Architecture and engineering, aerospace manufacturing and research and development are a few of the many industries that employ mechanical engineers. The basic job requirement is a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, which typically takes at least four years. However, some colleges offer a combined bachelor's and master's program in as little as five years. New master's graduates receive higher average entry-level salaries than bachelor's graduates, and their salaries grow more over time.
Average Starting Salary and Range
The average starting salary for a graduate with a master's degree in mechanical engineering was $66,800 in 2012, up from $64,300 in 2011, according to a report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers. The 2012 entry-level salaries with a master's ranged from $53,000 at the 25th percentile to $77,000 at the 75th percentile. By way of comparison, the average 2012 starting salary with a bachelor's in mechanical engineering was $62,900, ranging from $50,200 at the 25th percentile to $74,300 at the 75th percentile.
Manufacturing and Technical Services
In 2012, 2,300 new mechanical engineering master's grads found jobs in manufacturing, with average annual pay of $64,900, according to the NACE survey. This was the largest number for any industry but the lowest pay of the four top hiring industries. The second-largest employer, professional, scientific and technical services, hired 2,000 new graduates and paid them an average of $66,500 per year.
Education and Government
In 2012, educational services hired 800 master's graduates in mechanical engineering at average pay of $65,900 per year, according to the NACE report. Typically, these are postsecondary teaching positions in technical schools, community colleges or four-year colleges. Government at the local, state and federal level hired an additional 700 master's grads in mechanical engineering in 2012. These jobs paid an average of $74,600 per year, the highest wages among the four major employers.
A mechanical engineer with a master's degree can expect a higher salary with experience. After 10 to 14 years of work, master's graduates in all engineering disciplines had a median income of $92,000 per year as of 2012, according to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. After 20 to 24 years, their median incomes reached $120,000 annually, while bachelor's graduates with similar experience had median annual pay of $110,000. The average annual income of mechanical engineers with all levels of education and experience was $84,770 as of 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the top 10 percent earned $121,530 or more.
Jobs for mechanical engineers will increase by 9 percent between 2010 and 2020, according to the BLS. Although this is slower than the average of 14 percent for all jobs, the government predicts a good job outlook for mechanical engineers. The best job opportunities will go to those who stay current with advances in technology, especially the latest design software, such as Advanced Visualization Process.