Mechatronics vs Mechanical Engineering

Mechatronics evolved from mechanical but pays better and helps you develop broader more holistic solutions. It is a lot in demand and pays really well.
Mechanical Engineering and Mechatronics Engineering have a lot of similarities as mechatronics basically evolved from mechanical engineering. As time progressed, mechatronics started absorbing other disciplines like Electrical Engineering, Software Engineering, Electronics Engineering, and Robotics to name a few.
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Mechanical and mechatronics engineering do, however, also have their differences and these differences greatly impact the kind of jobs you can do with each degree, the opportunities you will have, and your earning potential.

In this article, we will talk about both the similarities and the differences between both fields of engineering and try to conclude which field is better for you in the long run.

If you enjoy pulling apart all kinds of devices and equipment, repairing them, and reassembling them, you're probably a good candidate for a Bachelor's degree in either Mechanical Engineering or Mechatronics Engineering.

Mechanical engineers and mechatronics engineers not only make things go faster but also run smarter. This essentially means that you help design improved systems that work more efficiently and deliver better results.

Understanding the differences between the two will allow you to make an informed decision about which field to pursue for your future career. Because mechanical engineering is very focused while mechatronics engineering is broader, your choice of degree will not only impact the type of job opportunities that come your way but also the number of those opportunities.

Let’s start by looking at both fields of study, their similarities, and their differences.

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Mechatronics vs mechanical engineering

Mechanical engineering is concerned with the design of a component, machine, system, or process using the principles of motion, energy, and force. You will concentrate on developing new solutions that meet human needs, such as an airplane engine, a wind farm for sustainable energy, or the break mechanism on a sports car.

As a mechanical engineer, you can also pursue research in fields such as nanotechnology, composite material development, biomedical applications, and environmental conservation.

Mechatronics combines mechanics, electronics, electrical, and computing principles to improve technical systems and develop new equipment with varying degrees of built-in 'artificial intelligence.

Mechatronics students learn about things as simple as vending machines and as complex as guided missile systems. They help design robotic processes in assembly lines and help build rockets that launch satellites into space.

Mechatronics engineers are interested in discovering new ways to make a system smarter. In mechatronics, you can combine mechanical components, electronic sensors, mechanical and electrical actuators, and computer-based AI controllers into a single project.

The evolution of mechanical and mechatronics engineering and their similarities

Because mechatronics evolved from mechanical engineering there is a lot of overlap in the areas of study between the two. 

Mechanical engineering was popularized by the industrial revolution starting in 1760. As demand for faster production of goods increased, production in industries based solely on human labor became impractical both in terms of time and cost. 

To find more efficient production methods, engineers started to specialize in mechanical assembly line production systems that could keep up with the supply and demand pressures of the time.

By 1990 technological advancements started becoming more complex. Solutions to problems in production were no longer just mechanical. The constant demand to make production systems more efficient meant that elements of electronics, software, and electrical engineering needed to be incorporated into mechanical engineering solutions.

It was this demand that gave birth to the discipline of mechatronics.

So, while the goal of mechanical engineering undergraduate studies is to prepare you to solve mechanical problems and think creatively, courses in Mechatronics will provide you with a broader understanding of how to construct and connect components such as control systems or microprocessors, as well as introduce you to the world of futuristic technology.

Photo by ThisIsEngineering

So, how are mechatronics and mechanical engineering different?

While both mechanical engineering and mechatronics have the same goal: to be one step ahead of technology's future, the way they approach that goal varies. Mechanical is very focused while mechatronics is broader.

To put it another way, a mechanical engineer knows everything about the purely mechanical aspects of a machine, equipment, or device. A mechatronics specialist, on the other hand, knows a little bit about everything mechanical that goes into creating that same system plus an understanding of the software, electronics, and electrical components.

You could argue that mechatronics is broader in scope because it incorporates mechanical engineering knowledge and more. A mechatronics engineer, therefore, is unlikely to have all of the knowledge and skills of a person who specializes in mechanical engineering but instead has a broader understanding of many types of engineering.

This broader understanding helps him look at things more holistically and propose solutions that are not just restricted to mechanics alone.

