Engineering technology is an excellent degree path for students who are good at math and science, enjoy hands-on work with technology and don’t want to invest their time in lengthy degree programs. The education required for a career as an engineering technician in all disciplines is an associate’s degree, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The typical time to complete an associate’s degree in a field like engineering technology is just two years. However, if you really want to get your degree faster and are willing to put in the work to complete an intensive course load, you can accelerate your education.
Accelerated Associate’s Degree Programs in Engineering Technology
Engineering technology programs, like engineering degree programs, are accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). All ABET-accredited associate’s degree programs in engineering technology have to meet minimum requirements. These requirements include studies in algebra and trigonometry, basic physical and natural science subjects, and a technical core that makes up one-third to two-thirds of the total credit hours needed to graduate. This technical core covers the increasingly complex program-specific coursework needed for students to work in their chosen discipline as an engineering technician.
With all of these requirements, it is difficult for engineering technology schools to shorten the duration of an associate’s degree to less than two years of study. The accelerated associate’s degree programs that exist are often programs that award college credit for prior knowledge and life experience. Students who already have considerable experience in the field – such as those who worked for years in a related position – can test out of certain classes and finish their degrees faster.
At Colorado Technical University, for example, the online Associate of Science in Electronics Technology degree is designed to take 24 months. Students who take advantage of the school’s Fast Track Exams can cut out as many as three courses or 13 credits by testing out of these subjects.
The Engineering Technology Associate of Science degree offered by St. Petersburg College in Florida is another example of a program that considers the importance of students’ prior experience in their education. Students in the program can focus their education on an academic track such as electronics, medical quality systems, biomedical systems, quality and digital design and modeling. Those who have already earned the Portable Production Technician Certification from the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC), a national training and certification system, start off with 15 credit hours. Since the curriculum requires a total of 60 credits completed, having advanced standing cuts out a quarter of the college credits, and time, needed to graduate.
While students can transfer from an associate’s degree to a bachelor’s degree program in engineering technology, they can’t transfer as seamlessly to a bachelor’s program in engineering. Engineering is a different field of study with different course requirements.
Associate’s and Baccalaureate Degrees in Engineering Technology
In addition to two-year associate’s degrees, ABET also accredits four-year baccalaureate degrees in engineering technology. These programs must meet all of the same requirements as associate’s degree programs but are also subject to additional requirements. For example, students must complete math courses in integral calculus and a capstone or integrating experience in which they apply the technical skills they have learned.
Attaining a bachelor’s degree in engineering technology can earn you a different job title, engineering technologist. However, the extra time it takes to attain a bachelor’s degree in this field is only one of the reasons why engineering technicians rarely move on to baccalaureate studies. Engineering technology degrees are better to earn at community colleges, according to U.S. News & World Report. Employers in this field tend to be more impressed with a candidate’s skills in the latest technology than with a four-year degree, which most engineering technology jobs don’t require, anyway. Completing specialized on-the-job training and attaining individual certifications from professional organizations like the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET) can often boost salary potential and job prospects for engineering technologists more than a baccalaureate degree, without requiring another two years (or more) of study.
Though the median wage for aerospace engineering technicians is $55,000 to $75,000, those with specialized training can see salaries as high as $95,000 to $110,000, according to U.S. News & World Report.