Mechanical Engineering Salaries with a Master’s Degree

It is often said that mechanical engineers “help make the world go round.” In fact, one of humankind’s greatest inventions — the wheel and axle — is perhaps the most notable example of how essential mechanical engineering is to our way of life.

Roll the calendar forward to today, and a mechanical engineer would more likely be focused on designing omnidirectional wheels for next-generation robotics.

Sometimes described as the study of objects and systems in motion, mechanical engineering is a discipline that applies principles of engineering, physics, mathematics, and materials science to designing, analyzing, manufacturing, and maintaining mechanical systems. The work of mechanical engineers affects a wide array of industries that stretch from manufacturing and health care all the way to space exploration.

Not surprisingly, those who are employed in this fascinating and vitally important field are typically well-compensated to reflect their expertise, experience, training, and hard work. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the median annual salary for mechanical engineers at $87,370.

The BLS report on median salary for mechanical engineers also includes data indicating that the highest 10 percent earned more than $136,550.

U.S. News & World Report ranks mechanical engineer as No. 41 on its list of 100 Best Jobs (and No. 3 in Best Engineering Jobs) with an unemployment rate of just 1.6% and a median salary of $85,880.

Read on for detailed insight into the salary outlook for mechanical engineers and how a master’s degree affects mechanical engineering salaries, in addition to salary insights by industry and by geographical location.

Key Takeaways

    • While a bachelor’s degree is essential for engineering entry-level positions, earning a master’s can significantly increase earning potential. On average, mechanical engineers with a master’s earn around 20% more than those with just a bachelor’s.
    • Skilled mechanical engineers are in demand across various industries—including software publishers, oil and gas extraction, electronic equipment repair, and more.
    • Top employers, like Google, Amazon, and Boeing, offer competitive salaries, with job postings often exceeding $90,000.

Salary Outlook

A bachelor’s degree is required for entry-level mechanical engineering positions, however those seeking to advance in the profession typically find it beneficial or even essential to earn their master’s degree in mechanical engineering.

As in most professions, one key factor in determining whether to invest in earning an advanced degree involves a calculation on whether the degree will pay for itself over time through higher pay.

“A master’s degree is increasingly required to advance into higher-paying supervisory and management roles,” according to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). “It sharpens your technical skills and can establish you as an expert in a hot field, such as additive manufacturing and 3D printing.”

In fact, item No. 1 on ASME’s list of “7 Ways to Make More Money as a Mechanical Engineer” is: Earn a master’s degree.

According to a report on salary expectations for a mechanical engineer with a master’s degree, “Going to school for an extra couple of years to get a master’s degree will pay off and get you around a 20 percent higher salary than a mechanical engineer with a bachelor’s degree.”

In addition to the estimated 20 percent salary differential, the Work.Chron report also charts a typical career salary progression for someone advancing from entry-level bachelor’s degree holder to experienced master’s-educated mechanical engineer.

  • 0-1 years: $61,300
  • 2-5 years: $65,000
  • 5-10 years: $78,000
  • 10-20 years: $99,000
  • 20+ years: $100,000

Top Employers & Salary By Industry

Skilled, well-educated mechanical engineers are in demand across a wide spectrum of industries. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the following mean salaries for mechanical engineers by industry:

  • Software Publishers — $127,540
  • Oil and Gas Extraction — $122,140
  • Electronic and Precision Equipment Repair and Maintenance — $113,390
  • Waste Treatment and Disposal — $112,570
  • Pipeline Transportation of Crude Oil — $110,170
  • Scientific Research and Development Services — $102,080
  • Federal Executive Branch (OES Designation) — $98,490
  • Architectural, Engineering and Related Services — $96,920
  • Household Appliance Manufacturing — $88,870
  • Engine, Turbine and Power Transmission Equipment Manufacturing — $87,830
  • Motor Vehicle Parts Manufacturing — $85,980
  • Machinery Manufacturing — $81,720

A recent search of for job posts paying $90,000-plus for mechanical engineers includes the following employers:

  • Google
  • Amazon
  • Facebook
  • Raytheon
  • Booz Allen Hamilton
  • Thermo Fisher Scientific
  • Northrup Grumman
  • Boeing
  • Phillips 66
  • Bose Corp.
  • Fitbit
  • IBM
  • Corning
  • Microsoft
  • Twitter
  • Honeywell
  • Lockheed Martin
  • General Dynamics
  • Corvid Technologies
  • Los Alamos National Laboratory
  • U.S. Department of the Army
  • U.S. Department of the Navy
  • U.S. Department of the Interior
  • U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Salary Data By Geographic Location

Skilled mechanical engineers are needed throughout the country. According to U.S News & World Report, these are the top-paying states for the mechanical engineering profession:

  • Alaska: $132,100
  • District of Columbia: $110,910
  • New Mexico: $108,990
  • Texas: $106,020
  • Maryland: $104,250

Drilling down further, the report also lists the following best-paying cities for mechanical engineers:

  • Anchorage, Alaska: $146,770
  • San Jose, California: $125,940
  • San Francisco, California: $121,150
  • Tuscaloosa, Alabama: $119,410
  • Taunton, Massachusetts: $119,110
  • Albuquerque, N.M.: $115,040
  • Houston, Texas: $113,4980
  • Washington, D.C., area: $113,380

Additional Compensation Data

A report from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers offers a closer look at “total primary compensation” for MEs, with figures that include salary, bonuses, commissions and self-employment income. For 2017, the median total primary compensation climbed to $124,650.

ASME also reports that mechanical engineers with less than two years of experience earned a median primary income of $72,400. But add 20 years of experience and the number jumps to $146,350.

The survey of 822 ASME members also included the following figures by industry and geography:

Industry: Mechanical engineers with nuclear and civil academic training earned the highest median income at $152,227 and $150,000 respectively.

Geography: The highest median primary incomes were reported in the New England and Pacific divisions, at $139,000 and $139,480, respectively. The survey’s sampling of highest and lowest median incomes by city included the following:

  • Los Angeles: $195,500
  • New Orleans: $172,500
  • Oakland, Calif.: $170,000
  • Boston: $151,000
  • New York City $118,000
  • Philadelphia: $98,250
  • Boulder, Colo.: $98,000
  • Cleveland: $92,650

ASME, established in 1880, also includes on its website biographies of key pioneers in the field of mechanical engineering, such as:

Options for Earning Your Master’s in Mechanical Engineering

For mechanical engineers interested in earning your master’s degree to sharpen your skills and increase your earning potential, online graduate degree programs are an increasingly popular option. For example, the University of Cincinnati’s online Master of Engineering in Mechanical Engineering degree program features a robust, industry-focused curriculum as well as flexible scheduling designed to help students balance the demands of work, academics and family life.

To receive more information about how a master’s degree in mechanical engineering can help you achieve your career goals, contact a University of Cincinnati enrollment advisor.

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