A degree in mechanical engineering offers a breadth of career opportunities. As a mechanical engineer, you can work in specialties such as robotics, automotive, nanotechnology and any field that involves working with technology that includes machines or moving parts. Your mechanical engineering specialty, along with factors such as industry and level of experience and education, influence how much money you will earn in your career. If you want to attain one of the highest paying mechanical engineering jobs, you need to take the right courses and gain the right experience to be a good fit for these lucrative positions.
Mechanical Engineering Salaries by Industry
In addition to being one of the broadest and oldest fields of engineering, mechanical engineering is also one of the largest engineering occupations. More than 288,800 people across the United States are employed as mechanical engineers, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported. For all mechanical engineers in all industries and at all levels of experience, the median salary is $85,880 per year, according to the BLS. That wage is considerably more than twice the median wage for all occupations, but somewhat lower than the $92,220 median salary for all engineers.
Even if you have the exact same job title, your earning potential can vary by tens of thousands of dollars depending on the industry in which you work. Among the industries employing the most mechanical engineers, scientific research and development services is the most profitable, with a near-six-figure annual salary of $98,530, the BLS reported. A median wage of $91,440 awaits mechanical engineering students who enter the industry of computer and electronic product manufacturing. Mechanical engineers in architectural and engineering services earn a median salary of $89,180. Those working in the field of transportation equipment manufacturing earn a wage just above the median for all mechanical engineers, $86,670. However, the 13 percent of mechanical engineers working in machinery manufacturing – more than 37,500 workers – earn a salary well below that median wage, $77,400.
Often, it’s the rarest mechanical engineering jobs that offer the best salary potential. There are mechanical engineering roles that have six-figure average wages but make up just a tiny fraction of employment in this occupation. For example, software publishers employ just 120 mechanical engineers, which means just 0.03 percent of workers in the industry are part of this occupation, but they pay a mean annual wage of $127,540, the BLS reported. The $122,140 mean salary for mechanical engineers working in oil and gas extraction takes into account the wages of just 430 workers. Mechanical engineers make up just 0.13 percent of employees who work in electronic and precision equipment repair and maintenance, but these 130 people earn a mean wage of $113,390. Just under one-half of one percent of employees working in waste treatment and disposal accounts are mechanical engineers, who earn a mean salary of $112,570. A mean wage of $110,170 is associated with the pipeline transportation of crude oil industry, which employs just 240 mechanical engineers.
One of the best-paying roles in all engineering disciplines is engineering manager. Managers in mechanical engineering may need a graduate degree and a minimum of five years of work experience.
Mechanical Engineering Salaries by Specialty
A number of specialties fit into this broad discipline of engineering, and some specialties tend to pay better than others. Heating and cooling system engineers, or HVAC engineers, typically have some of the lowest wages, with a median salary of only $63,494, PayScale reported. Automotive engineers, who develop engineering systems for automobiles, earn nearly $15,000 more per year that HVAC engineers, with a median wage of $78,053. Robotics and automation engineer is an occupation Business Insider listed as one of the engineering jobs that pay $110,000 or more. PayScale reports that robotic engineers earn a median wage of $80,720 but can earn as much as $121,842 per year. Nanotechnology engineers are often included under the umbrella of scientific research and development, with its $98,530 median salary.
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Within a mechanical engineer’s specialty, your level of experience and responsibility can affect your earnings. A career in mechanical engineering involves bringing concepts to marketing – and may include everything from handling mechanical and thermal design to the actual manufacturing process. As a result of the breadth of mechanical engineers’ responsibilities, these engineers frequently work their way up to high-level management positions.
The median entry-level salary for mechanical engineers is $64,695.