Is There a Future Demand for Mechanical Engineers?

Is there a demand for mechanical engineers in the future? Yes! We’re moving into the digital age, but we still live in a physical world.

Software and automation will continue to engulf more and more industries. But the interface from atoms to bits still requires design and maintenance. This is where mechanical engineers step in.

In Silicon Valley it’s often said, if there are no cars, there’s no Uber.

With the stage set, let’s go over the future demand for mechanical engineers.

Mechanical engineering employment and wage data

The U.S. Bureau of Labor projects a 4% increase in employment from 2019 to 2029. A key takeaway is the following:

“Job prospects may be best for those who stay abreast of the most recent advances in technology.”

Now, the table below shows the 2019 median salaries according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor. I only listed the top median salaries above mechanical engineers.

Engineering Discipline 2019 Median Salary
Petroleum Engineers$137,720
Computer Hardware Engineers$117,220
Aerospace Engineers$116,500
Nuclear Engineers$113,460
Chemical Engineers$108,770
Electrical and Electronics Engineers$101,250
Materials Engineers$93,360
Marine Engineers and Naval Architects$92,400
Bioengineers and Biomedical Engineers$91,410
Health and Safety Engineers$91,410
Mining and Geological Engineers$91,160
Mechanical Engineers$88,430

The median salary of $88,430 is 2.2X greater than the median annual salary for all occupations in the U.S., which is $39,810. Then according to Levels.fyi, the 90th percentile earns $185,000. These are figures extracted from companies such as Boeing, Tesla, and Google.

To earn this amount, you need to level yourself up and aim to become a 10x engineer. Heck, I even know mechanical engineers who make $500,000.

The breadth of the mechanical engineering field 

f-14 tomcat carrier launch
f-14-tomcat-carrier-launch (Photo Credit: Robert Sullivan)

Mechanical engineers influence everything you can physically touch.

To illustrate, the field breadth, below are study subjects offered in MIT’s mechanical engineering department:

  • Mechanics: modeling, experimentation, and computation
  • Design, manufacturing, and product development
  • Controls, instrumentation, and robotics
  • Energy science and engineering
  • Ocean science and engineering
  • Bioengineering
  • Nano/micro science and technology

Similarly, Standford’s mechanical engineering department. offers courses in the following:

  • Energy science and technology
  • Propulsion
  • Sensing and control
  • Nano- and micro-mechanics
  • Design mechatronics
  • Computational simulation
  • Solid and fluid dynamics
  • Micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS)
  • Biomechanical engineering

The degree is clearly versatile and touches on a wide range of subjects. Most often, you’ll encounter the following sub-branches in a college curriculum:

  • Manufacturing engineering
  • Aerospace engineering
  • Automotive engineering
  • Material science

Booming fields in mechanical engineering

Software is seemingly taking over the world, while old mechanical hardware now seems boring.

But if you stop and look around, you’ll find many amazing advancements in mechanical engineering today. We’ll go over a few.

Nanoengineering

The study and application of very small devices. The following are a few of the application opportunities:

  • Stronger materials for construction and manufacturing
  • Doctors inside human bodies to detect and fix abnormalities
  • Sensors to detect failure points in critical infrastructure
  • Longer-lasting batteries and increased fuel efficiency
  • Water purification and environmental cleanup

Biomechatronics

We’re slowly transitioning into cyborgs, as seen in the blockbuster Terminator movies. Maybe not full-machine robots anytime soon, but we’re inching away from flesh and blood.

Biomechatronics combines biology, electronics, and mechanics, which includes the development of the following:

  • Actuators
  • Biomedical devices
  • Controllers
  • Implants
  • Sensors

Manufacturing

Every factory is looking to optimize production to maximize efficiency through automation. In this field of work, you’d do the following:

  • Design manufacturing processes to reduce costs
  • Develop and execute fabrication processes
  • Automate facilities through computer technologies
  • Find solutions to production issues

Soon one day machines will make machines, creating a gnarly sci-fi reality. But until then, humans will need to spearhead the technology.

Other focus areas

Mechanical engineering is the foundation of almost every field of engineering. The following are several examples:

  • Design wind and hydroelectric facility turbines for renewable energy
  • Enable electronics and software to interface with the physical world
  • Design the machines, which breed robots and automation processes

To continue this discussion, let’s hyperfocus on electric vehicles and HVAC in the upcoming sections.

Electric vehicles versus ICE

tesla fremont factory
Tesla Factory, Fremont (Photo Credit: Maurizio Pesce)

Every travel vehicle relies on mechanical engineers, including electric cars.

Now sure, electric vehicles have many fewer moving parts than a traditional Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) car. But the following electric vehicle parts still exist:

  • Steering systems
  • Wheels and brakes
  • Instruments
  • Chassis
  • Suspensions
  • HVAC systems for passengers and batteries
  • Seats, doors, and other interior and exterior parts
  • Toolmaking equipment and molds for vehicle parts
  • Machines used in manufacturing and testing

The design of these parts hinges on the following mechanical engineering subjects:

  • Thermodynamics
  • Mechanics
  • Robotics
  • Kinematics
  • Fluid analysis

Mechanical engineer jobs at Tesla

Below quoted are several different job position descriptions for mechanical engineers at Tesla. Look at the huge variance in job types below for different mechanical engineering positions.

