If you are deciding between majoring in mechanical engineering or electrical 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:
|||Electrical Engineering||Mechanical Engineering|
|Types of jobs|
you can qualify for
Radio frequency engineer
|Difficulty of the|
|Key things to note||A very employable|
High average pay.
High job satisfaction.
Average predicted job
growth for the next decade.
A hard major.
Lots of possible job paths.
Average predicted job growth.
Good reported job satisfaction.
Source for mechanical engineering average pay and jobs
There are a number of things to consider when choosing between the two degrees. Below, are 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.
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. However, it is lower than the average reported pay for computer engineering ($87,000), electrical engineering ($92,000), and computer science($85,000).
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
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 equivalently difficult to electrical engineering.
Below are some classes you can expect to take in mechanical engineering:
- Differential equations
- Fluid dynamics
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 electrical engineering major
Below are details about the electrical engineering major.
According to payscale, the average pay of someone with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering is $92,227.
According to the BLS, it is reported that the demand for electrical engineers will grow by 5% between 2019 and 2029. This is slightly higher than the average growth across all jobs. They mention that increasing demand for things such as solar arrays, semiconductors and communications technologies will drive demand for electrical engineers. However, they also mention that certain industries are on the decline suchas utilities and manufacturing.
Electrical engineering is a major that will qualify you for a lot of jobs that pay well with just a bachelor’s degree. Jobs you can get with a degree in electrical engineering can include:
- Systems engineer
- Radio frequency engineer
- Electrical engineer
- Controls engineer
- Software engineer
Electrical engineering includes a lot of mathematics. The concepts in the electrical engineering classes themselves can also be very difficult. With that being the case, you can expect electrical engineering to be a very difficult major.
Below are some classes that you can expect to take in electrical engineering:
Calculus 1, 2, and 3
Electricity and magnetism
Signals and systems
Introduction to electrical engineering
Introduction to programming
You can look here to see an example degree sequence in electrical engineering.
Things to consider
Some jobs can require a master’s degree and a master’s degree can also help with career progression. It would help to consider what specific type of electrical engineering job you would be most interested in so that you can see whether or not it will also be necessary for you to obtain a master’s degree.
Electrical engineering is a major that will require a lot of work. This will likely mean that you will have to sacrifice a lot of free time. It might be the case that you could major in another high-paying major, such as computer science, that does not require as much effort, which will allow you to focus on other things such as internships and social activities without sacrificing your job opportunities.
Overall, both mechanical engineering and electrical engineering are majors that have good job prospects and satisfaction. They both have similar job growth and a similar number of total jobs so it should be similarly difficult to find a job in each field. They will also both require a similar amount of study time. However, it would help to consider that electrical engineering does have a higher average reported pay. According to the BLS, the median pay of an electrical engineer is $101,000. Whereas, the median pay for a mechanical engineer is $88,430.
When making your decision, it would help to consider what you would most be interested in working on and to choose your major accordingly.