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Mechanical engineers help keep machinery running. These highly trained people devise the plans for, create and maintain all types of machinery and equipment, including elevators, internal combustion engines and robots used in manufacturing. Different levels of education for mechanical engineers include bachelor’s and master’s degrees, doctorates and professional certifications. The average salary available for a mechanical engineer depends on these different levels of education and work experience.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 230,000 mechanical engineers work in the U.S. On average, these engineers earn $82,480 per year, which includes those with a master’s degree. On the lower end of the pay scale, mechanical engineers earn approximately $50,500 per year. At the other end of the pay scale, they can earn in excess of $119,000 annually. Alaska is the highest paying state for mechanical engineers, with an average annual salary of $99,400.
Bachelor's vs. Master's
A typical starting salary for a mechanical engineer with a bachelor’s degree is $46,200. When you compare this with the typical starting salary for a mechanical engineer with a master’s degree at $59,371, the value of the extra education is clear. As an engineer’s years of experience increase, so does his earning potential. Mechanical engineers possessing a master’s degree can expect to earn $63,491 per year on average after one to four years of experience. A salary of $97,263 is what 10 to 19 years of experience plus a master’s degree can get a mechanical engineer. Those with more than twenty years of experience and a master’s degree can expect to earn six figure salaries.
Salary by Industry
There are other factors affecting the earnings of mechanical engineers, including the type of industry in which a mechanical engineer works. Different industries pay mechanical engineers -- including those with master’s degrees -- different salaries. The aerospace industry pays its mechanical engineers $87,630 on average. Motor vehicle manufacturers typically pay the mechanical engineers they employ $91,470 annually. Mechanical engineers who work for oil and gas extractors can expect annual pay of $101,930.
In addition to a master’s degree or doctorate, mechanical engineers can pursue certifications that can enhance their salaries and career options. Certified Professional Engineer is one option. The exam for this certification is offered through the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying. Mechanical engineers with master’s degrees who obtain this certification earn an average of $91,146 per year. Mechanical engineers can also be certified as Project Management Professionals. This certification offered through the Project Management Institute helps a mechanical engineer with a master’s degree earn an average salary of $101,470.
- United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics: Mechanical Engineers
- National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying: Engineers
- Project Management Institute: Project Management Professional (PMP)
- Engineer Salary: Entry Level Engineering Salaries
- Education-Portal: Salary for a Mechanical Engineer with a Masters Degree
Mallory Otis began writing professionally in 2011. She is a certified public accountant (inactive) with a background in accounting for investments and not-for-profit accounting, as well as tax accounting for individuals, partnerships and C corporations. She graduated from Birmingham-Southern College in 2005 with a Bachelor of Science in accounting.