California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

   Mechanical Engineers in San Diego County

May also be called: Equipment Engineers; HVAC Engineers; Internal Combustion Engineers; Mechanical Design Engineers; Mechanical Research Engineers; Product Engineers; Tool and Die Engineers

Specialties within this occupation include: Automotive Engineers; Fuel Cell Engineers

What Would I Do?

Mechanical Engineers* research, design, manufacture, and test aircraft, vehicles, biomedical instruments, manufacturing equipment, computer systems and components, and other mechanical devices.

Mechanical engineering is one of the broadest engineering disciplines. Mechanical Engineers apply the principles of science and mathematics to work on power-producing machines, for example, electric generators; internal combustion engines; fuel cells; wind, steam, and gas turbines; solar photovoltaic and solar thermal systems; and energy storage devices, such as hybrid vehicle batteries. They also work on power-using machines, such as machine tools, material-handling systems, elevators and escalators, industrial production equipment, and robots used in manufacturing. Engineers may design heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) or water systems to improve energy efficiency. Engineers may also evaluate designs for energy performance or environmental impact and make sure products meet design and performance requirements or environmental regulations.

Automotive Engineers develop new or improved designs and specifications for vehicle structural supports, engines, transmissions, and other vehicle systems, such as automotive energy management, alternate fuels, or hybrid power, using computer-aided design (CAD) technology. They may design vehicles that use lighter materials, such as aluminum, magnesium, alloy, or plastic, to improve fuel efficiency. They also generate cost estimates for automotive design concepts, as well as direct the building, modification, and testing of vehicles and their components.

Fuel Cell Engineers design, modify, and construct fuel cell systems, subsystems (for example, humidifiers and blowers), assemblies, or components for transportation, stationary, portable, or military applications. They develop processes to separate components of liquids or gases or to generate electrical currents using controlled chemical processes. Fuel Cell Engineers evaluate equipment and processes to identify ways to maximize performance and to ensure compliance with safety and environmental regulations. They conduct fuel cell testing projects using fuel cell test stations, analytical instruments, or electromechanical diagnostics to calculate the efficiency and power output of a fuel cell system or process. They monitor and assess performance of full-scale fuel cell systems and their degradation over time in order to analyze the data for efficiency. Fuel Cell Engineers need to be knowledgeable of Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cell systems and associated fuels. In addition, knowledge of thermodynamics, heat transfer, and fluid flow analysis is vital in optimizing fuel cell systems.

Tools and Technology

Mechanical Engineers use a variety of tools and technology in the course of their work, such as combustion analyzers, flowmeters, optical laser scanners, pressure gauges, vibration isolators, and software including analytic, scientific, or statistical; computer-aided design (CAD); cost estimation; and project management.

Green Economy

Mechanical Engineers will play an important role in the emerging green economy. Some will assist with the research and design of renewable energy components or energy-efficient systems. Others will work on green construction technology or transportation-related solutions to reduce environmental impacts.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

*This product was partially funded by a grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment & Training Administration. The information contained in this product was created by a grantee organization and does not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. Department of Labor. All references to non-governmental companies or organizations, their services, products, or resources are offered for informational purposes and should not be construed as an endorsement by the Department of Labor. This product is copyrighted by the institution that created it and is intended for individual organizational, non-commercial use only.

Green economy activities and technologies would most likely have an effect on Mechanical Engineers. The advancements in technology may cause changes to the work and worker requirements, such as new tasks, skills, knowledge, and credentials. Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Read and interpret blueprints, technical drawings, schematics, and computer-generated reports.Written Comprehension
Assist drafters in developing the structural design of products using drafting tools or computer-assisted design (CAD) or drafting equipment and software.Computers and Electronics
Apply engineering principles and practices to emerging fields such as robotics, waste management, and biomedical engineering.Engineering and Technology
Confer with engineers and other personnel to implement operating procedures, resolve system malfunctions, and provide technical information.Oral Expression
Recommend design modifications to eliminate machine or system malfunctions.Critical Thinking
Conduct research that tests and analyzes the feasibility, design, operation and performance of equipment, components and systems.Operations Analysis
Investigate equipment failures and difficulties to diagnose faulty operation, and to make recommendations to maintenance crew.Complex Problem Solving
Develop and test models of alternate designs and processing methods to assess feasibility, operating condition effects, possible new applications and necessity of modification.Mechanical
Develop, coordinate, and monitor all aspects of production, including selection of manufacturing methods, fabrication, and operation of product designs.Production and Processing
Research and analyze customer design proposals, specifications, manuals, and other data to evaluate the feasibility, cost, and maintenance requirements of designs or applications.Judgment and Decision Making
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Most Mechanical Engineers work in office buildings, laboratories, or industrial plants. Since this is often a 'hands-on' occupation, they may spend considerable time on factory floors where it can be noisy and hot. They may also be required to be trained in proper safety procedures and may wear protective equipment, such as hard hats, safety glasses, or hearing protection. Some Engineers travel to worksites in the United States or abroad.

Engineers generally work a 40-hour week; however, deadlines may bring extra pressure to a job, requiring longer work hours, which may include weekends and holidays.

Mechanical Engineers are typically not members of labor organizations; however, Engineers who work for government agencies may belong to a union.

Will This Job Fit Me?

Mechanical engineering may appeal to those who enjoy working with ideas and activities that require an extensive amount of thinking and include practical, hands-on problems and solutions.

Aspiring Engineers should be creative, inquisitive, analytical, detail oriented, and like working with tools and machinery. They must be able to work independently as well as part of a team. Effective oral and written communication skills are critical.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?


