How well do the jobs available to mechanical engineers pay?
I'm a junior in high school, and I am interested in becoming a mechanical engineer. i would like to know how well off, money wise, I would be if I were to pursue a career having to do with mechanical engineering. #engineering #mechanical-engineering
Mechanical Engineers can do pretty well! Here's data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS): http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes172141.htm
And here are results from Salary.com: http://swz.salary.com/SalaryWizard/Mechanical-Engineer-I-Salary-Details-02101-Boston-MA.aspx
Of course, before you think about the money, think about your happiness first. Do you know what most mechanical engineers do on a day-to-day basis in their work? If so, that's great! If not, spend some time shadowing an engineer, or ask to tour some local engineering companies to learn more. Make sure this is a job that will make you happy!
To expand on the other well-named fellow's answer, Mechanical Engineering is a versatile field, moreso than any other branch of engineering. Other branches, like Chemical, Electrical, Material Science, etc all pay very well, but they are focused fields with only a few different types of places you can go.
Mechanical engineers on the other hand do a little bit of everything. We design airframes and other structural elements for machines, we do engines, we do building systems and construction, oil and gas pipelines, etc. You name it, Mech E's usually have a hand in building it. So that said, since there's so much variation in what we do, there's variation in what we're paid.
The highest paying field for a Mech E is going to be in the oil/gas industry. Some larger schools will have a specific major called Petroleum Engineering, which is kind of a hybrid of Mechanical, Chemical and Civil engineering, but regular Mech E's get those jobs all the time.
The next highest paying is aerospace engineering. Despite what you may think, at the undergraduate level, aerospace and mechanical engineering are nearly interchangeable. Most Mech E programs will offer elective classes during the final two years of school so you can specialize, there will be aerospace classes among them to choose from.
After that, most Mech E's are all within the same range.
But beyond starting salaries, long term thinking is important too. Think about what kind of company you want to work for. In the buliding industry for instance, starting salaries for Mech E's are a little lower than average, but there's much more opportunity to rise the ranks and own your own engineering firm. Whereas the likelihood of you joining the board of directors at Lockheed Martin or Exxon is far less likely. Engineers often go to these places and spend their entire career making roughly the same amount of money, starting high and plateauing early.
So to make a long story short, don't worry about your starting salary so much as what kind of career you want. You may find you're better off taking less money and doing something you love and that offers potential for career growth as opposed to something that pays well, but locks you in a cubicle somewhere for 20 years.
I obtained my B.S. and M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Cal State University, Northridge and USC, respectively. As a young engineer, you will start making okay money, but still relatively good in comparison with other professions. I would say starting salaries are in the 50 to 70 K range these days. It all depends on what kind of company you work for. Bigger and more well known companies pay more than the smaller companies, generally speaking. As a young engineer, you do want to stay competitive and go for the advanced degrees whether full time or have your employer pay for it.
As a young engineer, your main concern should be getting your foot in the door and getting some hands on experience in your company's products and services. You can do this by getting into internships during college or high school. Once you graduate, the main thing that will distinguish you from others will be your grades and any leadership activities.
Overall, there is unlimited potential in Mechanical Engineering. I am currently making more than 100K after 10 years of work experience. My colleague is also a Mechanical Engineer and has chosen to pursue a Law degree with a concentration in Patents, Copyrights, Trademarks, Intellectual Property, etc. The Mechanical Engineering helps complement a degree in Patent Law. Overall, your pay and success will be determined by how motivated you are to accomplish your goals and how high you want to go.