An individual who finds a career working with electronics and electrical components stimulating and interesting may want to become an electrical engineer technician. Electrical and electronics engineering technicians assist engineers in solving electrical engineering programs and creating ground-breaking products. Becoming an electrical engineering technician can take place after two years of full-time study.
What is an Electrical Engineer Technician?
Electrical engineering technicians and electronics technicians have almost the same job. They do roughly the same things, but the difference is that electrical engineering technicians help create parts that make up the whole, while electronics technicians use those parts to create the whole itself. Both help electrical engineers to realize their designs. Some of those designs and product include navigation and GPS systems for ships or aircraft, medical devices, and computers. Technicians test and evaluate these products and then make recommendations to the engineers with whom they’re working.
The duties of such technicians include:
- Checking the design conditions at construction sites
- Calibrating instruments
- Performing equipment tests
- Implementing protocols
- Building and testing prototypes
- Completing circuit drawings
- Installing completed systems
How to Become an Electrical Engineer Technician
Students who wish to be electrical engineer technicians generally need to earn an associate degree. The school from which they earn the degree should be accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, or ABET. Associate degree programs last two years. During this time, the students will study digital electronics, various control systems, and the structure of microprocessors. Of course, because the curriculum lasts only two years, students will have to complete math and science courses at the same time as they’re completing their electronics courses. Because of the nature of the job they will undoubtedly seek once they complete their associate degree, students will study as much in the lab as they will in the classroom.
Many students join professional engineering organizations after or during their associate degrees. The American Society for Engineering Education is a well-known one, as is the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Once joining such organizations, new members can attend conferences to bolster their resumes and gain valuable training and insight into the newest technology and techniques. Many employers value such initiative and experience when picking new recruits for either internships or permanent employment.
Some graduates may take their learned skills and seek military careers. The military will enhance their training and give them other skills that they can apply when they transition back to civilian life. For instance, the military trains soldiers in leadership skills that they can use to good advantage when they go back to being civilians.
Improving Your Education and Training
The sad fact about this exciting field is that its growth rate over the next 10 years is expected to be very slow. In fact, the growth rate for the these jobs is only expected to be half the average growth rate for all other jobs, at a paltry two percent. Based on the current work force of 125,800 such technicians, this means that the economy will only add 1,900 jobs by 2030.
Because of this, it will be necessary for the budding technicians to bolster their CVs and their resumes to make themselves as attractive as possible to employers. The associate degree and military training are both good indicators of ability, but a four-year degree, or more, would be better. Also, technicians could earn one or more relevant licenses and certificates.
The universities that provide the best ongoing education for becoming an electrical engineering technician include Purdue University, Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of Dayton. These universities all provide the same kind of curriculum, which includes 120 credits of classes. These classes include the core requirements, the major requirements, and a variety of electives.
Exceptional laboratory facilities and extensive hands-on training through co-ops and internships are provided from various partners in the area of these universities. Usually, the major classes comprise about 40-60 of these credits, and the electives count for about 10-15 credits. The rest comprise the core curriculum.
Of course, students can pursue a degree in full electrical engineering, and the study track would be similar but different. The course requirements contain the same basic-level courses, but the advanced courses differ. The coursework for technicians focuses on the practical aspects of the field, while the coursework for the engineering degree focuses on the theoretical aspects of it.
The more education and training that technicians and engineers get, the better it will be for them when it comes to job prospects. Also, the better-trained these people are, the more fruitful advances in technology will become. It is hoped that this will spur job growth in the industry, but only time will tell what will become of this industry by 2030.
What Makes a Good Electrical Engineering Technician?
Available licenses include those issued by the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies. Industry experts have developed the qualifications students need to be considered for these licenses. There are not only entry-level licenses but also advanced items that go with a technician’s growing responsibilities through a career.
One of the most promising fields is that of testing. When people ask themselves, “How to Become an Electrical Engineer Technician?” they should also ask, “Do I think I could be successful in the field of testing?”
