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Mechanical Engineers

At a Glance

  • Design mechanical products and systems
  • Use CAD (computer-assisted design)
  • May work overtime to meet deadlines
  • Have at least a bachelor's degree
  • May need a license

Career summary

Mechanical engineers design, build, and test mechanical tools and machines.

#No alternate titles for this occupation CJ

Mechanical engineers work on projects such as:

Mechanical engineers draw their designs using drafting tools and computer-assisted design (CAD) software. They also study blueprints, schematics, and technical drawings. They work with clients and other designers to fine-tune designs.

Mechanical engineers build a prototype (or model) of a design so they can test to see if it works properly. They adjust the design and construction so that machines and tools function as intended.

They calculate the cost and get bids from different companies for materials and production. Some may assess the system's impact on the environment.

Engineers may oversee the construction and assembly of the machines and tools they design. This allows them to continue fine-tuning their designs in order to improve their function.

Mechanical engineers also develop a maintenance schedule for machines and tools. If there are problems, mechanical engineers evaluate and find solutions to the problem. They tell mechanics which repairs to make and test the fixed system.

Mechanical engineers may work in a company with many departments. They may be responsible for all mechanical tools and machines for each department. They provide technical advice and consultation to others. They also manage groups of people who may do the actual construction and installation of tools and machines.

Related careers

This career is part of the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to mechanical engineers.

Common work activities

Mechanical engineers perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, mechanical engineers:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Mechanical engineers frequently:

It is important for mechanical engineers to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for mechanical engineers to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Mechanical engineers need to:


Reason and problem solve

Use math and science

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Work with things

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a mechanical engineer, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Most students prepare for this field by earning a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering. Many four-year colleges and universities offer this program of study. You may need between four and five years to complete this program.

Some jobs require a master's or doctoral degree (PhD). For instance, if you are interested in teaching mechanical engineering at a college you need a PhD. Also, many student engineers go to graduate school to specialize in one area of mechanical engineering.

In a typical four-year program, classes include math, basic science, introductory engineering, and social science. Courses may include mechanics and materials, thermal-fluids, and product engineering. You may also study design and manufacturing and mechanical vibration.

Work experience

You should consider participating in an internship with an engineering firm while you are in college. An internship is usually part of a four-year degree program. It offers you a chance to apply what you have learned in the classroom to a work situation. It also allows you to build skills and make contacts with people in the field.

On-the-job training

In general, mechanical engineers receive one to two years of on-the-job training. New graduates work under the guidance of experienced engineers. In large companies, you may also receive formal classroom training. As you gain knowledge and experience you have greater independence and work on more difficult tasks.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum (external link) may be different from your state's graduation requirements (external link). Engineers use math and science frequently. Try to take math classes through Trigonometry and science classes through Physics.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups (PDF file) that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

For entry-level jobs, most employers prefer to hire applicants who have a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering. Employers may require a master's degree or higher for research, consulting, and managerial jobs.

Employers prefer to hire mechanical engineers who are creative and analytical. They look for people who can solve problems and work with abstract ideas. Oral and written communication skills are also important. Employers look for people who can work on a team. Employers also prefer mechanical engineers who have strong computer skills.

Graduate training is important for advancement and essential for teaching.


Opportunities are good for those willing to relocate, not only in Washington, but nationally. Some mechanical engineers may also need to be familiar with civil, electrical, or other engineering fields.

Costs to workers

Some workers join a professional association, which may have annual dues.


Engineers employed in responsible positions in government or in firms offering services to the public, or who stamp their work as being done by an engineer, must be licensed by the Washington State Department of Licensing.

Getting a license as an engineer-in-training requires:

Professional engineer licensing requirements include:

Engineers who wish to be licensed as professional engineers must pay $65 to the State for an initial national exam application. After State approval, engineers must pay for the registration examination from the National Council of Examiners for Engineers and Surveyors. The license renewal fee is $116 every two years. Not all engineers in Washington must be licensed.

For licensing information, contact:

Washington State Department of Licensing
Board of Registration for Professional Engineers and
Land Surveyors Licensing Program (external link)

PO Box 9025
Olympia, WA 98507-9025

#ok4/26/10 lh & 2/15/11, 3/19/13, 12/5/16 cj. 1/30/18 lh. Removed exact fee for the natl exam and left in general statement; rest ok, 4/10/19 cj.

For information on testing, contact:

National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (external link)
PO Box 1686
Clemson, SC 29633-1686

