Mechanical Engineer & Senior Mechanical Engineer
Design and Engineering
Required Education, Credentials, and Licenses
- Bachelor’s degree in engineering
- Engineer-in-Training (EIT) certification
- Professional Engineer (PE) license (for senior engineers)
Preferred Education and Credentials
- Knowledge of HVAC/R system design concepts and code requirements
- LEED certification
- ASHRAE or similar certifications in areas of expertise
- Computer literate, including drafting software
- Verbal and written communication
- Project management
Mechanical engineers and senior mechanical engineers plan, design, build, and evaluate machines and systems that generate and use energy, including both fossil fuel- and electricity-based HVAC/R systems. Entry-level engineers may not need a Professional Engineer (PE) license, but senior engineers do need to be licensed. They have authority to lead the design and development process, sign official project documents, and often supervise more junior engineers.
Mechanical and senior mechanical engineers in the HVAC/R field must think creatively to design or redesign mechanical systems that meet client, project, and safety requirements while ensuring that building codes and industry standards are adhered to. Demand for clean energy HVAC/R systems such as air and ground source heat pumps and variable refrigerant flow systems is increasing, and design engineers need to know the mechanics and efficiency ratings of these modern technologies in order to be comfortable using them in their mechanical layouts. Mechanical and senior mechanical engineers who are unfamiliar with electricity-based HVAC/R systems will need additional training to understand the added complexity of these environmentally friendly technologies (relative to those that use fossil fuels) so they can accurately size and design mechanical systems and select products to maximize efficiency for different building types.
These workers test prototype systems and survey existing building systems that control temperature and air quality, conduct investigations and analyze data to identify inefficiencies or failures, and apply critical thinking and a problem-solving aptitude to remedy any issues. To accomplish this, mechanical and senior mechanical HVAC/R engineers need an understanding of physics concepts (e.g., thermodynamics, heat transfer, fluid mechanics), familiarity with computer-aided design (CAD) software (e.g., AutoCAD and Revit) to produce technical drawings, strong math skills to perform heating and cooling load calculations, mechanical skills, and attention to detail. They should also be comfortable using word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation software (e.g., Microsoft Office applications).
Mechanical engineers and senior mechanical engineers need to communicate well both verbally and in writing. They collaborate with each other and many other team members – explaining technical ideas to mechanical designers who draft diagrams, coordinating with mechanical technicians who test equipment, communicating their needs to manufacturers, and working with members of the sales team to draft project proposals. Engineers working for a consultancy need interpersonal skills to develop strong client relationships with architects, building owners, and trade contractors, and must be comfortable leading client meetings. Mechanical engineers and senior mechanical engineers produce written reports and technical specifications documenting their designs and may contribute content to technical journals.
Senior-level positions also require project management skills, including the ability to prepare cost estimates and project scopes of work, oversee budgets, develop and adhere to project timelines, lead presentations, delegate tasks to junior staff, and manage client relationships. Senior mechanical engineers may mentor and train less experienced members of the engineering design team.
Mechanical engineers and senior mechanical engineers generally spend time at offices and work with computers to design and test systems, but they also visit worksites to conduct surveys and inspections. Most work full-time and longer hours are sometimes required.
According to the New York State Department of Labor, there are approximately 9,900 mechanical engineers (across all experience levels) in New York State and opportunities for employment are expected to be favorable through 2028 – they project this occupation to grow by 810 jobs between 2018 and 2028.
Entering the Field
Mechanical engineers typically need to have a bachelor’s degree in engineering to qualify for entry-level jobs. Licensure is not required, and inexperienced engineers generally work under the supervision of a senior mechanical engineer for a few years before they can work independently. Although it is not common, workers without a bachelor’s degree can begin their career as mechanical designers, mechanical engineering technicians, or even HVAC/R tradespeople who have worked in installation and maintenance and work 5-7 years to become mechanical engineers. Junior mechanical engineers with a few years of experience and who have passed the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam (a step towards becoming licensed as a professional engineer) can advance to mid-level roles with more autonomy over the design and engineering process and project management responsibilities.
A New York State Professional Engineering (PE) license is usually required to advance to a position as a senior mechanical engineer responsible for leading projects and signing official documents. New York State requires twelve years of combined education and experience credits to become a PE. Professional Engineers must meet continuing education requirements to maintain their license.
Some employers prefer to hire engineers with additional certifications from industry organizations, such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council or specialized certifications from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). An advanced degree in an area of specialization or general business administration also opens more opportunities.
In New York State, the median wage for mechanical engineers (across all experience levels) is approximately $93,100. Entry-level workers earn about $65,200 and experienced workers earn about $115,100.
Annual Wage (Q1 2021 dollars, rounded to 100s) – Statewide and by Labor Market Region
|New York State||$65,200||$93,100||$115,100|
|Central New York||$64,100||$86,000||$102,800|
|New York City||$65,600||$93,600||$119,600|
|Western New York||$59,000||$81,500||$96,200|
Source: New York State Department of Labor, Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics Survey, SOC Code 17-2141 (Mechanical Engineers); N/A denotes wage data that is not available.
