Instead of becoming an engineer, many individuals choose to become engineering technicians. These professionals specialize in a wide range of industries, such as civil, industrial, environmental and mechanical engineering, and usually work under the supervision of professional engineers.
Engineering technicians work in science-related fields and may work in laboratories, on construction sites, in offices or at industrial and manufacturing plants. They assist engineers with research and development, quality control or design. They may also work alongside scientists or as quality assurance inspectors. Career outlooks and salaries vary by sub-field, which include civil, industrial, mechanical, electronics, and environmental engineering. Though it is possible to secure employment with only a high school diploma, almost all engineering technicians have completed a postsecondary training or degree program related to their field.
|Required Education||Associate's degree in civil, industrial, electrical or mechanical engineering; some employers will hire technicians with no postsecondary education and provide on-the-job training|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)|| -1%* (for all drafters, engineering technicians, and mapping technicians)
2%* (for mechanical engineering technicians)
+10%* (for environmental engineering technicians)
-5%* (for industrial engineering technicians)
5%* (for civil engineering technicians)
-2%* (for electrical and electronics engineering technicians)
|Median Salary (2015)|| $53,910* (for mechanical engineering technicians)
$48,650* (for environmental engineering technicians)
$53,780* (for industrial engineering technicians)
$49,260* (for civil engineering technicians)
$61,130* (for electrical and electronics engineering technicians)
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
The BLS reported that overall employment of all drafting, mapping and engineering technicians was predicted to decrease by one percent from 2014-2024. In 2014, the majority of engineering technician positions were in the field of electronics and electrical engineering, which employed 139,400 workers (www.bls.gov). However, environmental engineering technicians were expected to see a 10% increase in jobs, growing from 18,600 workers to 20,400 workers, which was the largest growth of all engineering technician fields, according to the BLS.
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Engineering technicians use math and science skills to assist engineers with creating products, improving manufacturing methods and maintaining assembly systems. Job duties vary depending on the specific industry in which an engineering technician is employed.
Aerospace engineering technicians run and maintain devices used to test aircraft. Mechanical engineering technicians design, test and manufacture consumer products and machinery. Civil engineering technicians assist engineers with designing and building roads and various structures. Environmental engineering technicians design methods and devices to prevent and control health hazards, such as air pollution. Electrical and electronic engineering technicians help create and manufacture digital equipment.
While occasionally employers will hire an individual without formal training, the majority prefer that candidates possess a college degree or some postsecondary training, reports the BLS. Training programs in engineering technology are found in universities, technical schools, community colleges and the armed forces.
A 2-year engineering technician program at a community college might offer concentrations in civil, industrial, electrical or mechanical engineering. Certificate programs can typically be completed in a year or less and may be an option for individuals who already have a related degree or other training. Coursework is generally math and science focused and may include calculus, physics, technical writing, engineering mechanics and computer-aided design.
There are many options for individuals who wish to become engineering technicians, and postsecondary degree programs are available in a variety of fields, including mechanical, civil, electrical and industrial engineering. Engineering technicians usually provide support to engineers by assisting with quality control testing, assembly and maintenance duties. Job opportunities for engineering technicians are expected to decrease in many fields, according to the BLS, but during the 2014-2024 decade, positions for environmental engineering technicians are expected to grow by 10%.