#CTW notes: no changes 3/17/08 lh. Modified statements to read like the ones in Aerospace Engineers 3/9/09, cj.Checked licensing info, added CTW & updated fees, 2/14/11, cj. Updated license renewal fee 3/19/13 cj. Updated NCEES ph number; updated natl exam fee from $265 to $350, rest ok 3/2/15 cj.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Mechanical engineers (SOC 17-2141)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $28.03 $34.11 $43.52 $55.26 $69.26
Monthly $4,858 $5,911 $7,542 $9,577 $12,003
Yearly $58,310 $70,960 $90,510 $114,950 $144,060
    Bellingham Hourly $27.88 $33.30 $39.70 $51.28 $63.38
Monthly $4,832 $5,771 $6,880 $8,887 $10,984
Yearly $57,988 $69,273 $82,582 $106,647 $131,842
    Bremerton-Silverdale Hourly $30.02 $34.39 $44.10 $50.28 $56.54
Monthly $5,202 $5,960 $7,643 $8,714 $9,798
Yearly $62,452 $71,535 $91,742 $104,594 $117,605
    Kennewick-Richland Hourly $33.66 $42.22 $50.11 $65.47 $77.80
Monthly $5,833 $7,317 $8,684 $11,346 $13,483
Yearly $70,012 $87,829 $104,214 $136,174 $161,838
    Longview Hourly $28.88 $34.22 $41.75 $49.35 $59.85
Monthly $5,005 $5,930 $7,235 $8,552 $10,372
Yearly $60,076 $71,178 $86,858 $102,648 $124,492
    Mount Vernon-Anacortes Hourly $28.73 $36.05 $43.88 $50.77 $59.99
Monthly $4,979 $6,247 $7,604 $8,798 $10,396
Yearly $59,757 $74,984 $91,278 $105,595 $124,774
    Olympia-Tumwater Hourly $22.61 $29.22 $37.68 $47.26 $65.46
Monthly $3,918 $5,064 $6,530 $8,190 $11,344
Yearly $47,017 $60,788 $78,389 $98,292 $136,167
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $29.08 $35.45 $46.32 $60.14 $76.22
Monthly $5,040 $6,143 $8,027 $10,422 $13,209
Yearly $60,472 $73,733 $96,346 $125,084 $158,539
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $23.55 $29.16 $37.18 $46.63 $55.89
Monthly $4,081 $5,053 $6,443 $8,081 $9,686
Yearly $49,001 $60,647 $77,326 $96,982 $116,248
    Vancouver Hourly $28.70 $34.55 $41.05 $49.71 $59.80
Monthly $4,974 $5,988 $7,114 $8,615 $10,363
Yearly $59,709 $71,874 $85,384 $103,397 $124,385
    Walla Walla Hourly $22.80 $28.97 $40.86 $46.94 $54.40
Monthly $3,951 $5,021 $7,081 $8,135 $9,428
Yearly $47,421 $60,242 $84,988 $97,646 $113,149
    Wenatchee Hourly $25.50 $33.03 $42.54 $52.96 $60.82
Monthly $4,419 $5,724 $7,372 $9,178 $10,540
Yearly $53,024 $68,697 $88,488 $110,139 $126,511
    Yakima Hourly $20.81 $27.03 $32.79 $44.40 $51.50
Monthly $3,606 $4,684 $5,683 $7,695 $8,925
Yearly $43,274 $56,224 $68,209 $92,347 $107,114
United States Hourly $27.05 $33.37 $42.00 $53.14 $65.65
Monthly $4,688 $5,783 $7,279 $9,209 $11,377
Yearly $56,270 $69,410 $87,370 $110,520 $136,550

Wages vary by employer and the engineer's level of training and responsibility.

Mechanical engineers usually receive benefits. Typical benefits include paid vacation, sick leave, health and life insurance, and a retirement plan.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Mechanical Engineers (SOC 17-2141)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 8,120 12.4% 16.1% 736
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 110 1.8% 13.4% 7
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 353 15.0% 8.6% 34
    Benton and Franklin Counties 303 13.5% 15.0% 28
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 640 3.6% 11.9% 45
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 461 9.5% 15.2% 39
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 110 11.8% 14.1% 10
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 607 19.9% 14.6% 67
    King County 3,281 9.9% 19.6% 278
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 102 3.9% 13.8% 7
    Pierce County 259 9.7% 15.2% 22
    Snohomish County 1,329 13.8% 12.4% 122
    Spokane County 357 19.3% 13.9% 38
United States 312,900 4.1% 5.2% 22,900

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for this occupation will grow about as fast as average. Growth varies by industry. Mechanical engineers in the engineering services industry are expected to experience much faster than average growth as companies continue to contract work with these firms. Although employment of mechanical engineers in the manufacturing industries is declining, the need for improved machinery and machine tools will create demand. Also, emerging technologies in biotechnology, materials science, and nanotechnology will create new job opportunities.

Additional job opportunities will arise because a degree in mechanical engineering often can be applied in other engineering specialties. Many job openings should result from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force.

Other resources

American Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) (external link)
(This website provides a list of engineering-related programs accredited by ABET)
415 North Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (external link)
1791 Tullie Circle NE
Atlanta, GA 30329
American Society of Mechanical Engineers (external link)
Two Park Avenue
New York, NY 10016
Careers in Space: A Universe of Options (external link)
Discover Engineering (external link)
eGFI - Dream Up the Future (external link)
Engineer Girl! (external link)
National Academy of Engineering
Engineering Your Future (external link)
International Society of Automation (external link)
67 TW Alexander Drive
PO Box 12277
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709
Interview with a Mechanical Engineer (external link)
Career Outlook Quarterly
Nanooze (external link)
National Academy of Engineering (external link)
500 Fifth Street NW
Washington, DC 20001
National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (external link)
National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (external link)
280 Seneca Creek Road
Seneca, SC 29678
National Society of Professional Engineers (external link)
1420 King Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
SAE International (external link)
400 Commonwealth Drive
Warrendale, PA 15096
Society of Fire Protection Engineers (external link)
9711 Washington Boulevard, Suite 380
Gaithersburg, MD 20878
Society of Women Engineers (external link)
130 East Randolph Street, Suite 3500
Chicago, IL 60601
Technology Student Association (external link)
1904 Association Drive
Reston, VA 20191-1540
Washington State Science & Engineering Fair (external link)


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupations

Strong Interest Inventory

Holland occupational cluster