Mechanical engineers play an invaluable role in the manufacturing processes in many industries. They have a massive input in the design, development, installation, operation as well as maintenance of any mechanical equipment.
The nature of their expertise means mechanical engineers can work in multiple industries, which in turn determines their salaries. The most common sectors they can work in include aerospace engineering, automotive engineering, manufacturing engineering, railway engineering, medicine, energy, transport, and sport.
According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, engineering courses are among the highest-paying college majors in the U.S. That said, knowing the highest-paying jobs for mechanical engineers and how much they earn is important if you wish to become an engineer.
The salary data used to compile this list are from reputable sources, including the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
High paying jobs for mechanical engineers in 2022
As earlier mentioned, the salary a mechanical engineer earns largely depends on the industry/sector they are in, their job, and how much experience they have. That said, below we highlight nine high-paying jobs for mechanical engineers in the U.S. along with their mean annual wages.
As the name suggests, automation engineers focus primarily on designing, building, and maintaining self-operating machines and processes. They also test, program, and maintain automated machines or systems.
Automation engineers should stay abreast of health and safety regulations, including regulations on how close the automated systems can be to people. Most automation engineers work in manufacturing and food processing industries or other work environments where robots are used to execute specific tasks.
The average annual salary of automation engineers in the United States is $89,975. The highest earners receive more than $126,000 a year.
Research & development engineer
Research and development engineers play an integral role in building new manufacturing methods and products. They build concept designs and test prototypes before they’re certified and released into the market. They are also tasked with improving existing systems for better productivity, efficiency, and safety.
As a research and development engineer, it is imperative to not only be innovative but also analytical in order to spot problems and identify effective solutions. Research and development engineers can work in many industries, including electrical and manufacturing industries as well as science-based companies.
It is one of the highest-paying jobs for mechanical engineers and their mean annual salary is $86,195. The highest earners receive more than $124,500 a year.
Mechanical engineers are considered the most diverse of all engineering disciplines. They are tasked with solving mechanical problems related to mechanical parts, sensors, electrical systems, and circuit boards. They also play a key role in the design and implementation of moving parts of mechanical equipment.
Mechanical engineers work on all the stages of a product, right from the research & development phase to design and manufacture. They should be able to conceptualize products and solutions then proceed to build and test the product to make sure they work according to the designs and are safe for release.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual wage of mechanical engineers is $95,560. The highest earners receive more than $141,000 a year.
Design engineers study, research, and develop ideas for innovative products and the necessary systems to make them. They also modify existing systems, processes, or products for better productivity, efficiency, performance, and safety.
Design engineers work on almost every consumer product and focus not only on creating good-looking, safe, and easy-to-use products but also to ensure the production process is cost-effective and efficient. With experience, one can rise to senior positions in large organizations where they will earn more in managerial positions, e.g. as a creative director.
Design engineers’ typical employers include biomedical companies, engineering companies, design consultancy firms, consumer goods manufacturers, and large manufacturing companies among others.
The mean annual salary of design engineers in the United States is $80,449. The highest earners receive more than $110,000 a year in wages.
Powertrain engineers work in the automotive industry to design and improve the performance and appearance of transportation such as motorbikes, cars, or commercial vehicles such as semi-trucks and box trucks. They also improve the performance of engines, powertrains, software, and electrical components in modern vehicles.
These engineers are also responsible for projecting timelines and budgets, building and testing prototypes, and analyzing data. They are also the ones responsible for making sure the manufactured/assembled vehicles meet safety and emission requirements set by the government.
It is one of the high-paying jobs for mechanical engineers and their mean annual salary is $73,928. The highest earners receive more than $93,500 a year.
Control & instrumentation engineer
Instrumentation engineers are also among the highest-paid mechanical engineers. They specialize in equipment that controls and monitors other engineering systems and are responsible for designing, building, testing, installing, managing, as well as maintaining the aforementioned equipment.
Instrumentation engineers should understand how many systems work together as well as how and where to measure acceptable ranges. They should also remain abreast with changes in health and safety regulations to ensure the equipment are safe for people.
These engineers can act as consultants who provide advice regarding engineering systems, processes, and equipment. They can also write software programs and business proposals and are often involved in purchasing, operations, and changing processes.
As an instrumentation engineer, you can work in many sectors including manufacturing industries, renewable energy, independent quality control commissions, and environmental agencies.
