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Hardware Engineer vs. Mechanical Engineer: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

There are many different types of engineers, each with their own unique skills and responsibilities. Two common engineering roles are that of a hardware engineer and a mechanical engineer. Though these positions share some similarities, there are several key differences between them.

In this article, we discuss the differences between a hardware engineer and a mechanical engineer, and we provide additional engineering professions you may be interested in pursuing.

What is a Hardware Engineer?

Hardware Engineers design, develop and oversee the production of computer hardware, including circuit boards, routers, memory devices and processors. They work with other engineers and technicians to create prototypes and test new products to ensure they meet quality and performance standards. Hardware Engineers also develop manufacturing processes and troubleshoot production issues. They may also be responsible for managing teams of technicians and engineers. Hardware Engineers typically have a bachelor’s degree in computer science, engineering or a related field.

What is a Mechanical Engineer?

Mechanical Engineers design, test and oversee the manufacture of mechanical devices, including tools, engines and machines. They apply the principles of physics and material science to develop and improve manufacturing processes. Mechanical Engineers typically work in industries such as automotive, aerospace, chemical, computing, energy, healthcare and consumer electronics. They may also work in research and development, or in sales and marketing. In some cases, Mechanical Engineers may be responsible for managing a team of engineers and technicians.

Hardware Engineer vs. Mechanical Engineer

Here are the main differences between a hardware engineer and a mechanical engineer.

Job Duties

Mechanical and hardware engineers fulfill different roles and have different duties. While both engineers use mathematics, physics and engineering theory, their work focuses on different areas of design and technology.

A mechanical engineer uses applied principles of physics and mathematics to design machines that operate efficiently and effectively. These professionals analyze the structure, function and performance of systems like vehicles, machinery and energy production facilities. They then develop solutions for problems in these systems by designing and developing components, devices and equipment. Mechanical engineers also conduct testing and analysis to ensure products meet standards and customer requirements.

Hardware engineers typically work within a team with other engineers and designers to create and test new technologies. They often work closely with computer programmers and software developers. The duties of a hardware engineer may include creating specifications for computing hardware, researching and selecting hardware components, testing completed hardware and providing technical support for users.

Job Requirements

Both hardware engineers and mechanical engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in engineering to enter the field. Some employers may prefer candidates with a master’s degree or higher, but it is not always required. Additionally, both professions often require licensure, which can be obtained by passing the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam. After working for four years as an engineer, professionals can then take the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam to earn their professional engineering license.

Work Environment

Mechanical engineers typically work in an office or laboratory setting. They may also travel to different locations, such as construction sites, manufacturing facilities and other places where they can perform their duties. Some mechanical engineers work for the military, designing weapons systems and equipment that soldiers use on the battlefield.

Hardware engineers often work in a lab environment, but they may also work in offices or factories. These professionals may spend time working with clients to understand their needs and design products that meet those requirements.


Both hardware engineers and mechanical engineers use problem-solving skills to find solutions to issues that arise in their work. For hardware engineers, they typically design products that will solve a problem or address a need facing individuals, families and business owners. For mechanical engineers, they may be responsible for designing machines or mechanical systems that are used in manufacturing or production processes.

An hardware engineer needs technical skills to perform their job, including circuit design, advanced mathematics, linear systems and analysis and electrical schematics. A mechanical engineer also needs technical knowledge, but they need to know more about mechanics and how machines work. Both of these professionals need to have the ability to follow safety protocols because they are often working with dangerous materials.

While an hardware engineer uses communication skills when they are creating reports of their research, corresponding with other engineers and colleagues and developing blueprints for their products, they are not necessarily going to be interacting with customers directly. A mechanical engineer is less likely to interact with customers on a daily basis, but they may still need interpersonal skills when they are working on teams or presenting their findings to clients.


Mechanical engineers earn an average salary of $91,492 per year, while hardware engineers earn an average salary of $100,944 per year. Both of these average salaries may vary depending on the size of the company at which you work, location of your job and the level of experience you have prior to pursuing either position.


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