Highest-Paying Mechanical Engineering Jobs: Mechanical Engineer Salary Information

Updated July 21, 2022

Mechanical engineers have a central role in the manufacturing processes in many industries. Since mechanical engineers have so many career options, their salaries can vary a great deal. In this article, we describe the six highest-paying jobs you can get as a mechanical engineer, the highest-paying states for this career and how to increase your salary as a mechanical engineer.

Read more: Learn About Being a Mechanical Engineer

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Increasing your salary as a mechanical engineer

Here are some ways you can increase your earning potential as a mechanical engineer:

  • Find high-paying industries: Some of the highest-paying industries for mechanical engineers are pharmaceuticals, aeronautics and nanotechnology. These industries are usually competitive, so it's important to have a compelling resume to impress hiring managers.

  • Earn a higher degree: You can increase your salary potential by getting a master's or doctoral degree. With a graduate degree, you can qualify faster for management or leadership positions in mechanical engineering.

  • Obtain licenses and certifications: Consider earning your Professional Engineer license since many employers seek candidates with one. There are also many engineering certifications available that you can earn that show your proficiency in the field and dedication to your role.

Highest-paying states for mechanical engineers

There are many reasons why some states might have higher salaries than others. Some states have a higher standard of living than others, which increases salaries in many industries. Some states are hubs for industries that pay mechanical engineers more competitively. Knowing which states pay highest will help you decide if you want to relocate. Here are the states that have the highest average salaries for mechanical engineers:

  • Virginia: $91,167 per year

  • Washington: $91,752 per year

  • Louisiana: $92,865 per year

  • Maryland: $93,625 per year

  • Oklahoma: $93,736 per year

  • Washington D.C.: $96,399 per year

  • California: $100,722 per year

  • Arizona: $107,618 per year

Highest-paying mechanical engineer jobs

Here are the six best-paying jobs in mechanical engineering:

1. Automation engineer

National average salary: $90,024 per year

Primary duties: Automation engineers design, build and maintain self-operating machines and processes. They work closely with clients to understand the process or task being automated. An automation engineer then designs, tests, programs and maintains the machine or system.

Automation engineers need to stay up to date on safety and health regulations, including sanitation and how close the automated systems will be to people. These tasks often require precise motions and careful timing. Automation engineers often work in the manufacturing and food processing industries, where robots are used on the assembly line to perform specific tasks.

Education requirements: These engineers usually have a master's or bachelor's degree and several years of experience.

2. Research and development engineer

National average salary: $92,781 per year

Primary duties: Research and development engineers build new manufacturing methods and products. They also improve existing systems to increase productivity, safety and efficiency. They build concept designs, test prototypes and help take new methods and products to market. Research and development engineers need to be innovative and analytical to recognize problems and find solutions. They work in a deadline-driven environment and need to be able to work both independently and with a team.

Education requirements: Depending on the field in which an R&D engineer works, they may need a bachelor's or master's degree. For aerospace research and developing engineering and other competitive fields, candidates should have a Ph.D.

3. Senior mechanical engineer

National average salary: $99,376 per year

Primary duties: Senior mechanical engineers work with a team to plan, design and develop products. They might work on mechanical parts, circuit boards, sensors and electrical systems, depending on the design team. Senior mechanical engineers can also help with designing and implementing the manufacturing process and packaging for the product. They need to be able to conceptualize products and solutions, then build and test the products to make sure they are safe and work according to designs.

Additional duties include writing technical reviews and improving products once they're sold on the market. They might also lead a team and are expected to have an advanced understanding of the production process.

Education requirements: Senior mechanical engineers need at least a bachelor's degree and at least five years of experience. They also usually need a PE (Principals and Practice of Engineering) certification.

4. Senior design engineer

National average salary: $100,882 per year

Primary duties: Senior design engineers specialize in creating new products. They usually lead a team from the beginning of the project through production. Senior design engineers often act as project managers by working with customers to understand their goals and requirements, developing a schedule and budget, leading the team through the design process and working to improve processes for future projects. They need to be able to assess and communicate risk, understand high-level design processes and lead product testing.

Senior design engineers often act as a liaison between the engineering team, customer and other stakeholders in projects. They need to be organized, inventive and able to communicate complicated ideas and systems to different audiences. Senior design engineers might work closely with vendors and manufacturers to negotiate costs and deadlines, improve delivery processes or schedule orders.

Education requirements: Senior design engineers should have at least a bachelor's degree and several years of practical experience. Most candidates have a PE as well.

5. Powertrain engineer

National average salary: $102,363 per year

Primary duties: Powertrain engineers are mechanical engineers that work in the automotive industry. They improve the appearance and performance of engines, the powertrain, electrical components and software in modern vehicles. Powertrain engineers might work with motorcycles, cars and commercial vehicles, like box trucks and semi-trucks. They work closely with clients to meet their goals and answer any questions they have.

Powertrain engineers determine project timelines and budgets, build and test prototypes, analyze data and research materials. They are also responsible for making sure that vehicles meet government emissions and safety requirements.

Education requirements: Powertrain engineers usually have a bachelor's degree but a master's degree could increase earning potential.

6. Instrumentation engineer

National average salary: $107,881 per year

Primary duties: Instrumentation engineers specialize in equipment that monitors and controls engineering systems. They design, build, test, install, manage and maintain equipment that ensures other engineering systems work correctly. They need to understand how many systems work together, how and where to measure acceptable ranges and stay current on changing health and safety regulations.

Instrumental engineers often act as consultants and offer advice regarding systems, processes and equipment. Instrumentation engineers also often write software programs, business proposals and reports on their findings. They can be involved in purchasing, operations and changing processes. Instrumentation engineers work in many different industries, including nuclear and renewable energy, environmental agencies and independent quality control commissions.

Education requirements: Depending on the industry, an instrumentation engineer may need a bachelor's or master's degree to be a competitive candidate.

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Mechanical engineer skills

Here are some skills you will need as a mechanical engineer:

  • Creativity

  • Design skills

  • Problem-solving skills

  • Communication skills

  • Math skills

  • Mechanical knowledge

  • Self-management skills

  • Integrative negotiation

  • Strategic planning

  • Project management

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