Become an Engineering Technician
Individuals interested in working in the engineering field but unable to spend several years in college often choose to become engineering technicians. In many industries, engineering technicians are considered the “doers” because they are the ones who do the hands-on work while working alongside engineers. Whether it is setting up and calibrating equipment, making calculations or using their math and science skills to assist engineering, engineering technicians are an important part of engineering.
What is an Engineering Technician?
Engineering technicians are trained engineering professionals who work with engineers and help them with many of their duties. While engineers use their math and science knowledge to solve problems and design products, engineering technicians assist the engineers in collecting data, designing and performing tests, assembling equipment and recording test data. As they gain experience and knowledge, they take on more engineering duties.
Their duties may include adjusting test equipment, installing simple equipment, drawing graphs and curves, performing computations and doing simple drafting. Their duties vary by the industry in which they work. An automotive engineering technician may diagnose and fix a car problem while an electronics and electrical engineering technician will put together electrical systems. The duties of an engineering technician will also vary by their place of employment.
What Does an Engineering Technician Do?
Mechanical Engineering Tech
Mechanical engineering techs can be found at work in a wide variety of settings and industries. These workers specialize in building and maintaining entire systems of mechanical elements. Manufacturing plants, laboratories, and even military operations of many kinds rely on mechanical engineering technicians on a daily basis. Chemical feed pumps, elevator systems, communications systems, pneumatic systems, and advanced robotics systems count as just a handful of the specific elements this professional may also work with therein.
Civil Engineering Tech
Civil engineering techs work for both the government and private entities to design the many structural components found throughout society and owned by government authorities. Examples of the types of structures these engineering techs work with regularly include bridges, roads, damns, electrical grid systems, irrigation and water systems, and many more. This role often takes the worker frequently back and forth between the field and the office.
CAD operators are essentially artists and designers who use CAD, or computer-aided drafting programs, in order to fulfill their work tasks. CAD operators work in many venues including architect firms, millwright firms, construction companies, manufacturing companies, and many others across the professional spectrum today. While it is true that many CAD operators specifically went to school for CAD knowledge, many others still, on the other hand, came to greatness in these ranks strictly through an engineering background.
Industrial Mechanical Engineer
Today’s industrial mechanical engineer acts in many of the same capacities as does the above-mentioned mechanical engineer but with a slight variation in focus. In this particular role, the engineer is much more keenly focused on work in the industrial sector alone. This, in turn, means for a more select area of venues in which the engineer might be found – mostly in the manufacturing sector. The management of instrumentation designs, electro-mechanical systems, industrial plumbing and HVAC systems, waste management systems, and the like all fall under the responsibility umbrella of this worker.
Engineering consultants represent yet another important role found in the work scope of today’s engineering tech. In this role, the tech gets to apply their knowledge by providing expert advise to various client companies and individuals in need of that very expertise. Those working in this role can be found working for larger consultation-providing organizations or, often just as successfully, working on their own. Additionally, this type of worker can often have a greater personal choice in the exact type of engineering work and clientele they would prefer to work with regularly.
How to Become an Engineering Technician
To become an engineering tech, an individual must complete a two-year associate degree program in engineering technology. Potential engineering technicians should complete as many science and math courses in high school as possible. Engineering technician programs should be accredited by the Technology Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). There are currently about 700 ABET-accredited engineering technology programs in the U.S.
Engineering technology programs are usually found at community colleges or technical schools. They include various science and math courses as well as courses in thermodynamics, fluid dynamics, mechanical design, digital electronics and environmental regulations. Students enrolled in an engineering technology degree program can choose to specialize in a specific area of engineering technology, such as mechanical engineering, civil engineering, electrical engineering and industrial engineering to name just a few.
In addition to earning a degree, engineering technicians often obtain certification as a way to enhance employment options and demonstrate their knowledge. The American Society of Certified Engineering Technicians is one organization that offers certification exams.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that engineering technicians earned annual wages ranging from $35,030 to $97,270 with the average annual wage at $64,550 as of May 2017. Several factors can affect wage potential, including experience, training, certifications, employer and location. The industry in which the engineering technician works can also affect wages.
For instance, electrical and electronics engineering technicians earned about $63,660 in 2017 while mechanical engineering technicians earned $55,360, and industrial engineering technicians earned $57,810. The expected job growth for engineering technicians also depends on the industry. The BLS predicts a job growth of 9% for civil engineering technicians; 1% for industrial engineering technicians; 2% for electrical and electronics engineering technicians and 5% for mechanical engineering technicians.
Engineering technology is a field that, while it may not be showing huge job growth, will always need qualified workers to assist engineers as technology continues to grow and develop new products. Becoming an engineering technician not only offers good wages and challenging work but can also work as a foundation for an engineering degree. This would be a great way to gain experience in the field and build your resume for future employment.