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Keywords: overview,mechanical engineer,engineering
Description: U.S. News's mechanical engineer job overview with comprehensive information on necessary job training, expected salary and job satisfaction, plus tips on job openings.

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 Statistics, employment in the field is expected to grow by 5 percent between 2014 and 2024, translating to 14,600 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 $83,060 in 2014. The best-paid earned about $126,430, while the lowest-paid earned less than $53,210. Industries that pay well include oil and gas extraction as well as information services. The top-paying metropolitan areas for the occupation include Anchorage, Alaska; District of Columbia; and San Jose, California.

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