Engineering technology, a hands-on technical career field that requires only an associate’s degree to get started, may seem like an easy field of study in which to earn a degree. However, just because you can complete your college education at a community college or vocational-technical school doesn’t mean that your curriculum will be less than challenging. Students of engineering technology programs need to meet minimum requirements for math, science and technical coursework.
General Requirements for Engineering Technology Degrees
The organization responsible for accrediting engineering technology programs – the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, or ABET, which also accredits engineering degree programs – sets the criteria that all approved engineering technology programs must meet. No matter how easy an engineering technology program may seem based on other factors, you will have to complete these requirements if you want to graduate.
What exactly does ABET require? First of all, students of associate’s degree programs in any branch of engineering technology must take math courses in algebra and trigonometry and be able to use those concepts to solve real-world issues of a technical nature. For students in a baccalaureate program, studies in integral and differential calculus are also required. Secondly, studies in physical and natural science, including laboratory work, is required for any engineering technology degree.
Another challenging aspect of ABET-accredited engineering technology programs is the technical content. Over all, students will spend at least one-third of their studies learning the technical content that will prepare them for the hands-on work of applying science and math knowledge to solving technology problems. The core technical classes start off with easier, introductory and foundational courses meant to prepare them for the more complex and specialized technical subject matter they learn later in the degree program.
The technical content of an ABET-accredited engineering technology program cannot make up more than two-thirds of the total studies required for graduation.
Engineering Technology Degrees With the Fewest Requirements
One way to distinguish the easier engineering technology degrees from the more challenging ones is to look at the ABET requirements for specific programs. Generally, ABET outlines objectives and outcomes, rather than specific courses, for each type of engineering technology program it accredits. These objectives and outcomes are more extensive for some programs than for others.
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For example, the require outcomes for a manufacturing engineering technology degree are being able to “achieve manufacturing competitiveness” through applying knowledge of materials, manufacturing processes, product design, manufacturing and automation systems and quality improvement and industrial organization and management. Students in industrial engineering technology programs simply need to use application, analytical and computational practices to integrate systems for reducing wasted resources in manufacturing and business. Many of the outcomes required for graduates of construction engineering technology programs have much more to do with logistical concerns of construction projects. These outcomes include evaluating contracts and codes, estimating costs, using proper measuring methods and hardware and software tools and using computational methods and analytical techniques.
Only the general engineering technology degree path includes no further requirements beyond ABET’s general criteria for all accredited programs.
What About Baccalaureate Degrees in Engineering Technology?
Compared to a bachelor’s degree, which typically requires two additional years of study and needs to be completed at least in part at a four-year college or university, associate’s degrees in engineering technology are easy. They take less time and include fewer requirements. For example, ABET doesn’t require a capstone experience for associate’s degree programs like it does for baccalaureate studies in engineering technology.
Four-year engineering technology programs prove that more formal education isn’t always a better choice for advancing your career. Engineering technology is one degree that is actually better to earn at a community college than a four-year school, according to U.S. News & World Report. Due to the technical nature of the career path, employers tend to place more value on on-the-job training, individual technical certifications and hands-on skills with modern technologies than on merely having a bachelor’s degree. Students typically don’t see the kind of pay boost from earning a bachelor’s, rather than an associate’s, degree in engineering technology that they see from becoming a full-fledged engineer, but the baccalaureate program requires them to spend just as long in school as a four-year engineering degree would.
One of the biggest differences between engineering and engineering technology degrees is that engineering programs focus more on theory and conceptual design while technology programs emphasize practical application, according to ABET.