Many mechanical engineers and senior mechanical engineers in the HVAC/R field are employed by companies that provide engineering design and consulting services for HVAC/R machinery and systems. Other popular employers include organizations that conduct scientific research and development and manufacturers of HVAC/R equipment and parts. Governments may also hire mechanical engineering personnel.
The top 3 employers with the most online job advertisements in each region in 2020 are listed below. The most common job titles across these postings were mechanical engineer and senior mechanical engineer, but employers sometimes advertise these positions with alternative titles such as lead mechanical engineer, HVAC engineer, mechanical project engineer, or mechanical design engineer.
- Peter Kazella & Associates, Inc.
- CHA Consulting, Inc.
- LaBella Associates
Central New York
- Carrier Corporation
- United Technologies Corporation
- C&S Engineers, Inc.
- Acara Solutions
- Bergmann Incorporated
- T.Y. Lin International
- Jones Lang Lasalle Incorporated
- Brookhaven National Laboratory
- LiRo Group Incorporated
- Lehigh Technical & Professional Service
Mohawk Valley (Employers did not post any job ads online in 2020.)
New York City
- Tetra Tech
North Country (Employers did not post any job ads online in 2020.)
- Stantec, Inc.
- Tetra Tech
- Delta Engineers, Architects, & Surveyors, DPC (Delta)
Western New York
- Stark Technical Group Incorporated
- Buffalo Engineering, P.C.
- Watts Architecture & Engineering
Source: Burning Glass Technologies: Labor Insight™. 2021.
Workers in architectural and engineering occupations, including mechanical engineers with various levels of experience, are not highly unionized. Engineers who work in the public sector may be more likely to be union members than those who work in the private sector. Check with public unions that represent local or state government workers to see if their members include mechanical engineers.
Education and Training Programs
Schools across New York State offer bachelor’s degrees in mechanical engineering that prepare students for this work and many also offer graduate degrees for students who want to pursue further study (listed in the table below). Many community colleges offer associate degrees in engineering or engineering science that prepare students to transfer to a bachelor’s program upon graduation. Check with local community colleges for program availability.
Mechanical and senior mechanical engineers who want to expand their HVAC/R skillset can also find training opportunities through equipment providers and industry organizations, including the following:
Some HVAC/R equipment manufacturers and distributors offer training that is targeted to system design professionals (in addition to courses aimed at installation and service workers). See which companies partner with NYSERDA through Clean Heat Connect and check with individual manufacturers and distributors for a complete list of online or in-person offerings.
Steven Winter Associates, Inc.’s Building Electrification Training Series includes design professionals and consultants among the target audience for its courses covering topics such as heat pumps and strategies for implementing clean energy mechanical systems.
ASHRAE offers HVAC/R design training (with online and in-person options) for mechanical design professionals with limited or no experience in the HVAC/R field or for those who want to learn about modern technologies. They also offer a variety of building design and performance certifications.
The U.S. Green Building Council has educational materials available to design engineers pursuing LEED certification.
|Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)||School of Engineering||No||No||•Yes||•Yes||•Yes|
|Union College||Mechanical Engineering||No||No||•Yes||No||No|
|Central New York|
|Syracuse University||Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering||No||No||•Yes||•Yes||•Yes|
|Rochester Institute of Technology||Mechanical Engineering||No||No||•Yes||•Yes||•Yes|
|University of Rochester||Mechanical Engineering||No||No||•Yes||•Yes||•Yes|
|SUNY New Paltz||Division of Engineering Programs||No||No||•Yes||No||No|
|Hofstra University||DeMatteis School of Engineering & Applied Science||No||No||•Yes||No||No|
|New York Institute of Technology||College of Engineering & Computing Sciences||No||No||•Yes||•Yes||•Yes|
|Stony Brook University||College of Engineering and Applied Sciences||No||No||•Yes||•Yes||•Yes|
|SUNY Polytechnic Institute||Majors & Programs||No||No||•Yes||No||No|
|New York City|
|Columbia University in the City of New York||Columbia Engineering||No||No||•Yes||•Yes||•Yes|
|New York University||Tandon School of Engineering||No||No||•Yes||•Yes||•Yes|
|SUNY Maritime College||School of Engineering||No||No||•Yes||No||No|
|The City College of New York (CUNY)||The Grove School of Engineering||No||No||•Yes||•Yes||•Yes|
|Clarkson University||Coulter School of Engineering||No||No||•Yes||•Yes||•Yes|
|Binghamton University||Thomas J. Watson College of Engineering and Applied Science||No||No||•Yes||•Yes||•Yes|
|Cornell University||Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering||No||No||•Yes||•Yes||•Yes|
|Western New York|
|Alfred University||Inamori School of Engineering||No||No||•Yes||•Yes||No|
|University at Buffalo||School of Engineering and Applied Sciences||No||No||•Yes||•Yes||•Yes|