If you would like to quickly get started in a career in the architecture and engineering field, a career as an electro-mechanical technician may appeal to you. Electro-mechanical technicians do the practical work of operating equipment designed by engineers. In this role, you can make a salary well above the median wage without first investing several years of studies into earning a bachelor’s or graduate degree. An associate’s degree from a vocational-technical school or community college is enough to get started in this exciting technology career.
The Job of an Electro-Mechanical Technician
Electro-mechanical technicians put in the hands-on work or testing, maintaining and operating electromechanical equipment of all kinds. This includes robotic, unmanned and automated mechanical equipment, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The job duties of an electro-mechanical technician are many and varied, ranging from reading design blueprints to operating the finished products. Electro-mechanical technicians must examine parts for any defects or departures from product specifications, use metalworking machines to build the metal components of equipment and use soldering equipment and hand tools to install electronic parts.
As an electro-mechanical technician, you would spend time in offices and at production sites. You may work with a variety of different types of machines and equipment. Everything from unmanned aircraft to solar and wind power equipment for generating energy can fall under the domain of an electro-mechanical technician, according to the BLS.
Electro-mechanical technicians work primarily in manufacturing industries. The manufacturing industry employing the most electro-mechanical technicians is semiconductor and electronic component manufacturing, in which 13 percent found employment. Another 10 percent worked in navigational and control instruments manufacturing, nine percent in transportation equipment manufacturing and seven percent in machinery manufacturing.
About eight percent of electro-mechanical technicians work in the engineering services industry, according to the BLS.
An Associate’s Degree in Electro-Mechanical Technology
Either a community college or vocational-technical school education is your path to get started as an electro-mechanical technician. These programs award either an associate’s degree or a postsecondary certificate. The main differences between community college and a technical institute programs is that community colleges typically include more emphasis on theory, more liberal arts studies and the opportunity to specialize in a field like industrial maintenance, electro-mechanics/mechatronics or process control. Both community colleges and vocational-technical schools tend to be more affordable than four-year colleges and universities, which is good news for cost-conscious students who want to minimize the price tag of their career training.
The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), the same organization that accredits engineering programs, is responsible for accrediting electro-mechanical technology degree programs. Accredited programs must meet ABET standards, including requiring coursework in algebra, trigonometry and basic science. At least one-third, and possibly up to two-thirds, of a student’s education will be devoted to technical content in subjects such as applied mechanics, statics, material strength, circuit analysis, electronics, computer-aided drafting and design tools and basic instrumentation.
By the time they graduate, students of accredited electro-mechanical engineering programs should have the skills to build, install, operate, analyze, troubleshoot and maintain electromechanical systems. Students of electro-mechanical technology programs may find themselves working with cabling, drive systems, automatic production equipment, positions sensors and many other components and systems
Graduates of electro-mechanical technology programs may also have job titles like installation technician, field service technician, automated equipment technician, fluid power technician or electronics technician.
Choosing Between Technician and Engineer Occupations
As an electro-mechanical technician, you would work in the field of engineering but would not be an engineer yourself. You would work alongside both electrical and mechanical engineers, doing the practical work needed to implement their conceptual designs.
Other than differences in job responsibilities, perhaps the biggest differences between engineers and technicians are in earning potential and education requirements. Electrical and mechanical engineers earn median wages of $97,970 and $85,880 respectively, while electro-mechanical technicians have a median salary of $56,740, according to the BLS.
However, becoming a full-fledged engineer requires a larger investment in your education. A bachelor’s degree is the minimum education needed to work as an engineer, so students would need to spend at least an additional two years studying in their field. Because the tuition at a four-year college or university is typically a great deal more expensive than at a community college or technical institute, the financial investment in a bachelor’s degree in engineering is much larger, as well.
Students deciding between technician and engineer roles need to weigh not just the added earning potential against the cost of college but also whether they would feel fulfilled conceiving designs or just implementing them.