Worried about choosing passion over pay? Mechanical engineering can be both a lucrative and fulfilling career. With its broad parameters, it allows professionals to follow their interests and design a range of different products and tools. If you’re drawn by the science of motion and force (or just have a talent with machines) you may be a prime candidate for a mechanical engineering career.
But like any job, you’ll need years of experience to gain the skills necessary to survive in this competitive industry. There is unfortunately no single solution that will allow you to do whatever you please! To find the path to your dream job, you will need to be proactive and decisivein your education, certification, and in gaining experience. Whether that’s a position in fields such as robotics, energy, aerospace, or many others—it’s ultimately up to you to decide.
Regardless of what you want to do, you’ll still need to know your options before you head down that path. Here’s how you can start on your way toward a mechanical engineering career.
Choose the Level of Education That’s Right for Your Aspirations
There’s no way around it: like other engineering disciplines, mechanical engineering requires a certain level of qualification.If you don’t have the time or money to pursue a university-based education, you’ll find it more difficult to complete the process than others might. That said, if you’re willing to work hard enough, there is usually an option that can accommodate you.
The most straightforward way to pursue a mechanical engineering career is to earn a bachelor’s degree in this discipline; undergraduate programs will ensure that you are well-versed in the math, science, and design elements you’ll use every day. Once you’ve earned your degree and an engineering certificate, you’ll probably be able to find work at a specific firm. However, academia can still offer you further benefits.
If you intend to specialize in a specific field of mechanical engineering, you might pursue a master’s degree. This may bump your education time up to six years, but universities increasingly fold master’s curriculums into undergraduate programs, so there are some plans that will enable you to earn both degrees within five years. Once you’ve spent time in the industry, you may want to conduct innovative research or teach engineering at a university level. For this, you will need a doctorate.
Licenses and Certification
No matter what type of work you do as a mechanical engineer, you will probably be able to earn a comfortable living. According to figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, engineers in that field got paid a median figure of over $83,000 a year, with the highest earners in the profession making more than $125,000. While you’ll stand to make a lot of money, you’ll still need to do other things to set yourself apart from your competition. After all, mechanical engineering is an extremely popular discipline—so there will be many equally-qualified professionals all pursuing the same jobs as you.
We already talked about educational qualifications, but to work as a professional engineer, you will also need to obtain a license. After graduating from college or university, you’ll generally need an Engineer-in-Training membership at an engineering association. This will enable you to gain the work experience necessary to become a professional engineer (P.Eng). This designation shows that you are fully qualified to work within the mechanical engineering field. You can also earn optional certifications that demonstrate relative proficiency in a given area. While this doesn’t carry the weight of a master’s degree, it still offers a professional advantage to those who earn it.
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