If you are deciding between majoring in chemistry or mechanical engineering, you might want to know more about what each major has to offer. This post will show you the key facts about each major and help you to decide which would be a better degree for you.

At a glance:

Mechanical EngineeringChemistry
Payscale reported
average pay
$80,251$74,737
Job opportunitiesHighModerate
Types of jobs
you can qualify for
Mechanical engineer
Manufacturing engineer
Design engineer
Project engineer
Aerospace engineer
Lab assistant
Entry-level chemist
Quality control chemist
Technician
Teacher
Process engineer
Difficulty of the
major
HardHard
Key things to note

A hard major.

Lots of possible job paths.

Average predicted job growth.

Good reported job satisfaction.







It can be difficult to find
a job with just a bachelor’s
degree in chemistry. A
master’s degree or
PhD is often required.

The major can become
more employable if
combined with a more
applied minor.

Also more employable
if you do research work
in a lab and do internships.

It is a major that can
give good job meaning
once you can find a job.
Source for mechanical engineering average pay and jobs
Source for chemistry salary and jobs

There are a number of things to consider when choosing between the two degrees and there are many similarities between them. Below, is details about each major, their differences, and reasons to choose one or the other.

Details about a mechanical engineering degree

Below are some details about a degree in mechanical engineering.

Pay

According to Payscale, the average pay of a mechanical engineer is $80,251. This is higher than the average pay of most degrees including most engineering degrees including civil engineering. However, it is lower than the average reported pay for computer engineering ($87,000), electrical engineering ($92,000), and computer science($85,000).

Job prospects

The predicted growth rate for mechanical engineering jobs is 4%, in total, over the next decade and the number of mechanical engineering jobs is said to be 320,000 (source). This, by itself, would give the mechanical engineering major moderately good job prospects.

However, mechanical engineering can also qualify you for jobs in related fields including industrial engineering which has a 10% predicted growth rate. This means that mechanical engineering can have good job prospects, provided that you choose to take classes relevant to areas that are growing and which already have a large number of jobs, at least above 300,000.

Jobs you can qualify for with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering can include:

  • Mechanical engineer
  • Manufacturing engineer
  • Design engineer
  • Project engineer
  • Aerospace engineer

Difficulty

Mechanical engineering is a difficult major. It will include a lot of math classes, a lot of physics classes and the mechanical engineering classes, themselves, can be difficult which also include a lot of physics and mathematics. Overall, you can expect mechanical engineering to be more math-heavy than chemistry.

Classes

Below are some classes you can expect to take in mechanical engineering:

  • Calculus
  • Differential equations
  • Physics
  • Statics
  • Dynamics
  • Fluid dynamics
  • Thermodynamics
  • Vibrations
  • Design

Things to consider

Mechanical engineering is a major that will involve a lot of study time. If you are choosing the major purely for the job opportunities, there are better alternatives that do not require as much study time such as computer science.

However, mechanical engineering can be a pathway into very interesting careers that are very satisfying. Before choosing mechanical engineering as a major, it would help a lot to research the different jobs you could get and to see if they are things that you would truly enjoy doing.

Details about the chemistry major

Below are some details about the chemistry major.

Pay

According to Payscale, the average pay of a person, who has a degree in chemistry, is $74,737. This is higher than the average across all majors. However, it is important to note that this average will be being increased by people who also have a PhD in chemistry.

Jobs

The chemistry major can qualify you for a number of different types of jobs in a number of fields. However, the major can restrict you to certain types of jobs. This is unlike alternative majors, such as computer science where it is feasible to enter related disciplines such as data science.

Also, the jobs that you can qualify for with just a bachelor’s degree in chemistry can have low pay, can be competitive and will only be entry-level roles within chemistry or technician roles in related areas such as in medicine/drugs.

However, chemistry jobs are expected to grow by 5% by 2029 which is more than average. Also, the jobs tend to have high levels of meaning because they are usually beneficial jobs to society.

According to Payscale, jobs people with a chemistry degree get can include:

  • Lab assistant
  • Entry-level chemist
  • Quality control chemist
  • Technician
  • Teacher
  • Process engineer

It’s important to note that lab assistant roles usually require a year of experience having worked in a lab. This means that it will be important to complete lab work while in the major and to get internships.

Difficulty

Chemistry involves a lot of math and physics. As a chemistry major, you will be taking one year of physics classes and math classes including calculus 1,2, and 3. Also, the chemistry classes themselves can be difficult, especially physical chemistry. As a result, you can expect chemistry to be a difficult major. When compared with mechanical engineering, you can expect chemistry to be similar in difficulty.

Classes

Classes that you can expect to take in a chemistry major can include:

  • 1 year of physics
  • Calculus 1,2, and 3
  • General chemistry
  • Organic chemistry
  • Physical chemistry
  • Senior-level lab courses

Things to consider

Organic chemistry is a major that can be difficult to find jobs with by itself unless you are careful about what you do within the major. If your goal is to get lab work, it would help a lot to do research projects as an undergrad and to try to get lab internships so that you can qualify for entry-level lab roles.

Due to the amount of math involved, the major could be a pathway towards data analytics or even software engineering roles, if you learn how to program while in the major. On Payscale, people do report having gotten software engineering, data science and data analytics jobs with a chemistry degree. As a result, it could be worthwhile for you to get a computer science minor as well if you are set on a chemistry major.

If you want to do chemistry research in industry or academia, you should expect to have to get a PhD.

Reasons to choose a mechanical engineering major

The key advantage that a mechanical engineering degree has over a chemistry degree is that it is a very employable degree by itself. This is because the degree directly applicable to a number of high-paying jobs at the bachelor’s degree level. Whereas, a chemistry degree needs to be combined with something more applied in order to make it as employable as a mechanical engineering degree.

Also, mechanical engineering jobs tend to be very satisfying jobs that are also very interesting and important to society.

However, a mechanical engineering degree will require a lot of study time. There are some alternative degrees that can also give good job prospects that do not require as much study time such as computer science. If you are not sure that you would actually find the material in a mechanical engineering degree interesting, it might be the case that an alternative would suit you better.

Reasons to choose chemistry

While a chemistry major will not give job prospects that are as good as mechanical engineering, there are still some reasons why you might want to get a chemistry degree.

The first reason is if you want to get a job that requires a master’s or doctoral degree in chemistry. If you do, then a bachelor’s degree in chemistry would be more worthwhile.

Also, if you have a very strong interest in the subject, it would also make it more worthwhile for you to major in chemistry. However, it would also help to minor in something that is employable at the bachelor’s degree level. It would also help a lot to make sure to complete lab projects and to get lab internships to help when seeking lab work after graduating.

Author

I created and currently manage College Corner. I received a Bachelor's degree in Mathematics from the University of Nevada Las Vegas. My goal is to help current students do better in college and to help future students plan for college. You can read more about me and my website here.