Technician working in a factory
Image by senivpetro on Freepik

Mechatronics and mechanical engineering as careers

Both mechatronics and mechanical engineering have a bright future but is one field of engineering slightly better than the other? Both engineering degrees take the same amount of time to complete but mechatronics has one clear advantage. 

While it is very difficult to start a successful mechanical engineering career with anything less than a 4-years bachelor’s degree, you can break into mechatronics with just a 10 to 12 week certificate course after getting your high school diploma.

You can then, if you wish, continue on and get an associate’s, bachelor’s, or even a master’s degree while earning from your job as your progress through your career.

This is possible primarily because your mechatronics certificate course can help you land an entry-level job assembling simple systems that are frequently required in industries like logistics, production, and services.

If you are seriously interested in pursuing Mechatronics we have a special guide to help you break into the industry in just 10 weeks.

Earning potential

Median Wages(2021)

Your salary in both fields depends a lot on your level of education, what industry you work in, and even what part of the US you are employed in. For example, the average wage in California for Mechatronics Technicians is $63,530 while it is only $56,840 in the state of Pennsylvania.

By looking at the table above, two things are very clear. 

  1. Mechatronics pays better: For the same level of degree, Mechatronics Engineers earned a median annual salary of $100,640, while Mechanical Engineers earned $95,300.
  2. You can start earning a median annual salary of $60,360 with just a 10-week certificate course in mechatronics.

Can a mechatronics engineer work as a mechanical engineer?

If you combine all the above data with the fact that at the entry-level positions, a Mechatronics Engineer can also apply for a mechanical engineering job simply because he has a fundamental understanding of mechanics then Mechatronics is a clear winner in our books.

[photo of mechanical engineering]

How to break into the mechatronics industry

The easiest way to get an entry-level job quickly in mechatronics is to do any of the numbers of courses available at colleges and universities across the nation.

We recommend the following because it not only is from an accredited community college, it is affordable and it is online. You can complete this 10 to 12 week course from the comfort of your home and become a mechatronics technician.

Course Title: Mechatronics for Equipment Maintenance - Level II

Offered At: Central New Mexico Community College (Accredited College)

Type of Course: Online - On Demand Course

Duration of Course: 8 hours per week, 10 to 12 estimated weeks

Investment: $509.00 total price excluding tax

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Course Description: 

Begin your career as a material handling equipment technician. Earn a certificate while learning job-ready skills for an in-demand career. There is no formal education required. This original course is only available at Unmudl.

The Level II Intro to Mechatronics for Equipment Maintenance course is designed for students who have some experience or a background in maintenance and want to work as an industrial technician or in maintenance.

This course is made up of a series of online, on-demand Amatrol e-learning modules on advanced manufacturing that are linked to SACA certification standards. The course covers everything from electrical to mechanical and from motor control to pneumatics.

Learners who complete this course will have the fundamental knowledge and skills needed to maintain and troubleshoot material handling equipment. Learners who successfully complete the course will receive a certificate of completion and will be ready to apply for Maintenance Technician positions.

Mechatronics professionals work in high-tech manufacturing facilities, hospitals, hotels/resorts, utility companies, schools, and retail chains, installing, maintaining, and repairing machinery and equipment.

Credentials: 

This curriculum also prepares students for the following SACA certifications:

C-201: Electrical Systems 1

C-203: AC Variable Frequency Drives 1

C-204: Motor Control Troubleshooting 1

C-209: Pneumatic Systems 1

Final thoughts

Both mechatronics and mechanical have many things in common as the earlier evolved from the later post the industrial revolution. Mechatronics, however, sacrifices an in-depth focus on mechanical engineering concepts and instead incorporates a general understanding from several other engineering fields of study.

This arms a mechatronics engineer with a broader vision and understanding of how to develop holistic solutions for problems in production and services.

Mechatronics is also a great career to get into because it pays better than mechanical engineering on average and unlike mechanical, you can break into the industry with just a short certificate course.

We hope this article was of help to you in making an informed decision for your future career. Best of luck from all of us here at Unmudl for a bright and prosperous career. 

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