What Education Is Needed to Become a Mechanical Engineer?
Do you enjoy working with machines or mechanical equipment? Are you interested in how it works? If you're mechanically inclined, consider in a career in mechanical engineering. Mechanical engineers focus on designing, researching, and creating various electronic and manual machines and devices. Schools offering Mechanical Engineering degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
As a mechanical engineer, you're in charge of creating, designing, testing, and researching mechanized devices, like tools, machines, and engines. This broad field allows you to specialize in different areas, such as power-using machines or power-producing machines. You may create or build large, commercial equipment, like elevators, robots, and gas turbines, or smaller, personal appliances, such as electric generators and air conditioning units.
If you're new to the field, a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering is usually suitable to qualify you for an entry-level job. Many schools offer majors specifically in mechanical engineering, though some relevant alternatives include mathematics, chemistry, or physics. If you're interested in entering management or research positions, then you might need a graduate degree. You can find several master's and doctoral programs in the same fields, as well as business administration or engineering management.
In a mechanical engineering program, you'll take classes like system modeling, project management, finite elements, advanced mechanics, machine dynamics, and machine systems design. In many programs, you'll learn by doing, completing applied research, and engineering projects. Graduate programs include extensive research and teaching opportunities, if you're interested in a career in academia. Additionally, several schools offer fully- and partially-online degree programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.
By law, you'll need a professional engineer (PE) license if you provide public engineering services. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) indicated that to obtain this license, you'll need to graduate from an accredited engineering program, have four years of experience in engineering, and pass the PE examination.
To qualify for full licensure, you must first take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) test, which you can take immediately after graduating from an engineering program. After passing this exam, you can begin working as a trainee in the field to gain the work experience required for the PE exam.
Job Outlook and Salary Information
The BLS noted that mechanical engineers were expected to see a five percent employment growth from 2012-2022. This is considered slower than the average when compared to other occupations. However, new job opportunities were expected to come from advances in biotechnology, nanotechnology, and materials science.
The BLS reported that mechanical engineers had an average annual income of $84,770 as of May 2012. The oil and gas extraction industry offered the highest wages at that time, with average incomes topping $128,650. The top-paying state was Alaska, which had an annual mean salary of $103,840 for mechanical engineers.
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