Why does the median Software Developer make more than 75% of Mechanical Engineers?

  1. Supply and Demand, probably? Software Developers are in high demand in our current society and economy, and it's a much newer career path compared to Mech Engineering, resulting in a lower supply of workers in that field.

  2. Definitely. Look at column 1, there one million kids for coding vs in the hundreds for mech e. Also mech e is so broad in terms of salaries. People doing oil, gas, medical devices, aerospace can earn in the 150’, mech Eng a doing HVAC, fire protection, or something seem to cap out, with a lot of experience in high paying areas at 120k so their average is like 80k.

  3. Also software developers are often located in places where cost of living is very high. Factories that need mechanical engineers are often located in places with more reasonable cost of living.

  4. Because there's a lot of demand for software developers and not so much for mechanical engineers. I mean look at the growth in the software industry. How many of those companies didn't even exist 25 years ago?

  5. I’ve looked at the pay distribution within the following midwestern metropolitan areas and the same pattern holds (75th ME makes the same as median SE):

  6. "Software Developer" encompasses a wider range of experience and responsibilities - with many on the high end earning a lot.

  7. Mech eng. is more associated with manufacturing companies, lots of old, public companies that are expected to keep their margins under control. That means only giving lavish pay to their CEOs, not engineers. SW-focused companies have a lot of private equity flowing and they can afford to spread the wealth through higher income and equity compensation. Also keep in mind that a lot of manufacturing in USA is in the Midwest whereas the hot software firms are coastal, which further drives up income. Lots of factors at play.

  8. Maybe, but even when broken down by metropolitan area the same exact pattern holds: the 75th percentile mechanical engineer makes around the same as the median software developer.

  9. Can you explain more why that matters? Would that mean mechanical engineers in the Midwest get paid more, after adjusting COL and taxes, than coastal ones?

  10. Software skills are in more demand it looks like. But the other side, senior ME’s don’t stay in engineering roles so they may not provide their info for surveys such as these. A lot of engineers switch over to management or specialist roles which may or may not refer to the as engineers still.

  11. Exactly, here are many MEs that become systems engineers and project engineers even at an entry level. The BLS tables don't seem to show those.

  12. Profit margin are amazing in software. I can let fart without costing the company $1000 in stainless fasteners. All you need for software is a nice laptop and a ping pong table.

  13. Because software is infinitely and quickly scalable, therefore there's a lot more money to be made quickly. I can't retool an auto plant to increase production by 200% in a year. You can call Amazon and get additional server space to have your product distributed to more customers in a few hours or days generally.

  14. As others mentioned, these number vary a lot due to locations and titles. Many well paying mechanical engineers that are still individual contributors may have different titles such as leads or engineering/technical fellows, and not in manufacturing roles which bring the average down. I've already seen your previous posts and about how cheap your company is that they wanted you to share rooms with coworkers. That is definitely not common.

  15. What would be the first step I’d take to show a potential (defense) employer I’m capable of doing one of these software jobs? Do I need to go back to school?

  16. My immediate assumption would be most software devs probably live in areas like Silicon Valley where there is a high cost of living. So if a lot of software devs are concentrated out west where it’s more expense to live that would explain why the pay is higher. At least in my eyes.

  17. FAANG/MANGA is snatching RF engineers left and right. Not just all these consumer electronics but to support LEO satellites used for internet coverage in rural areas. Lots of other engineers are needed for all that hardware development.

  18. My undergrad was ME. Stuck in a dead end requirements job for the government. Switched to EE masters with DSP focus working on RF stuff and tripled my salary. Now I develop DSP solutions AND work on RF stuff.

  19. This is a question you need to ask yourself. What do you really want? Do you feel like you HAVE to do mech, or would you be similarly happy doing software, but earning mega bucks?

  20. Educational requirements for becoming a software engineer aren't always anywhere near what they are to become an engineer.

  21. Salary is not based on education or difficulty. It is based on what companies are willing to spend and what employees are willing to ask for.

  22. And that’s why im trying to dip my toes into programming. Mech eng deg but trying to stay in programming/robotics for the job security, money, and luckily it’s what I enjoy.

  23. This is something I have thought about a lot. I think it is because there is a large base of open source code that software developers can use. So the software engineers are able to build bigger and more complex projects using the open source tools and code.

