There are a number of good jobs in the field of engineering technology, though engineer is not one of them. Instead, graduates of these degree programs become engineering technicians and technologists. They can complete their education in a shorter timeframe than engineers and earn high salaries, with a median wage between $50,230 and $67,240 and the potential for even higher incomes with more training.
What Is Engineering Technology?
Though they sound similar and are related fields, engineering technology is somewhat different from engineering. Generally, while engineers focus on science and mathematical theory and applying that theory to conceptual designs, engineering technicians and technologists focus on implementing engineers’ designs in fields like manufacturing, construction, product design and testing, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) reported.
Graduates of engineering technology programs are called either engineering technicians or engineering technologists. Technicians have completed a two-year associate’s degree and are more likely to work in service positions in which they maintain, troubleshoot and repair technological equipment. Technologists, who spend four years in school earning a baccalaureate degree, work to implement technology within the field of engineering. They may not design new technologies of their own, but they work with technology on a daily basis.
Engineering technicians and technologists don’t focus on theory as much as engineers do, so the curriculum in these programs tends to include less emphasis on theory and more focus on technical skills.
Associate’s Degrees in Engineering Technology
The most popular education among professionals working in engineering technology is an associate’s degree, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). ABET-accredited associate degree programs include studies in algebra and trigonometry and minimum requirements for basic physical or natural science courses. Which sciences a student takes depends on what discipline of engineering technology he or she is pursuing. An environmental engineering technician will be more likely to take courses in chemistry or biology, while electrical engineering technicians are more likely to study physics.
At least one-third of your studies in engineering technology must be in technical content. The technical core of an engineering technology program differs between disciplines, but it should prepare students to use all equipment and tools that are commonly used in their chosen branch of engineering technology.
Remember, an engineering technology program is all about practical application, so it needs to cover the technical skills that are most relevant to the student’s career path. For example, electromechanical engineering technicians need to test robots and robotic equipment, so they study subjects like electro-mechanics/mechatronics, industrial maintenance and process control. Environmental engineering technicians, whose work includes performing environmental tests of soil and water quality and testing pollution control equipment, take courses in environmental assessment and hazardous-waste management.
According to ABET accreditation guidelines, technical content can’t account for more than two-thirds of the degree program.
Should I Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering Technology?
Though associate’s degrees are common, engineering technology programs are offered at the baccalaureate degree level. A four-year engineering technology program encompasses the coursework found in an associate’s degree program but also adds studies in integral and differential calculus. Students in a baccalaureate degree program in engineering technology have to complete a capstone experience that applies the skills they have learned to real-world problems before they can graduate.
You can earn a baccalaureate degree in engineering technology, but should you? Engineering technology is one degree that is better to earn a community college than a four-year school, according to U.S. News & World Report. The practical technical skills you learn in an associate’s degree program in engineering technology are often more valuable than a four-year degree that may include more studies in general education and courses unrelated to the career field. In particular, the high-tech employers in fields like aerospace manufacturing and electrical engineering tend to have openings for highly-skilled professionals that they are unable to fill with candidates who have a bachelor’s degree but lack practical skills.
To advance in the field of engineering technology, you don’t need another degree. Instead, you need extensive on-the-job training and certifications in the technologies that are used in the field. With experience and training, your technical knowledge could put you on the path to earn a six-figure salary – with just an associate’s degree.
Skills using tools for computer-aided design and manufacturing are among the most sought-after technical abilities for engineering technicians and technologists.