The median wage in 2016 for Mechanical Engineers in California is $96,833 annually, or $46.56 hourly. The median wage for Mechanical Engineers in San Diego County is $89,103 annually, or $42.84 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2016Low
(25th percentile)
(50th percentile)
(75th percentile)
San Diego County$69,604$89,103$108,896
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2016 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas


Mechanical Engineers generally receive medical, dental, and vision insurance as well as vacation, sick leave, holiday, and retirement benefits. Some employers may also offer additional benefits, such as profit sharing, disability insurance, or education assistance.

What is the Job Outlook?

Most job openings will be created by the need to replace Mechanical Engineers who retire, transfer to management positions, or leave the field for other reasons. However, additional opportunities outside of mechanical engineering may exist because the skills acquired in this field can often be applied in other specialties, such as aerospace, battery, biomedical, or mechatronic engineering. Green economy activities and technologies may also increase the demand for Mechanical Engineers.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Mechanical Engineers is expected to grow slower than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Mechanical Engineers are expected to increase by 12.0 percent, or 2,900 jobs between 2014 and 2024.

In San Diego County, the number of Mechanical Engineers is expected to grow slower than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Mechanical Engineers are expected to increase by 9.4 percent, or 320 jobs between 2012 and 2022.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Mechanical Engineers
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Additional Openings
Due to Net
San Diego County
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

Annual Job Openings

In California, an average of 290 new job openings per year is expected for Mechanical Engineers, plus an additional 760 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 1,050 job openings.

In San Diego County, an average of 32 new job openings per year is expected for Mechanical Engineers, plus an additional 116 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 148 job openings.

Estimated Average Annual Job Openings
Mechanical Engineers
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-
Projected Year)
Jobs From GrowthJobs Due to
Net Replacements
Total Annual
Job Openings
San Diego County
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Data for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

A bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering or a related field is generally the minimum educational level that employers will consider for Mechanical Engineer positions. Most engineering programs involve a concentration of study in an engineering specialty, along with courses in design, mathematics, chemistry, physics, and hands-on laboratory classes. Advanced computer skills are also vital to the Engineer's education. Research or university teaching positions usually require a master's or doctoral degree.


Mechanical engineering graduates with internship experience generally have greater employment opportunities than those with no experience. Most senior Engineer positions require five or more years of experience.

Early Career Planning

High school students interested in a mechanical engineering career should take college preparatory courses, such as chemistry, physics, and English as well as shop and drafting classes. They should take as many math classes as possible, including algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus.

Work-Study Programs

Some colleges and universities help students find work-study programs or internships. Internships are usually paid and are an opportunity for the sponsoring organization to recruit future employees.

Continuing Education

Continuing education is currently not a requirement for Mechanical Engineers in California; however, most Engineers take continuing education courses to stay up to date with the latest developments in the field. Engineers must also keep up to date with environmental laws and the latest technological improvements to properly do their jobs.

Licensing and Certification

The professional engineering (PE) license is generally not required in mechanical engineering fields, but possession of the license may enhance one's chances of employment or promotion. However, Mechanical Engineers who approve engineering documents or whose work may affect the public are required to obtain a PE license, which must be renewed every two years.

To become licensed, Engineers must first pass the Engineer-in-Training or Fundamentals of Engineering examination which requires at least three years of coursework from a college or university offering an engineering program accredited by ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology), or three years of engineering-related experience. The next step in the process is to pass the professional examination which requires a bachelor’s degree in engineering from an ABET-accredited institution, along with two years of eligible engineering experience. Engineers without a bachelor's degree in engineering must possess six years of eligible experience. Contact the agency that issues the license for additional information. Click on the license title below for details.

Several professional associations offer certificates related to mechanical engineering, such as the Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerancing Professional Certification. Certification can help demonstrate a level of competence that may enhance job prospects. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

The largest industries employing Mechanical Engineers are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Architectural and Engineering Services 18.4%
Aerospace Product & Parts Manufacturing 11.4%
Scientific Research and Development Svc 7.4%
Electronic Instrument Manufacturing 6.8%
Federal Government 5.0%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers remains one of the most effective job search methods. Internet job listings, job fairs, college career centers, or engineering associations may also provide job leads. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at and CalJOBSSM at

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Mechanical Engineers.

  • Engineering - Mechanical
  • Engineers
  • Mechanical Engineers

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

As Engineers gain knowledge and experience, they are assigned more difficult projects with greater independence to develop designs, solve problems, and make decisions. Engineers may advance to become technical specialists or to supervise a team of Engineers and technicians. Some may become engineering managers or enter other managerial or sales jobs. In sales, an engineering background enables them to discuss a product’s technical aspects and assist in planning, installation, and use of the product.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Mechanical Engineers with links to more information.

Architectural and Civil DraftersGuide
Civil Engineering TechniciansProfile
Electrical and Electronic Engineering TechniciansGuide
Electrical and Electronics DraftersProfile
Industrial EngineersGuide
Marine Engineers and Naval ArchitectsProfile
Materials EngineersProfile
Mechanical DraftersProfile
Petroleum EngineersProfile

Other Sources

  • California Board for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors
  • California Department of Consumer Affairs
  • Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET)
  • American Society of Mechanical Engineers
  • National Society of Professional Engineers

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SOC - Standard Occupational Classification17-2141
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Mechanical Engineers17-2141.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)IRC
   Fuel Cell Engineers17-2141.01
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)RIE
   Automotive Engineers17-2141.02
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)RIE