Mechanical Engineering Employment and Pay

Continuing this week's theme of jobs jobs jobs for all you hardworking engineers, I was curious what the outlook had been in my own discipline. I already covered employment and salaries in most disciplines between 1999 and 2010 but wanted to zero in on the mechanical engineers.
Mechanical engineers have had a bit of a bumpy past. The general trend is up but it hasn't been easy. My personal theory for the boost is that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have acted as stimulus programs for mechanical engineers. Our own Works Progress Administration putting us to work building tanks and humvees and fighter jets and bombs. The first major climb lags us entering the wars but is pretty strong. I give the delay to the delay in starting Department of Defense contracts and actually funding companies.

Maybe the post 2006 boom is due to the surge (I'd have to look it up). Trends in the automotive industry could also be strongly responsible as well as oil drilling, coal mining, etc. I think the strength even in the recession shows the numbers benefit from more than just commercial development alone. For comparison I pulled the civil engineer's chart over the same period of time.

So same boost up from about the same period on. This one has got to be thanks to housing. The quick and consistent line up and the drop right at the housing crash has had a big effect on the employment of civil engineers. How about our friends the sparkies?
It ain't easy being a sparky. The dot com bubble burst and it hurt. A couple of little climbs later and the recession hits and they are knocked back again. Still, given how heavily commercial electrical engineering is it's probably got a much more sustainable path to growth than defense dollars and government bailouts of the auto industry. Something to keep in mind.
Next a quick look at pay for mechanical engineers:
The bottom line is inflation adjusted. Without that the skyrocketing wages look pretty crazy. But even with inflation engineers managed a 10.5% increase to their mean annual salary over the last ten years. What? You're probably thinking. I'm a sprocket and my salary hasn't been going up. Could be what with the recession and choosey employees they're more likely to hang on to somewhat older and more experienced engineers in lieu of hiring younger ones or keeping young ones on. That may not be the personal experience of older engineers, but even if we're taking very minimal trends it can add up. And 10% increase over 10 years for the gain of 10 years of experience seems kind of like a bargain on the employer's side of things.

Still, the war might be to thank (or blame) for the strength in mechanical engineering employment. ME employment is up over 15% from 1999. Despite the bust civil engineers are employed at 19% more than 1999. And as you can see in the graph electrical engineers broke just about even (actually a drop of two tenths of one percent). I don't think engineers should go into a field based on national numbers and national salaries. Locality can make a huge difference. And of course it's important not to chase money but to do something because you think you'll enjoy it.


  1. Anonymous15:48

    My sister has been getting HUGE raises. She's a mech E working in a petroleum industry. She makes a ton more money with a BSE than I do with a PhD even though she's a lot younger.

  2. I love all this data. Really informative.