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’re the ones who do the hands-on work while working alongside engineers. Whether it’s 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.
How to Become an Engineering Technician
To become an engineering technician, 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.
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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 and engineering technician not only offers good wages and challenging work but can also work as a foundation for an engineering degree.