It is one of the highest-paying jobs for mechanical engineers and their mean annual salary is $86,243. The highest earners enjoy wages above $133,000 a year.
Maintenance engineers are responsible for the continuous, efficient running of machinery and equipment in industrial settings. They use computerized systems to oversee routine maintenance and organize repairs. They are also involved with the control and monitoring devices and can contribute ideas in the manufacture of items that will help in maintenance.
The duties of a maintenance engineer are crucial to the efficiency, development, and progress of the processing and manufacturing industries. Maintenance engineers also work with other engineers to improve production facilities, reduce incidences of breakdowns, and come up with strategies that help improve the overall safety and reliability of the plant, personnel, and production processes.
The mean annual wages of maintenance engineers in the United States is $70,980. The highest earners receive more than $101,000 a year.
Land-based engineers use their expertise and scientific knowledge to solve problems in the agricultural and horticultural sectors. They use their knowledge and skills to design, develop and install machinery used in agricultural and environmental industries. They also ensure the vehicles and equipment operate properly and efficiently.
Apart from solving engineering problems, land-based mechanical engineers can also advise businesses and farmers on agricultural concerns, such as irrigation and sustainable land use. The mean annual wages of land-based mechanical engineers is $48,147 with the highest earners getting more than $82,535 a year.
Automotive engineers specialize in designing, developing, and manufacturing vehicles and their engineering systems. They design new products and can modify the existing ones for improved efficiency and functionality. Automotive engineers also identify and solve mechanical engineering problems.
Those with sufficient experience often choose to specialize in a particular area such as exhaust systems, structural designs, or engines. The mean annual salary of automotive engineers is $81,599 and the highest earners get more than $114 a year.
Finding the highest paying jobs for mechanical engineers
There are a few things you can do to increase your chances of landing one of these high-paying mechanical engineering jobs. These things include:
1. Earning a higher degree
You can give your salary potential a massive boost by completing a master’s or doctoral degree. It will definitely take you a few more years to complete but it’s worth it. A graduate degree, for example, enables you to qualify faster for management positions in the industry.
2. Identify high-paying industries
If you wish to get high-paying mechanical engineering jobs, being able to identify the high-paying industries will be key. Some of these industries include pharmaceuticals, nanotechnology, and aeronautics. It’s imperative to keep in mind that the competition for job opportunities in these industries is very high, which means having a compelling resume will give you an edge over other suitable candidates.
3. Obtain licenses & certifications
Most employers give first priority to candidates with a Professional Engineer license. There are other engineering certifications that will give your resume a massive boost. Having these certifications will not only show your proficiency in the field but also your dedication to your role.
FAQs about high paying mechanical engineer jobs in the United States
Let’s now have a look at some of the most frequently asked questions about high-paying mechanical engineer jobs in the United States.
1. Which are the highest paying states for mechanical engineers?
The highest paying states for mechanical engineers in the United States are Arizona ($107,607 per year), California ($100,717 per year), Washington D.C. ($96,403 per year), Oklahoma ($93,726 per year), Maryland ($93,627 per year), Louisiana ($92,853 per year), Washington ($91,759 per year), and Virginia ($91,177 per year).
The reasons why some states pay higher wages for mechanical engineers than others include higher standards of living and being a hub for industries that need the services of skilled, experienced mechanical engineers.
2. Are mechanical engineers in demand?
The overall demand for mechanical engineers is projected to grow by 4% from 2019 to 2029. While some industries will witness a decline in the demand for mechanical engineers, the rapid pace at which the automotive industry is growing means mechanical engineers will still be in demand, a good example being the need to improve the range and performance of hybrid and electric cars.
3. Where do most mechanical engineers work?
The largest percentage of mechanical engineers work in architectural, engineering, and related services. Other mechanical engineers work in machinery manufacturing, transportation equipment manufacturing, scientific research & development services, and computer & electronic product manufacturing. These many sectors mean mechanical engineers will always be in demand.
You can watch this video to learn more about jobs for mechanical engineers. Credit: Jake Voorhees.
To sum it up,
There are many high-paying jobs for mechanical engineers in the United States. According to the data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for mechanical engineers will have grown by 4% by the year 2029. This means a career as a mechanical engineer is good and your can work in different sectors or industries.