Mechanical Engineering is a very broad field. It encompasses not just moving parts (gears, actuators, and fancy things like robotic arms), but structural ones as well (think of an aircraft's skeleton). It also puts a tremendous emphasis on thermodynamics and heat transfer.
What do mechanical engineers work on? Well: aircraft, trains, cars, boats, construction and drilling equipment, manufacturing equipment, power tools, home appliances, HVAC systems, a few very lucky ones get involved with space equipment and satellites but don't expect it. What will *you* work on? It depends, but it's not your choice alone. It's ultimately going to be a compromise of what you want and what industry needs - if you want to work on space systems, but industry refuses to hire you because you don't have a PhD from MIT, then you won't work on space systems. But if you also happen to be interested in helicopters and learn that Sikorsky Aircraft in Connecticut hires graduates from public universities like UConn, then you may say "Ahhh, I'll be a mechanical engineer for Sikorsky Helicopters" - you'll reach a compromise between *your* interests and industry needs.
Plan for your first ambition, but be ready for your second ones.
The best engineering jobs will be out of your reach if you don't have a Master. So keep it in the back of your mind that you should eventually get a Masters.
In Connecticut, I'd expect a triple digit salary with a Masters and ten years experience, especially for the bigger corporations. You won't go hungry, but getting there will take a lot of work. You can make yourself competitive by doing well in school (i.e. no grades below a B, at least in your major), doing at least one or two internships, and getting involved with undergraduate research in a project that is *RELEVANT* to industry (do NOT get rolled into your professors idealistic talk of 'study what interest you' - *they* can afford it, *you* can't). Example: research heat transfer in helicopter rotors; *don't* research quantum computing devices or self-assembling nano-devices. Industry will *one* day have a need for such knowledge, but that day is not today and it isn't likely to involve you (unless you've come from MIT and have committed 10 years for a PhD researching the right topic, went on to do a 3-year lowly-paid post-doc research project, and then maybe find out your work is relevant enough for you to get hired for it - but also discovering you sacrificed nearly fifteen years of your life, postponed relationships, marriage and a family, and a comfortable quality of life for it all - DON'T do it).
Overall, you can't go wrong with the aerospace and defense industries - by mere virtue of their size, strength, and growth. Aerospace/defense has major corporations in most of the 51 states (including United Technologies, Northrop Grumman, General Electric, Textron, Boeing, BE Aerospace, Lockheed Martin, etc). This contrasts with the biomedical industry which is very strong primarily in California and the Boston-New York metro areas. Likewise, if you want to design cars, you may want to head to Detroit (but only if you're a masochist and want to get in on a furlough)
Keywords: good grades, internships, industry-relevant undergraduate research, look in strong industries for best results
Answered By: lifeson - 4/25/2009