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, and 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 for students who want to keep their options open to explore a wide range of opportunities.

Undergraduate Education and Beyond

To get started in the field of mechanical engineering, aspiring engineers 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 students have developed a strong background in these fields during high school. Mechanical engineering students will take courses in engineering and design. Often, coursework will include laboratory projects and other opportunities where students can gain hands-on experience. Like most undergraduate programs of study, mechanical engineering bachelor’s degree programs can be completed in four years, though the BLS noted that many students spend a longer amount of time (up to five years) earning this degree.

Students may also opt to enroll in an accredited degree-granting program of study in mechanical engineering technology rather than mechanical engineering. These programs also award bachelor’s degrees upon completion, but they tend to focus less on theory and more on practical application as 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 and prestigious jobs in research and development. By choosing a program that combines undergraduate and graduate-level education, students can emerge from college prepared for wherever their future careers take them, with real-world experience gained through internships and cooperative experiences, and they may have the opportunity to 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. Upon passing 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, which 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 are not sure which specialized discipline most appeals to you, earning a degree in mechanical engineering may be the best way to prepare for your future.

Brenda Rufener

Julie McCaulley

Carrie Sealey-Morris