Mechanical Engineers Salaries with respect to their Field and their Experience

Mechanical engineers often have an innate curiosity about the way things work. For J. Robert Sims, president of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, this curiosity reared its head at age 10. "I repaired an old radio and used an old power supply to experiment with the electrolysis of water. I produced a small amount of hydrogen that I proceeded to ignite," he wrote in an email. "Good judgment is not inherent in the young – that comes later with experience."
An enthusiasm for solving problems is a vital trait of mechanical engineers, says Warren Seering, a professor of mechanical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It takes creativity to shepherd a theoretical device into a practical reality. To do this, mechanical engineers research, design, develop, build and test various devices.
Computers have changed the way mechanical engineers do their work. Computing tools now "allow complex analyses to be performed in seconds that once required days or weeks of hand calculations," Sims writes. But to produce a fully refined product, mechanical engineers use grittier items, such as electric generators, industrial production equipment and material-handling systems. When confronted with the more complex and analytical portions of the occupation, being a wiz in areas like calculus and trigonometry is a major advantage.
Mechanical engineering is an exciting professional field, thanks to innovations like 3-D printing and the development of new engineering materials like carbon fiber composites. And as a result of globalization, Seering says many mechanical engineers now work in teams and create designs for communities throughout the world.
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, employment in the field is expected to grow by 4.5 percent between 2012 and 2022, translating to 11,600 new positions. The broad opportunities within that hiring window should leave aspiring mechanical engineers feeling encouraged. Architecture, alternative energies, remanufacturing and nanotechnology are subsets of this profession that will have openings for candidates with the right education and experience.


According to the BLS, mechanical engineers earned a median salary of $82,100 in 2013. The best-paid earned about $123,340, while the lowest-paid earned less than $52,550. Industries that pay well include oil and gas extraction as well as information services. 

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Experience and Education Matters

According to the survey, the engineers who saw their wages increase consistently were those with increased engineering experience. The median income of full-time salaried respondents increased regularly from $55,000 for those with less than one year of experience to $127,800 for those with 25 years of experience or more.
Engineers' salaries are higher now than previously reported in 2011.
engineering salaries on the rise - early career engineers
Also, increased education leads to higher compensation. Full-time salaried respondents holding doctoral degrees in engineering have a median income of $116,000. Those with an M.S. in engineering earn a median of $95,576. Finally, those with a B.S. in engineering earn a median income of $85,900. Those holding a doctorate in engineering earn a median 35% more than those with a B.S. in engineering.
If you look at the licensing-certification status, full-time salaried respondents who are professional engineers in some other licensed profession command higher salaries ($116,000) as compared to unlicensed engineers ($95,500).

Gender Gap Is Narrowing

Despite improvements during the past two decades, there is still a noticeable difference in compensation for men and women engineers. The median income of female engineers ($76,984) is less than male engineers ($96,000). "There is a gender gap that's closing," says John E. Goossen, vice president, Innovation Hub and SMR Development, Westinghouse Electric Company. "When I graduated, we were 54 in the class and only one woman engineer. When I look around today, we are hiring many outstanding young women engineers," he adds.
Goossen, who is also on the board of visitors for the mechanical engineering department at University of Pittsburgh, says the total enrollment number for engineering at the college has been climbing and the number of women enrolling has also been increasing.

Engineers Are in Demand

There are 44 branches of engineering represented in the survey. Like every year, though, certain disciplines command a higher salary than others. The engineering jobs that offer the highest compensation are in ocean ($169,000), followed by cost management ($129,500), petroleum ($127,043), safety ($125,000), minerals and metals ($121,000), and fire protection ($116,000).
Salary breakdown by region.
engineering salaries on the rise - early career engineers

Job prospects are very good in the energy industry, says Goossen. "We have been hiring at a fairly rapid rate over the last several years. That has flattened off a little bit as we have reached a peak for our needs for new plant design. We continue to hire people because of attrition and engineers moving into other positions like management or planning. Engineers will continue to be in demand and I don't see that dropping off in the near future," he adds.

Fresh graduates with engineering degrees are also getting some of the highest salary offers, as reported byU.S. News & World Report. According to the findings of a recent survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), employers surveyed say they plan to hire 9.5 percent more graduates from the class of 2012 than they did from the class of 2011.

"We need engineers with basic skills, but we also need engineers who understand the commercialization of the product. Especially in our industry, they need to be innovative and also look at what the market will be for those products," says Goossen. "Being a global company, we are also looking for engineers who can work across borders, and understand a foreign culture and language. That will be an even greater asset to any engineer to have those types of skills."

As Loughlin says, "It actually has never been a better time to be an engineer. Engineers are core and central to innovation and improving the quality of life in this country and the world. In November 2011, we surpassed 7 billion people on the planet and it's going to be engineers who create an environment that we can all live on this planet and share resources in an effective and meaningful way. The exciting thing is that we are starting to see the results of the need of engineers showing up in things like this salary survey."

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