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2021 Mechanical Engineering Degree Guide

Mechanical engineers help develop, build, and improve machines. In this major, you learn how machines work and about the energy needed to make them run. Mechanical Engineers are the people responsible for imagining and building machine tools, manufacturing equipment, vehicles and more. You will learn what makes planes fly and the physics that is involved in roller coasters. This major will allow you to discover the secrets behind mechanical devices.

Every school will have different requirements, but some courses you can expect to come across include: circuits and electronics, chemistry, statistics, dynamics, differential equations, thermodynamics, materials science, principle of design, principles of engineering, and fluid mechanics and aerodynamics.

Mechanical Engineering Degrees On The Rise

#20 Most Popular Major
47.2k Degrees Awarded
2.9% Increase in Graduates

Mechanical Engineering was the 20th most popular major in the 2018-2019 school year. Colleges in the United States reported awarding 47,222 degrees in this year alone. This is a difference of 1,393 over the prior year, a growth of 2.9%.

There are 374 schools offering degrees in mechanical engineering in the United States. Our 2021 Best Colleges for Mechanical Engineering ranking analyzes 274 of these schools to determine the best overall colleges for mechanical engineering students. Continue reading to check out one of our many unbiased rankings of ME programs later in this article.

Mechanical Engineering Degree Requirements

If you are creative and like to design and build unique pieces of machinery this will be a great major for you. You must be willing to think outside the box while being precise and having attention to detail. This will help when you start to make new discoveries as you address complex problems. You will rely heavily on your math skills and apply these advanced topics of mathematics to help analyze and design your work.

Students will spend a good deal of time working on group projects, studying in the library or writing up lab reports and research papers. Most schools will require you work a co-op, so it may take you five years as undergraduate student to graduate instead of typical four years. This so you can learn the mechanical skills necessary to join the workforce and tackle real world problems.

Prior Education for a ME Program

A high school diploma or equivalent is typically required for most ME degree programs and many students will need a minimum GPA and SAT/ACT score depending on the school. In addition to these basic mechanical engineering program qualifications, to serve in some ME careers, special certification may be required outside of your degree.

Types of Mechanical Engineering Degrees

ME degree levels vary. You can spend many years getting as high as a in mechanical engineering to something that takes less time like a . The time it takes to complete a ME degree varies depending on the program.

Degree Credit Requirements Typical Program Length
Associate Degree 60-70 credits 2 years
Bachelor’s Degree 120 credits 4 years
Master’s Degree 50-70 credits 1-3 years
Doctorate Program required coursework including thesis or dissertation At least 4 years

A bachelor's degree is the most common level of education achieved by those in careers related to ME, with approximately 56.7% of workers getting one. Find out other typical degree levels for ME workers below.

Level of Education Percentage of Workers
Bachelor’s Degree 61.0%
Master’s Degree 18.8%
Doctoral Degree 8.2%
Associate’s Degree (or other 2-year degree) 3.3%
Post-Baccalaureate Certificate 3.1%

94.4% of ME workers have at least a bachelor's. See the chart below for the most common degree level workers in mechanical engineering have received.


This of course varies depending on which ME career you choose.

ME Careers

Average Number of Jobs
$64.5k Average Starting Salary
9% Growth Job Outlook 2016-26

This major will allow you to work in broad variety of fields. You could work with many diverse employers from NASA to large power plants to the biomedical field to environmental control to transportation. You could design tiny measuring instruments, large aircraft carriers or power plants.

It will be easier for you to obtain a job if you have experience with new software and recent technology.

Solid Growth Projected for ME Careers

Want a job when you graduate with your ME degree? Mechanical Engineering careers are expected to grow 8.6% between 2016 and 2026.

The following options are some of the most in-demand careers related to mechanical engineering.

Occupation Name Projected Jobs Expected Growth
Mechanical Engineers 314,100 8.8%
Cost Estimators 240,800 10.5%
Architectural and Engineering Managers 190,000 5.5%
Aerospace Engineers 73,800 6.0%
Engineering Professors 54,600 14.7%

How Much Money Do People With a ME Degree Make?

Mechanical Engineering graduates between 2015-2017 reported earning an average of $64,495 in the 2017-2018 timeframe. Earnings can range from as low as $30,400 to as high as $108,700. As you might expect, salaries for ME graduates vary depending on the level of education that was acquired.


High Paying Careers for ME Majors

Salaries for mechanical engineering graduates can vary widely by the occupation you choose as well. The following table shows the top 5 highest paying careers ME grads often go into.

Occupation Name Median Average Salary
Architectural and Engineering Managers $148,970
Aerospace Engineers $117,100
Engineering Professors $113,680
Mechanical Engineers $92,800
Cost Estimators $69,710

Getting Your Mechanical Engineering Degree

With over 831 different ME degree programs to choose from, finding the best fit for you can be a challenge. Fortunately you have come to the right place. We have analyzed all of these schools to come up with hundreds of unbiased ME school rankings to help you with this.

Mechanical Engineering is one of 38 different types of Engineering programs to choose from.

Related Major Annual Graduates
Electrical Engineering 31,041
Civil Engineering 21,795
Computer Engineering 15,694
Chemical Engineering 14,363
Biomedical Engineering 11,975

View All ME Related Majors >


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