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Mechanical engineers are imaginative by nature. Presented with a problem, they visualize it and turn it over in their minds until they arrive at a solution. It’s why they so often hold leadership positions within an organization. However, no amount of visualizing can predict the future, and the next 10 years may be unlike anything mechanical engineers can imagine.

Consider the technological advances of the past decade—self-healing materials, wearable electronics and 3D printing, to name a few. Now imagine what the next 10 years could look like. With such rapid technological change, well-trained engineers of the future will play an essential professional role. So, we’re here to talk about your career outlook as a mechanical engineer. We won’t keep you in suspense: the future is looking bright.

The Future of Mechanical Engineering

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the mechanical engineering field is expected to grow 7% by 2030, creating close to 30,000 jobs. That’s about average for all occupations. However, mechanical engineering careers offer much higher salaries than other non-STEM occupations. In 2021, mechanical engineers earned an annual median salary of $95,300, with the top 10% of earners making over $136,210.

Around the world, mechanical engineers remain in demand. Canada expects a shortage of mechanical engineers through 2028, and Europe, the largest producer of machinery, expects their mechanical engineering sector to grow by an average of 3.8 percent over the next 10 years. China, Germany, Japan, India, and South Korea all rank among the most competitive manufacturing countries and will continue to for the foreseeable future. Notably, the “Mighty Five” (Malaysia, India, Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam) are predicted to be among the top 15 nations for manufacturing. Mechanical engineers working abroad will encounter numerous career opportunities in the coming years.

What’s Driving Demand?

Demand for mechanical engineers will only grow as AI (artificial intelligence) and automation continue their robotic takeover of the world. These technologies are sparing workers from repetitive, dangerous tasks like assembly line manufacturing and, in the process, increasing productivity and enabling workers to pursue more meaningful roles. However, rapid technological change is leaving workers with little time to transition into new roles or careers.

Time magazine reports that the “drive to replace humans with machinery is accelerating” and, spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, manufacturing companies could replace two million workers by 2025. This is echoed in the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2020. They estimate that 85 million jobs will be lost to automation by 2025. Of course, it’s not all doom and gloom. By 2025, 97 million jobs will be created around the world.

Where does all this leave mechanical engineers? Mechanical engineers possess an array of technical skills that no robot could replace, not to mention the creativity and imagination they bring to the table. In fact, they will be needed to plan and design automation machinery, especially as this technology becomes more complex. Mechanical engineers may have to adopt new skills to remain competitive, but so long as they keep up with emerging trends and technologies, they’ll have success in the coming years.

What About Less Experienced Engineers?

We’ve talked about the career outlook for all mechanical engineers, but what about those with limited experience? Recent graduates of mechanical engineering programs aren’t going to have the same experience in the job market as senior engineers. Fortunately, new and experienced engineers will both be in high demand, especially over the course of the next decade.

The STEM Shortage

A 2018 survey conducted by Emerson found that two out of five Americans believe the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) worker shortage has hit crisis levels, and they may be right.

The shortage is affecting numerous sectors, not the least of which is manufacturing—which employs nearly half of all mechanical engineers. As many as 2.4 million manufacturing positions could go unfilled by 2028. “There’s definitely a problem now when you are trying to hire people with high-tech skills and engineering degrees,” said Emerson Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Kathy Button Bell. According to Bell, what’s considered “old-fashioned manufacturing” now requires a new skillset.

Mechanical Engineers Aren’t Going Anywhere

Mechanical engineers are out-of-the-box thinkers of the highest caliber, capable of solving problems by drawing upon an extensive set of skills and experiences. Their talents make them indispensable and afford them high-paying, highly satisfying careers across a variety of industries. Depending on where you look, mechanical engineers are:

  • Creating prototypes as part of a product development team at Microsoft.
  • Designing and analyzing products and prototypes at Google.
  • Developing leading-edge technology, equipment, and systems at NASA.
  • Producing naval technology for the U.S. Department of the Navy.
  • Prototyping mechanical components for surgical equipment at Johnson & Johnson.

No robot can compete with the mind of a mechanical engineer, and the expertise and insight of these professionals will become increasingly valuable, especially in manufacturing as robots and automation take over more tasks. Computing tools can perform analyses in seconds, but the tools of a mechanical engineer are more robust and require a keen human intellect. Tools do require training, however. Mechanical engineers need a way to develop their skills, gain industry knowledge, and remain competitive in a field that changes with every passing year. 

Future-Proof Your Career at UT Austin

The University of Texas at Austin offers a 100% online Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering program. Ranked the No. 11 best mechanical engineering program in the U.S., our program is ideal for aspiring industry leaders. Students explore a wide range of engineering topics, including automatic control, heat transfer and materials science, and engage with rigorous course content immediately applicable to their careers. Rest assured, our courses are updated regularly in response to the latest trends and emerging technologies. This ensures that graduates are prepared for what comes next in their careers.

We also offer a 100% online Mechanical Engineering Controls Graduate Certificate. This 9-credit-hour program can be completed in as little as one year, and within that year, students gain in-depth knowledge of the control and optimization of processes and systems. And like our executive master’s program, our graduate certificate program is 100% online and asynchronous.

A future-proof career is within reach. Gain the knowledge, skills and experience needed to accelerate or secure your career with one of our 100% online mechanical engineering programs. Apply now if you’re ready for the future of mechanical engineering.


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