If you have considered becoming an engineer, you may have wondered about option to major in engineering technology. Engineering technology is related to engineering, but the curricula, job titles, responsibilities and salary potential can be quite different between these two fields. However, like engineers, engineering technicians with the right skills and education are in demand in growing industries across the United States.
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Engineering vs. Engineering Technology
It is just the names engineering and engineering technology that are similar. Both engineers and engineering technicians apply principles of science and math to the practical purpose of solving real-world problems. In fact, due to the overlap between these two fields, especially in their emphasis of math and science coursework, the difference between a degree in engineering and engineering technology might not be easily noticeable at first.
However, there are distinct academic requirements the set engineering and engineering technology degree programs apart. While engineering programs focus on theory and conceptual design, engineering technology programs focus on actual application and implementation of ideas.
When it comes to schooling, engineers usually graduate from four-year programs and consider moving on to graduate-level paths. Those that pursue engineering technology can graduate with an associate’s degree and immediately become a technician working in construction, manufacturing, product design, testing, or technical services and sales. Engineering technicians who continue their education with a bachelor’s degree engineering technology can attain the title of technologist and work in engineering, facilities management, or business administration.
These two paths are accredited by separate commissions within ABET, the Engineering Accreditation Commission and the Engineering Technology Accreditation Commission.
The Need for Engineering Technicians
Engineering technicians work in a variety of places. The industries employing the most engineering technicians include the federal government, engineering services, scientific research and development, employment services and navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). All in all, there are about 76,630 engineering technicians employed in the United States.
As a whole, engineering technicians earn a median salary of $62,230. However, this occupation has a huge wage gap, with those in the lowest brackets earning about $62,240 less than the highest paid engineering technicians.
Engineering technology is among the top degrees that are better to earn at a community college than a four-year school, according to U.S. News & World Report. In this field, specific certifications are more valuable than a baccalaureate degree.
Demand in Different Fields of Engineering Technology
The field where engineering technicians are most needed is environmental, where the BLS reports a job growth of 13 percent, almost double the growth rate for all occupations. Environmental engineering technicians work to prevent or clean up environmental pollution. They collect samples to analyze, work to mitigate sources of pollution, and arrange for the disposal of hazardous waste materials. The BLS reports the median salary for environmental engineering technicians as $50,230.
Civil engineering technicians are second in demand, with a nine percent job growth rate, according to the BLS. Civil engineering technicians are often employed by state and local governments to work with civil engineers on projects to improve, repair, and enhance the country’s infrastructure. These technicians work with engineers to plan, design, and build highways, bridges and utilities along with commercial, industrial, residential, and land development projects. Civil engineering technicians read and review project drawings, observe project sites, test construction materials and soil samples, and set up and maintain project files and records. The median salary for these technicians is $51,620, according to the BLS.
According to the BLS, aerospace engineering technicians can expect opportunities to increase by seven percent, on par with the job growth rate for all occupations. In addition to the option of preparing for this career path by earning an associate’s degree in aerospace engineering technology, you can also complete vocational-technical education in computer programing or robotics as well as machining. Many aerospace engineering technicians work for the government with projects that involve national defense, so they need to have security clearances. Those that pursue civilian opportunities can find work constructing aircrafts. The median salary for aerospace engineering technicians is $67,240, the highest for engineering technicians, according to the BLS. The top 10 percent of aerospace engineering technicians can earn more than $102,960.
Mechanical engineering technicians should expect a five percent job growth rate, leading to 2,300 new jobs, according to the BLS. Many mechanical engineering technicians are contracted for work rather than hired for in-house positions. Mechanical engineering technicians that work under mechanical engineers might work in growing fields such as automation, 3D printing, robotics, and alternative energies. The BLS reports that mechanical engineering technicians enjoy a median salary of $55,360.
Jobs for electrical and electronics engineering technicians are expected to grow by only two percent, according to the BLS. Electrical and electronics engineering technicians usually need an associate’s degree in their respective field. The reason their job growth is so slow is due these technicians primarily working in traditional manufacturing industries, which are slowly downsizing. However, these engineers still enjoy a median salary of $63,660, according to the BLS.
Jobs for industrial engineering technicians unfortunately will see little to no job growth, the BLS reported.