The career opportunities for graduates of both engineering and engineering technology degrees are plentiful. At first glance, the shorter time to completion and fewer required engineering courses found among associate’s degree programs in engineering technology might make this degree path seem more appealing than a traditional bachelor’s degree in engineering. However, many students find that the benefits of earning a full engineering degree outweigh the extra time and expense needed to complete a four-year degree. The advantages of choosing an engineering degree over an engineering technology degree include the opportunity to hold the job title of engineering, more creative input into the design process and much higher wages.
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Engineer Job Title
If job growth, career security or a general appreciation for technical work is what draws you to the engineering field, then you might do well as an engineering technician. However, if you really want to be an engineer, then engineering technician is not the ideal degree path for you. Generally, engineers need a bachelor’s degree in engineering. Even studying engineering technology at the bachelor’s level typically leads to an engineering technologist job title, not that of fully qualified engineer.
What’s in a job title? In the field of engineering, a job title is about more than prestige. Engineers and engineering technicians work together, but they serve different roles. Choosing a degree in engineering technology rather than engineering will affect both the big picture and the day-to-day work you do in your career.
Engineers devote at least one-quarter of their coursework to studies in the mathematics and basic life and physical sciences. They study general principles of engineering science and design as well as specialized engineering subject matter that relates to their chosen engineering discipline. For example, an aerospace engineering major would study aerodynamics, propulsion, mechanics and stability and control, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported. Electrical engineering majors are more concerned with studying electrical circuit theory, digital systems design and differential equations. Engineering technology students in either of these engineering branches will spend much of their education learning the technical skills needed in their discipline but will not focus on concept and design the way an engineering student would.
Both engineering and engineering technology degree programs are accredited by ABET, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc.
More Design Responsibilities
A big factor to think about when choosing between engineering and engineering technology degree programs is how interested you are in engineering design. Engineers use concepts of science and mathematics to designing and developing new technology in the form of machines, components, materials systems and processes that solve problems. Engineering technicians focus primarily on the technical work of implementing the designs an engineer comes up with, not on devising innovative designs themselves.
Both roles are valuable and interrelated. Without an engineer to conceive of the design ideas, technicians would have no plans to carry out, and problems would not be solved. However, no matter how many brilliant ideas an engineer thinks up, if there is no one with the skills to implement them, those designs change nothing.
For individuals who enjoy the technical aspects of engineering work more than the design aspects, engineering technician can be a very satisfying career. Students who have a natural creativity and curiosity may feel that the design component of the career is truly the most rewarding part. To them, the design opportunities afforded by earning an engineering degree are an important benefit of choosing this degree path.
Engineering technicians may focus more on implementing and applying existing technology in the field than on developing innovative new technology.
Among every engineering discipline, salaries are considerably higher for engineers than for their engineering technician counterparts. The median salary for all engineer occupations is $92,220 per year, compared to $55,810 for all engineering technicians, mapping technicians and drafters, the BLS reported. Generally, the highest paying disciplines for engineers are also among the highest paid for engineering technicians, and lower paying disciplines tend to be similar for both types of occupations. For example, aerospace engineer is among the must lucrative occupations for engineers, with a median wage of $113,030. Aerospace engineering technicians are also some of the highest paid technicians, earning a $67,240 median salary.
Engineering technicians in in-demand disciplines such as aerospace engineering technology can sometimes earn six-figure salaries with experience, on-the-job training, individual certifications and sought-after high-tech skills, according to U.S. News & World Report.