  24. SWE here - I am blown away that a database like this is not a thing. Is there a high barrier to entry?

  25. Do you really not know? It's simply supply and demand within a given market. Software engineering is a very high value-add activity, when successful. Software is probably the most productive industry--when it works. The return on invested capital, or ROIC, is sometimes incredibly high, which gives software companies the ability to hire armies of SWEs. This drives up wages--sometimes to seemingly absurd levels. In short, the scalability and profitability of SWE work makes it far more lucrative than MechEng.

  26. Value of work done? ME’s don’t have a lot of room for iterations on a design since each revisions can be costly. In a different setting, like manufacturing a ME’s value is in a large part the cost avoidance possible by improving process. In the end, it’s down to the value that your work brings to the company, either in cost avoidance or in revenue generation.

  27. My theory (as a senior ME in university) is that ME’s just cost way more for the company overall than a software engineer, and typically our work has no IMMEDIATE impact (especially in design). For example, imagine you are an structural engineer who does FEA for aerospace products. Just ANSYS alone costs an employer about 80k USD per seed, not to mention the beast of the computer which they provide you for the heavy computation. ME hardware (stuff like raw metal and machines parts) are VERY pricey. Now compare that to a software engineer at Google, where the employer can just give him a $2000 laptop and get much quicker signs of ROI (since all they need to do is hit ‘compile’, whereas an ME can take months or years to even produce a single product or feature). This is just my experience from my school and Silicon Valley internship, would love to hear from veterans and people in the managerial side of engineering.

  28. the downside of being a software engineer is very often the things you make are incredibly useless or actively harmful. its a lame job, but its a way to make money quickly

  29. how many can buy machines like cars or bikes that have internal computers and how many can buy computers? both clients are buying computers that use software, but only one client is buying a mechanical machine...

  30. I agree with a lot of the posts here for the most part, but I feel like cost of living could be a factor as well.

  31. Are software engineers generally concentrated in high COL areas? Whereas mechanical engineers are more spread out between high and low COL areas. Just an idea.

  32. Different perspective: I’m in Minneapolis. I started in a mid level med devices manufacturing at 70k, my friend started software in Target at 75k and another is the same at Wells Fargo. Target eng graduated in 2020 and I did in 2021, as of today he makes 80k looking to move on up. If possible, I can get another job in 1-2 years at 75-85k (hopefully) in the big OEMs in the same role and field. It’s still garbage considering software pays more, but the margins aren’t as far off as I originally thought here.

  33. This pay difference made me switch from ME to SWE. First role I landed as swe over 6 figs. Compared to my old ME job that I barely reached 50k 💀

  34. Also, Software evolves quicker than accredited colleges can form curriculums. Mechanical engineering not as much. Demand is massive while supply of experienced Devs is super low. I’m currently working on making the switch from ME to SE, and it’s surprisingly not that hard. Pick up a couple valuable languages, couple of certs, do some side gigs and you’re pretty much qualified.

  35. A tangential subject not touched on by these metrics are equity incentives - which are more common in software industries - on top of base salary.

  36. The money for MEs is in consumer electronics. Try getting a mechanical engineering job at Apple, Google, Amazon, or Meta designing electronic products. You will get $150k + starting salary (total comp including base + bonus + stock awards) and salaries of upwards of $800k with 15+ years experience in a senior engineering role. Leadership level ME roles make even more... $1M+ for Senior Manager and above.

  37. Come live in the UK where mechanical engineers earn £35k on average. I would be tap dancing if I could earn over 100k

  38. I just wanted to add one thing regarding the report (quickly looked at the figure, didn't check thoroughly). But this report may only include the base salary for the software engineering part. At least in the bigger tech companies you would also get RSU, sign up bonus and other bonuses to take your compensation quite a lot higher. I for example am just finishing up my PhD (below average publication record) with no work experience. And I will be joining a FAANG company with 400, 350, 370, 390K in expected compensations in years 1-4 respectively. Granted it's in a high cost of living region (Seattle).

  39. Most ME's I have met do very little work and only take insight from other ME's ( at least in Aerospace). SE's make things and complete projects that usually have a direct and immediate measurable effect on Revenue. Naturally SE are more open minded to solving problems because there is less degree prestige in the field ( because degrees are not required) as opposed to Mechanical Engineering.

  40. Consider HVAC. I am constantly seeing openings from construction and architectural firms for mechanical engineers to design HVAC systems. And if you get your PE you can become a contractor which will allow you to more opportunities since it’s a role that can be done remotely. But that’s only if you’re okay doing desk work.

  41. You can turn more profit from one software developer than you can from one mechanical engineer, due to the nature of the work. It's not that software engineers are inherently doing more valuable work; they're just doing work that can be extended to accommodate new opportunities more easily.

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