Although you need a bachelor’s degree if you want to call yourself an engineer, you can do a lot with an associate’s degree. A two-year education can be all you need to become an engineering technician, or it could be a more affordable alternative to completing all of your undergraduate studies at a four-year college. In either case, you will find plenty of advantages that make an associate’s degree worth considering.
Short Timeline to Joining the Workforce
If you opt to study engineering technology, you can quickly launch your career as an engineering technician. The bachelor’s degree needed to become a full-fledged engineer typically takes at least four years of full-time study to complete. However, many undergraduate students, especially those majoring in engineering and other subjects with infamously rigorous curricula, aren’t graduating in four or even five years, according to CBS News. This means that engineering technicians can graduate in half the time – or less – that it takes their peers in a four-year engineering program to earn a degree.
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Getting out into the workforce sooner means more years of earning a living. It offers more opportunity to start the on-the-job training that can equip you with the specialized, sought-after technical skills needed to advance to the highest paying roles. It means you can start working toward and accomplishing the non-education-based goals in your professional and personal life sooner.
If you decide after starting your career that you do want to go back to school, there are baccalaureate programs in engineering technology that you can transfer to with your existing college credits.
More Affordable Than a Four-Year Degree
Going for your associate’s degree can save you money in a lot of ways. If your goal is to be an engineering technician, the two or more years of additional study that you are saving can add up to thousands of dollars. You’re saving money by cutting down the total amount of money you will pay for your education in terms of tuition costs, fees and textbook costs.
Then there’s the fact that even the years you are still spending in school will cost you less than the same number of terms at a four-year college or university would. Whether in engineering or engineering technology, associate’s degree programs are often offered at vocational-technical schools and community colleges, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Often, tuition at these institutions costs just half of what your studies at a four-year school would cost.
Choosing an engineering transfer program that starts with an associate’s degree and prepares students to transition to a bachelor’s degree program in engineering can save students $12,000 or more, The Washington Post reported.
Less Academically Rigorous Curriculum
It’s no secret the engineering degree programs are challenging, requiring extensive studies in high-level mathematics such as calculus and trigonometry. If you’re not sure that such a rigorous degree program is the right choice for you, then you might be relieved to learn that engineering technology degree programs focus less on the complex concepts and theories of advanced mathematics and more on the technical content of working in your chosen discipline.
That’s not to say that the field is easy. Because one-third to two-thirds of your instruction will be in technical content, you need to have strong technical and mechanical skills. The field of engineering technology is all about practical applications and hands-on work, which is challenging in its own way.
Because four-year colleges often have graduate students teaching undergraduate courses, community college students may be more likely to have real professors, not students, teaching their classes.
High Pay Rate for a Relatively Short Education
Engineering technicians don’t make as much money as their more highly educated peers who majored in engineering. However, the median salaries for engineering technicians are unusually high considering that the only career preparation they need is an associate’s degree. The BLS reports that engineering technicians earn a median annual wage of $50,230 to $67,240, depending on their discipline of engineering technology. That’s well above the $37,690 annual salary for all occupations.
Engineering technician wages can be up to $10,000 or more per year above the median wage for all workers with an associate’s degree.