Senior Mechanical Design Engineer

“…looking for a highly motivated Mechanical Design Engineer to contribute to the design, install and ramp of battery cell manufacturing equipment.”

Senior Interior Engineer

“Along with Tesla’s vehicle engineering team, you will release and launch interior components and subsystems…”

Mechanical Design Engineering Manager, Gigafactory

“Tesla’s Infrastructure Engineering team is seeking a Mechanical Design Engineering Manager to play a pivotal role in building our Texas Gigafactory.”

Mechanical Design Engineer – Autopilot Electronics

“Tesla is seeking a mechanical design engineers in the Autopilot and Electronics Product Design team.”

Mechanical Design Engineer – Chassis

“The Chassis Design Engineering team plays a critical part in that mission, helping to deliver a safe, efficient, comfortable, and enjoyable driving experience, while also focusing on the sustainability and value of Tesla’s products.”

Mechanical Design Engineer – Tool and Die

“…looking for a highly-motivated Mechanical Design Engineer to contribute to the development and fabrication of high volume metal stamping dies.”

Mechanical Design Engineer – Power Electronics

“Tesla’s Power Electronics group is looking for a skilled and motivated individual to perform mechanical design activities for our power converter products to be used in Tesla vehicle powertrains and energy storage products.”

Senior Mechanical Design Engineer, Solarglass Roof

“The Senior Mechanical Design Engineer is responsible for inventing and shepherding design concepts into viable product offerings.”

We can go on and on. The point is, there are endless positions for mechanical engineers. And electric vehicles aren’t making mechanical engineers obsolete.

Artificially controlled environments

A big part of mechanical engineering is the design of HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air-Conditioning) systems.

With humans living in every climate, from scorching hot to freezing cold, HVAC is a necessity. For example, you can’t live in Arizona for more than a few days in the summer without temperature control.

Then beyond temperature control, we manipulate our environment in the following ways:

  • Pressure
  • Humidity
  • Gas composition
  • Noise control

This becomes more imperative with climate change, both in sustaining human life and crops. So, until we figure out how to move fluids and hot and cool air with 1s and 0s, we’ll need mechanical engineers.

Important Note: fluid dynamics is the study of the motion of matter in different states, including liquid, gas, plastic, or plasma. The following is a short list of industrial work, which uses fluid mechanics:

  • Wind, hydro, and steam turbines
  • Jet and combustion engines
  • Hydraulic control systems 
  • Air flight control and aerodynamics
  • Fuel injection
  • Blood and plasma flow

Dependency of software on mechanical engineers

future of human kind with robots

Let’s make a full circle back to software.

Software needs a host organism to survive. In most applications, the host is the following types of existing hardware:

  • Autonomous cars
  • Rockets
  • Helicopters and airplanes
  • Robots and machines
  • Bio-mechanical body parts

Even the almighty artificial intelligence will need the following to live:

  • Computers
  • Data servers
  • HVAC for cooling electronics
  • Power equipment to feed electronics

And guess who designs these hosts? Mechanical engineers!

Important Note: innovations in software happen rapidly due to the low overhead of development. Naturally, we then think software is taking over the world. But, perspective is important, as software needs the material world more than we need it.

Future technological advancements

Most new-age innovations today have stemmed from software and electronics. It goes without saying, mechanical engineers have also greatly benefitted from these advancements. They have led to the following in all the mechanical engineering fields:

  • Ability to recreate real-world scenarios accurately
  • Evaluate countless variables and study scenarios simultaneously
  • Deliver precision measurements
  • Process information at blistering rates
  • Collect endless amounts of valuable data

As a result, mechanical engineers have optimized and perfected existing designs. And new inventions have sprouted through a positive feedback loop of advancements. This has led to the creation of endless new specialty jobs for mechanical engineers.

Engineers adapting to a rapidly changing job market

Job markets constantly evolve. Through software and electronics, more lower-level mechanical engineering jobs will become automated. Or, at the very least, the same jobs, which once required three engineers will now only require one. Then with globalization, outsourcing jobs will become even more common and less taboo.

So, was I bullshitting when I said mechanical engineering has a bright future?…

Absolutely not. The demand for mechanical engineers is only rising, but with a caveat. You can no longer just coast by because you have some letters stacked after your name. We’re moving into a future where results only matter, as the competition is fierce. You’ll need to either further specialize, or combine your skills with another trade.

To help you level up, check out my following articles:

“Is there a demand for mechanical engineers in the future?” wrap up

Until the day we completely become digitized and upload our minds into computers, we’ll still need mechanical engineers. But even then, mechanical engineers will need to design and maintain the machines, which store and cool the data.

The software and machines will certainly phase out the lower-level engineers though. The future demand will only be for highly skilled and creative engineers.

In the end, your future success is up to you. You can either ride the oncoming wave to the top or fall to the wayside.

What do you think the demand for mechanical engineers will be moving into the future? What will affect the demand for mechanical engineers in the future the most?

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