The certification is called Electrical Power Testing. The program assesses candidates’ ability to test production equipment and test equipment that comprises the infrastructure of power distribution and transmission. They learn to inspect, test, and maintain various parts of both the grid itself and building electrical systems.
There are a great many skills that people have that will make them good candidates for being electrical engineering technicians. Foremost among them is logical thinking. Technicians have to be able to find, isolate, and fix what might be minute problems in an item. Reasoning is also crucial for problem solving. They need to be able to think outside the box, because even if engineers give them what is, at the time, a comprehensive list of possible problems, they might encounter an unforeseen problem and need to be able to brainstorm a solution that they can then share with the engineers that they are partnered with.
They must have crackerjack math skills. At its core, engineering is math. Technicians must compute and measure complex ideas and systems to ensure that what they build does what it’s supposed to do. They must analyze how what they build will interact with other items in the same collection of systems, and they must be able to troubleshoot what goes wrong. They will need to be able to use their math skills to support the next set of skills: mechanical skills.
While math helps technicians realize the ideas of their engineering partners, their mechanical skills are what helps them actually build the items themselves. Necessarily, the job is exacting. The toolbox and the soldering iron are the technician’s best friends while building circuitry and other parts.
Technicians must have keen observation skills, as well. They have to be able to spot what might be tiny problems in large systems. They also must ensure that the engineers’ directives are carried out appropriately. Engineering technicians must have integrity, as well, because they must report any problems they find to the engineers.
In addition to spotting problems with actual components, they must be able to see possible problems in the plans themselves. Because they should already have a good rapport with the engineers who are directing them in the field, they should be able to report back to those engineers to let them know about possible issues with the plans before building substandard items.
Also, they must be able to write coherently and succinctly to communicate effectively with both peers and higher-ups. Reports must be correct and concise so that the engineers have a solid foundation from which they can correct the problems their technicians found. Directives to people over whom they have authority must be equally clear so that subordinates can follow those directions to fix any problems.
To become an electrical and electronics engineering technician usually requires completing an associate’s degree in electrical engineering technology or electrical and electronics engineering technology from an ABET-accredited school. This type of program is typically found in postsecondary institutions like vocational schools, technical schools, and community colleges. Students complete both liberal arts and theory-based courses. Typical courses for an electrical engineering technology student include college algebra, science, logical processors, programming languages, circuity, physics, and chemistry.
An electrical engineering technician may also choose to obtain certification. While it may not be a legal requirement, certification is a way to demonstrate a high level of knowledge in this area. Certification can be earned from a few different organizations.
- ETA International
- The National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies
- The International Society of Automation
To obtain certification, the candidate must complete an engineering degree program and pass a certification exam.
Career Outlook & Wage Potential
Employment growth for electrical and electronics engineering technicians has been rather slow in the past few years. Although jobs should grow in companies wanting to contract out technicians or in engineering services firms, this is not the case in manufacturing industries or in the federal government. Job growth of only two percent is expected for electrical engineering technicians during the 2016-2026 decade, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The bureau reports that electrical and electronics engineering technicians earned annual wages that ranged from $37,420 to $93,810, and that the average annual wage was $64,290 as of May 2017. The average hourly wage for these technicians was $30.91. The top-paying locations for electrical engineering technicians are the District of Columbia, Vermont, Alaska, Maryland, and Colorado.
Although the field is growing only slowly, technology is growing at an astounding pace. It should only be a matter of time before that growth outpaces the skills and knowledge of existing engineers and technicians. When that happens, the job growth rate is bound to increase to match the ever-increasing demand that new technology puts on the system. Technicians who have the requisite training and education at the time that the growth happens will have an advantage over their peers who do not.
Electrical engineer technicians are highly educated professionals who must be well-trained to be effective at their jobs. They must be respected in the same way as they respect the engineers with whom they partner. As the data shows, they are paid according to their abilities. Technicians in positions of higher responsibility earn correspondingly higher wages. Government employees make 15% to 20% more than their non-governmental counterparts, which amounts to almost $100,000 in salary.