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6 Industries that Hire Mechanical Engineers

6 Industries that Hire Mechanical Engineers

Aerospace, automotive, biomedical, power/energy, railroads, and chemical manufacturing lead the pack when it comes to employing mechanical engineers.

States with the highest demand for mechanical engineers are top manufacturing states such as Texas, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio, California, Arizona, Wisconsin, and Illinois, according to Mark Saltrelli, vice president of engineering recruiting for Kelly Engineering,
Indeed, recent BLS data show there were about 280,000 mechanical engineers in the U.S. in 2021. Of these, about 25 percent worked in manufacturing, including aerospace, machinery, power transmission, machinery, and railroad equipment. Another 21 percent provided engineering and related services.
These numbers generally match what Saltrelli is seeing in 2023.
“Industrial manufacturing—especially automotive and autonomous vehicle sectors—has the highest demand for mechanical engineers right now,” Saltrelli said. “We’re also seeing heightened growth in general engineering services, as companies that do not have the means or needs for a full-time workforce approach specialized firms to source talent for specific projects. This in turn offers lots of flexibility for mechanical engineers who prioritize this in their job search.”
Below are the six top industries that hire large numbers of mechanical engineers:

1. Aerospace/defense

The aerospace and defense industries cover aircraft, missiles, drones, spaceflight, and satellites. Common engineering goals are improving fuel efficiency, incorporating high-temperature composite materials that are lightweight and strong, GPS technologies, alternative fuels, more accurate sensing and navigational systems, and improved autonomous flight and payload capacities.

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Mechanical engineers are also needed to work with microstructures to add strength and flexibility and reduce weight.
These industries demand that MEs be adept with the latest software programs and 3D modeling to test design concepts using aero-modeling and dynamics.

2. Automotive

Automotive—especially electric vehicles (EV)—is one of the strongest manufacturing sectors in the U.S. For example, over the last three years EV-related investments in Kentucky have totaled nearly $10 billion.

This industry expects mechanical engineers to design and test existing and new automotive systems and mechanisms, manipulate material properties, and prototype new components and vehicle structures. They also design fuel/alternative fuel systems for improved efficiency of fuel consumption.

New battery chemistries and configurations are important for EV development. For autonomous vehicles, tremendous R&D is being invested in power systems and the use of Lidar systems to detect distant objects in a variety of driving conditions.

3. Biomedical

Biomedical engineers use their engineering skills to build medical devices, implants, and imaging/diagnostic equipment. They must be highly knowledgeable about material properties (especially biocompatibility) and the various manufacturing processes available for their designs. For example, additive manufacturing can make features that cannot be manufactured with any other equipment, which greatly expands design options for engineers.

Biomedical engineers also work on prosthetics, surgical robots, implantable drug-delivery systems, injectable nanorobotics, and wearable technologies for self-monitoring and home care.  

4. Power-related systems

This field includes everything from capturing and storing energy to designing grid connections to building mega-structures such as nuclear power plants. Mechanical engineers work in a variety of facilities such as central utility plants (chilled water, steam, hot water), thermal distribution systems, and manufacturing facilities.

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They need to understand equipment selection, hydraulic system modeling, process and instrumentation diagrams, and construction drawings and specifications (especially for industrial chillers, boilers, and cooling towers). Proficiency with hydraulic modeling software such as Pipe-Flo and modeling software, including AutoCAD, CADWorx, and NavisWorks, is expected.

5. Railroad industry

From tracks and signals to tunnels and elaborate control systems, almost every aspect of railways relies on mechanical engineering. Innovations include high-speed railways and bullet trains. Mechanical engineers test and evaluate the behavior of railroad and transit track, rolling stock, vehicle components, and control systems under a wide range of operating conditions.

They design microprocessor and/or relay-based systems that allow for the safe movement of trains. AutoCAD and MicroStation are often used to design signal systems and highway crossing warning systems. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and predictive analytics also help MEs determine solutions for challenging/recurring maintenance issues.

6. Chemical industry

The primary role of the mechanical engineers in the chemical industry is to improve the reliability, dependability, and technical support for the complex infrastructure within a chemical plant. This includes routine maintenance, as well as designing new configurations for systems with conveyors, pipes, robotics, pumps, and valves.

MEs are often involved in equipment inspections, process safety reviews, and process hazard analysis that enhance plant safety, environmental compliance, and mechanical efficiency. They also oversee consultants and supervise all activities regarding project assignments, including budgeting and scheduling.

Making the Move

The talent supply-and-demand imbalance and rising inflation have pushed median advertised wages for mechanical engineers up 14 percent over the past year, especially in high-demand fields such as aerospace and automotive.

While demand has softened slightly in recent months, Saltrelli indicated that the overall demand for mechanical engineers remains above pre-pandemic levels. Job openings still outnumber hires nearly two to one so if you are interested in making the move into a different engineering field, now is the time to do it.

Mark Crawford is a technology writer in Corrales, N.M.

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