Is Mechanical Engineering a Good Major?

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How important is employment to you? When selecting a major or career path, many people don’t give consideration to supply/demand and market dynamics, but this is something we recommend our students consider heavily.

Mechanical Engineering is still one of the most popular majors nationwide with 46,014 degrees awarded in 2018, according to College Factual. But why do we see more and more Mechanical Engineers unemployed or underemployed after graduation?

The answer is simple… Supply vs. Demand

If you look at the numbers, roughly 40,000+ people graduate with a Mechanical Engineering degree each year, but only around 5,000 entry-level jobs are available.

Do you want to bet your future on these numbers? We wouldn’t.

Now you might be thinking, “but the money is really good in Mechanical Engineering.” And we agree, salary should be a factor in career path decision making and Mechanical Engineers can make good money, but not as much as you think. In contrast, Software Engineers make more than Mechanical Engineers and there’s far more demand for their talent.

Now let’s get into the details…

Supply and Demand
We mentioned earlier, roughly 40,000 people graduate with a Mechanical Engineering degree each year, but only around 5,000 entry-level jobs are available. And when you expand that search to all Mechanical Engineering positions, there are only around 10,000 jobs available.

What do the numbers look like for Software Engineering?

If you go to LinkedIn right now and search for Software Engineering jobs, 144,000 positions will show up (it was 250K pre-COVID). Narrow the search down to entry-level and nearly 75,000 Software Engineers are needed. And to make the numbers look even better, only around 49,000 students graduate with a Computer Science or Software Engineering degree. Odds are in the Software Engineers favor, right?

So, why is there such little demand for Mechanical Engineers and such a high demand for Software Engineers? To better understand this, let’s look at a few well-known companies.

Amazon employs roughly 425K full-time employees globally (935K if you include part-time employees). With products like Kindle, Echo, Fire TV Stick, and their own warehouse and logistics robots, Amazon employs 4,877 Mechanical Engineers in the US. While this is no small number, when you contrast this to the 56,512 Software Engineers they employ in the US, it pales in comparison.

Why is that? Mechanical Engineers design and oversee the manufacture of machines, devices, engineers, turbines, etc. While Amazon does produce a few devices, Amazon is the leader in e-commerce and also cloud computing. Their Amazon Web Services division, a $26B business unit, comprises over 60+ technology products almost entirely built through software with stronger margins than manufacturing businesses. Alexa, AmazonFresh, and Amazon Prime, all powered through software, also account for billions in revenue.

With Macbooks, iMacs, AppleTVs, Apple Watches, iPads and more... you might be thinking, Apple is mostly hardware products. But similar to Amazon, Apple hires way more Software Engineers than Mechanical Engineers. Why? Because what powers each of these devices is more software than mechanical. Let’s head back to LinkedIn and look at the numbers. Apple currently employs 103K people in the US. When we search for "Mechanical Engineer," Apple currently employs 4,292 Mechanical Engineers in the US. But, this is in contrast to the 22,000 Software Engineers they employ in the US.

Why is that? Apple has many software teams within their company that concentrate on building software on our Apple devices, such as Calendar, Maps, Keynote, Pages, Final Cut Pro, their e-commerce store and all that powers the App Store.

Facebook now has hardware products like OculusVR and Portal, but they are well-known for needing Software Engineers. Facebook currently employs 49K employees in the US with 1,712 Mechanical Engineers compared to 19,415 Software Engineers.

Facebook has their Software Engineers broken up in different teams - Product and Systems, Infrastructure, and Specialist. These teams work on either improving existing components across all of Facebook's apps and services, improving efficiency, scalability, and stability of various system resources across all the distributed components of Facebook, or building world-class products on emerging technologies at scale for billions of people around the world.

Job Growth
Now let’s look at job growth. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that Mechanical Engineering is projected to increase by 4% by 2028. In the United States, there are currently 10K Mechanical Engineering positions open. This means that there will be around 400 Mechanical Engineer positions added each year until 2028.

Now let’s compare that to Software Engineering. We stated earlier that there are 144K Software Engineering positions available right now and according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Software Engineering is projected to increase by 21% by 2028. From now until 2028, more than around 30,000 positions will be added each year.

Still interested in becoming a Mechanical Engineer? That’s great! But, if you’re unsure, perhaps take a few computer science courses?

Some of you may be thinking, “I’m really just not interested in Software Engineering.” And that’s okay! Let’s take a look at a similar career path as Mechanical Engineering:

Product Management
Product Managers drive the strategic development of a product and lead the various teams that are responsible for improving a product in order to maximize sales, revenue, market share, and profit margins. They conduct product research, analyzing market trends and competition, develop and test product hypotheses, and come up with the short- and long-term strategies.

How is a Product Manager similar to Mechanical Engineering? Let’s take a look at the end goal of each career path:

  • Product Managers focus on trying to improve a software product to maximize time and revenue.
  • Mechanical Engineers focus on trying to improve mechanical and thermal devices to maximize time and revenue.

Similar to Software Engineering, Product Managers are in high-demand compared to Mechanical Engineers. Currently in the US, there are nearly 7K openings for Product Manager positions with an expected growth rate of 29% by 2026.

There are other tech jobs that are in high-demand and will continue to be in high-demand in the future. PathMatch offers career matching and discovery, resume editing, interview prep, and more.

Curious about other jobs or more information about Mechanical Engineering? Download our PathMatch app today! 

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