Employment of mechanical engineers is expected to grow 9 percent from 2010 to 2020, slower than the average for all occupations. Job prospects may be best for those who stay abreast of the most recent advances in technology. Mechanical engineers can work in many industries and on many types of projects. As a result, their growth rate will differ by the industries that employ them.
Mechanical engineers should experience demand in architectural, engineering, and related services as companies continue to hire temporary engineering services as a cost-cutting measure rather than keeping engineers on staff. Mechanical engineers will also be involved in various manufacturing industries—specifically, transportation equipment and machinery manufacturing. They will be needed to design the next generation of vehicles and vehicle systems, such as hybrid-electric cars and clean diesel automobiles. Machinery will continue to be in demand as machines replace more expensive human labor in various industries. This phenomenon in turn should drive demand for mechanical engineers who design industrial machinery.
Mechanical engineers often work on the newest industrial pursuits. The fields of alternative energies, remanufacturing, and nanotechnology may offer new directions for occupational growth.
Alternative energy sources, such as solar panels, have become popular forms of clean energy, and mechanical engineers are instrumental in their design and manufacture.
Remanufacturing—rebuilding goods for use in a second life—holds promise because it reduces the cost of waste disposal for local governments. Training in remanufacturing may become common in mechanical engineering at colleges and universities.
Nanotechnology, which involves manipulating matter at the tiniest levels, may affect employment for mechanical engineers because they will be needed to design production projects based on this technology. Nanotechnology will be useful in areas such as designing more powerful computer chips.
Although prospects for mechanical engineers overall are expected to be good, they will be best for those with training in the latest software tools, such as Advanced Visualization Process (AVP). AVP allows engineers and designers to take a project from the conceptual phase directly to a finished product, eliminating the need for prototypes.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition