What’s the Best Degree Path to Becoming a Mechanical Engineer?

Choosing to study engineering is a major decision, and for many students, it’s a good one. Engineering professionals earn an average of $3.5 million over their work-lives. They have the exciting opportunity to change the ways in which societies interact with the world around them. Mechanical engineering is among the broadest engineering disciplines, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This makes the discipline a perfect choice if you want to keep your options open to explore a wide range of opportunities.

Undergraduate Education and Beyond

To get started in the field of mechanical engineering, you must earn a college degree. Accredited bachelor’s degree programs in mechanical engineering typically include a heavy focus on science and mathematics. So it helps if you have developed a strong background in these fields during high school.

As a mechanical engineering student, you will take courses in engineering and design. Often, coursework will include laboratory projects and other opportunities where you can gain hands-on experience. Mechanical engineering bachelor’s degree programs can be completed in four years, though the BLS notes that many students spend a longer amount of time (up to five years) earning this degree.

You may also opt to enroll in an accredited degree-granting program in mechanical engineering technology rather than mechanical engineering. These programs also award bachelor’s degrees. However, they tend to focus less on theory and more on practical application compared to traditional mechanical engineering programs.

If you want to be sure your education prepares you for future career advancement, you may want to pursue a graduate degree program or select a dual degree program. Master’s degrees may be necessary for:

  • academic positions
  • management positions
  • jobs in research and development

By choosing a program that combines undergraduate and graduate-level education, you can emerge from college prepared for wherever your future careers take you. You’ll get real-world experience through internships and cooperative experiences. And you may save some time and money in the process.

Getting Your Professional Engineer License

After you earn your college degree, you will have to complete the requirements to become licensed as a professional engineer. First you will take a state exam called the Fundamentals of Engineering exam. When you pass  that, you will officially be qualified as an engineer in training. Once you have four years of professional engineering experience, you can take the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam.This is the last hurdle left before you can get your license.

Mechanical engineering degree programs are challenging, but your hard work will pay off in the form of a versatile skillset that prepares you for a rewarding career. If you know you want to enter the field of engineering but you’re not sure which specialized discipline is best for you, earning a degree in mechanical engineering may be the best way to prepare for your future.

Brenda Rufener
Author

Julie McCaulley
Expert

Carrie Sealey-Morris
Editor-in-Chief