Many engineering technicians assist scientists and engineers with research and development. They use their knowledge of science, engineering, and mathematics to solve technical problems. Their work has a narrower scope and is more focused on practicality than the work of scientists and engineers. They may work in manufacturing, sales, construction, inspection, and maintenance. Some specialize in quality control where they inspect products, conduct tests, and collect data. They may also work on product design, development, and production in the manufacturing sector. Although their work is similar to technicians who repair or maintain electrical, electronic, or mechanical equipment, engineering technicians are separate from these installation, maintenance, and repair occupations.
Engineering technicians who specialize in research and development perform a variety of tasks, including setting up and maintaining equipment, preparing and conducting experiments, collecting data, calculating results, and making prototype versions of newly designed equipment. Many assist engineers and scientists with design work which often involves the use of computer-aided design (CAD) equipment. Engineering technicians usually specialize in aerospace, chemical, civil, electrical and electronics, environmental, industrial, or mechanical engineering.
Creativity is a necessary quality for engineering technicians because they often assist in design work. Engineering technicians must have good communication skills and the ability to work cooperatively with others. This is because so much of their work is done in a team setting. Engineering technicians must have both mathematical and mechanical aptitudes. Their work often requires high degrees of patience and precision.
In 2002, engineering technicians earned the following median annual salaries in the following specialties:
- Aerospace engineering and operations technicians — $51,650
- Electrical and electronics engineering technicians — $42,950
- Industrial engineering technicians — $41,910
- Mechanical engineering technicians — $41,280
- Electro-mechanical technicians — $38,120
- Civil engineering technicians — $37,720
- Environmental engineering technicians — $36,850
Training and Education
Most employers of engineering technicians prefer to hire applicants with at least a 2-year associate degree in engineering technology, although some candidates obtain jobs without formal training. Technical institutes, community colleges, extension divisions of colleges and universities, public and private vocational-technical schools, and the Armed Forces all provide training in this vocation. Some individuals who have taken college courses in science, engineering, and mathematics may be able to qualify for certain positions. High school students interested in becoming engineering technicians should focus on as many science and math classes as possible to prepare for postsecondary training.
2-year associate degree programs accredited by the Technology Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (TAC/ABET) usually require college algebra and trigonometry, as well as one or two basic science courses. These programs are generally considered to have the highest competence level in the mathematics, science, and technical course requirements. Community colleges offer more theory and general education courses, and technical institutes offer more intensive technical training. Programs run by private, often for-profit organizations, can vary greatly in length of courses and types of training.
In 2002, engineering technicians held about 478,000 jobs. 204,000 of these jobs were electrical and electronics engineering technicians. 39% of engineering technicians worked in manufacturing, and 20% worked in professional, scientific, and technical services.
Between 2002 and 2012, employment of engineering technicians is expected to increase about as fast as the average. Competition in the manufacturing industry will force companies to improve and update their facilities and product designs, while computer-aided design and drafting will increase productivity and limit growth. Opportunities will be best for candidates holding an associate degree or extensive job training in engineering technology.
For more information on pursuing a careeer as an engineering technician, please check out our directory of schools offering Computer and Technology training.