology will lead to the creation of more job opportunities for mechanical engineers. Also, due to the fact that the skills and knowledge of mechanical engineers can be applied to other engineering specialties, mechanical engineers will have further jobs available to them. Openings will also result from transfers and retirements of existing mechanical engineers.
Historical Earnings Information
In 2002, the median salaries received by mechanical engineers were $62,880 annually. The middle 50 percent received salaries between $50,800 and $78,040. The lowest 10 percent received salaries below $41,490 while the highest 10 percent earned above $93,430. In 2002, the median salaries of mechanical engineers in the industries employing the largest numbers of these engineers were:
In a 2003 salary survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, mechanical engineers with a bachelor’s degree received starting salaries of $48,585 a year on an average, those with a master’s degree had offers of about $54,565, and those with a Ph.D. were offered initial salaries of $69,904.
Seasoned engineers may earn even more.
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