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Mechanical Jobs: 40hr/wk, salary over 100k?

  1. Apr 15, 2008 #1
    I completed the first two years of the MEM curriculum and two coop cycles at Drexel University before switching to Audio engineering. I handle audio for bands and meetings now and am tired of the 60 hour weeks, physical labor and am no longer interested in what I do. I am also concerned about my job prospects and income as I get older.

    I have a few questions that I would appreciate any input on:

    Are there Mechanical Engineering jobs that pay over 100k/yr with a 40 hour work week?
    (I know there is work out there where you can make that kind of $ but what are the hours typically?)

    Do I need to get a MSME and/or and MBA to make over 100k with 5-7 years experience?

    Which specialty has the highest starting salary?(I make about 60K now and own a house,and I am trying to not take a loss in income if I were to complete my MEM)

    Which specialty is the highest paying in general(I hear R & D is pretty good pay)?

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance!!
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 15, 2008 #2


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    I'm a Drexel MEM grad....
    There are lots. But not for recent grads, if that's what you are asking (*caveat below). In the Philly area, you can probably expect to start at $55k-$65k depending on how good you are. And if you are a superstar, you might get to $100k in 5 years.

    How many hours you work depends on your field and your company. I'm an HVAC engineer and except in special circumstances, I only work 40-45hrs a week (and I get paid hourly). I added it up one year and I think overall I worked an average of 48hrs a week. My boss has a two simple philosophies about this:
    -Work is how you make a living, it isn't your life.
    -People should be paid for the hours they work.

    I know there are some bosses who work their young engineers like dogs and pay them salary, though. You just need to try to be upfront about it when you apply (and make sure you have a good enough contract that it protects you). It isn't any different from most other fields in that way.
    It depends on the field, but in mine, no. I've been working 5 years and I hope to be making $100k by the time I get to 7 - the main obstacle (it isn't much of an obstacle) is getting my PE licesnse.

    I do, however, plan to start working on an MBA after getting my PE. In HVAC engineering, the career path I want to be on has me starting my own business by age 40 and that will be a useful thing to have.
    *You make $60k without a degree? That's pretty good. How long have you been working in a technical field and how close are you to the degree? Your situation doesn't sound typical, so it is tough to know what to expect.

    However, for the fields, I would say that a big, high tech company like a Lockheed or Boeing would have the best starting income potential (and the most competitiveness).
  4. Apr 15, 2008 #3
    thanks for your response russ

    I actually got a BS in Music Technology from Drexel. I switched so I could work in the music industry, but now it is easier to find work in the audio/video industry doing audio for meetings.
    I have been out of drexel for 6 years now working as an audio engineer.

    I want to be challenged and have a career where I will make more with the time that I put in. I am doing well now, but it has become clear that I dont want to do this for the rest of my life and that I will need another degree to make what I am making now.

    Working for those big companies what particular concentration or specialty is the highest paying?
    I know there are the following main types of mechanical jobs:

    Research and design
    Facilities management(friend works at a chemical plant maintaining machines)\
    construction / structural

    are there any other that I am missing?
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2008
  5. Apr 16, 2008 #4


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    Yes. All of the guys I work with are salaried, work a 40 hr week and make over 100K per year. One of them doesn't have a degree, however he does have a Chief Engineers license.

    No. Refer to last sentence above.

    Hope that helps.

  6. Apr 16, 2008 #5


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    Just to muddy the waters, but in my neck of the engineering realm, 5-7 years is nothing. It barely gets you out of having to go pick up your bosses' laundry at the dry cleaners. You can get a comfortable position, but it won't be a six figure job. If you search for the highest paying, you won't be happy with your decision in the long term unless you happen to be very lucky.
  7. Apr 17, 2008 #6
    Stewartcs, What specific type of mechanical engineers do you work with?

    fredgarvin, what type of engineering do you do?
  8. Apr 17, 2008 #7


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    Salary depends on the type of engineering discipline and market. Some companies, e.g. energy companies will be pay great salaries, while others in much tighter competitive markets will have lower salaries. And then in some cases, there's always the potential to get laid off, e.g. in aerospace industry companies that lose a major contract will shed employees.

    In the nuclear industry, there was a major push to increase bottom line by shedding the higher paid senior (older) folks, and hire younger folk with much less experience. As a result, 40-hr weeks went out the window and 60+/- weeks is more the norm. And if one is lucky, one gets to keep one's job.
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2008
  9. Apr 17, 2008 #8


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    I'm in the Oil & Gas Industry, so generally we look for engineers with that type of industry experience. However, one of the Mechanical Engineers I work with specializes in HVAC.

    In this industry, one doesn't necessarily need a college education. Most of the people we employ work on mobile offshore drilling units, do not have any more than a high school education and start out making around $40-45K per year.

    If you have a degree in ME (or another related field) then it will increase your starting to around $75-80K per year. Once you gain some experience (5 years is plenty) the median salary is around $105K per year.

    If you have a technical degree already, say in the electronics field, then you can work as a field service technician (for a manufacturing company for example) and make $100K. The only catch is that it requires about 6 months out of the year travel time, and you could get sent to some dodgy places (e.g. West Africa).

  10. Apr 17, 2008 #9


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    It's very similar in my field (precision instrument opto/electro-mechanical design). 5 years of experience is nothing, 10 years might get you a little bit of respect, 15 yrs plus and you finally know what you're doing. In any case, there's no way you'll get 100k/year for only 5 yrs experience.

    Senior angineers and engineering managers are the ones who get paid the most, but like Fred said, I think it's better to look for a job you'll enjoy rather than the ones that pay the most IMO.
  11. Apr 17, 2008 #10


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    That's a good point. This is happening engineering wide. I haven't worked a 40 hour work week since the second week I graduated. If you are not in a production engineering environment, Engineers are looked on as a liability to the modern MBA/Management types. The desire to minimize engineering staff has placed a larger load on those of us that are left. This topic gets discussed a lot in trade magazines.

    I am in the aerospace industry. There are many, very specialized areas. For someone like me, who is supposed to be a jack-of-all-trades, it takes a long time to get established and somewhat respected. I was told once that if I wanted to specialize in fracture mechanics, that I would never be hurting for a job. However, that's not my cup of joe.
  12. Apr 18, 2008 #11
    thanks for the responses.

    just trying to figure out what I want to do in the future. 2 years of school with little to no income is a hard thing to figure in when I am already making 60K. I just realyl dont like what I do anymore.

    I want to like it and get paid well. I wouldnt mind working longer days if I were being paid really well. I think I would like a lot of areas of engineering. Design in particular
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2008
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