Engineering Technician

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CAREER PROFILE

Duties: Assist engineers in research and development on energy projects, setting up and maintaining equipment in a research laboratory and drafting plans for new designs on a computer; under supervision, work on quality control, inspect electronic products and processes, conduct tests, and collect data

Alternate Title(s): None

Salary Range: $15,000 to $60,000 or more (In USD as of Apr 1, 2015)(Source: monster.com;simplyhired.com)

Employment Prospects: Fair to Good

Advancement Prospects: Good

Prerequisites:

Education or Training - Two-year associate’s degree in engineering technology at an accredited engineering school is basic requirement; four-year college degree in engineering a plus, but not necessary                      

Experience - From two to six years’ experience in engineering technology in field of specialization; some entry-level posts may require only minimal job experience

Special Skills and Personality Traits - Analytical, critical thinking and problem solving capabilities; attention to detail, initiative, and creativity; good communication skills, both verbal and writing, and aptitude to work well with others; high goal orientation towards achievement; dependability; exertion of efforts toward mastering tasks; leadership potential

Special Requirements - Certification seldom required, but recommended for a competitive advantage when job seeking

CAREER LADDER

College Graduate > Engineering Technician > Engineer (in area of specialty)

Position Description

Engineering Technicians support engineering activities by using the principles and theories of science, engineering, and mathematics to solve technical problems in construction, inspection, maintenance, manufacturing, sales, and research and development. Their work is more limited in scope and more application-oriented than that of scientists and engineers. Those working in quality control may collect data, conduct tests, and inspect products/processes. Those in manufacturing may assist in product design, development, or production. Those involved in research and development assist engineers and/or scientists in building or setting up equipment, preparing and conducting experiments, collecting data, and calculating or recording results. They may make prototype versions of newly designed equipment and assist in other design work, often using design and drafting (CADD) software and equipment.

Most Engineering Technicians specialize, learning their skills by working closely with engineers in their same discipline. Thus, occupational titles of Engineering Technicians tend to reflect their engineering specialties.

Civil Engineering Technicians aid civil engineers in planning and constructing highways, buildings, bridges, dams, wastewater treatment systems, and other structures (such as power plants), as well as undertake related research. They may be assigned to estimate construction costs and specify materials to be used in the construction and even to prepare drawings or perform land-surveying tasks.

Electrical and electronics Engineering Technicians make up over one-third of the labor force of Engineering Technicians. They help design, develop, test, and manufacture electrical and electronic equipment such as communication equipment, radar, industrial (and medical) monitoring or control devices, and computer equipment. They may work in product evaluation and testing, using measuring and diagnostic devices to adjust, test, modify, and repair developmental or operational electrical machinery and electrical control equipment and circuitry in industrial or commercial plants and laboratories. They may be assigned to modify electrical prototypes, parts, assemblies, and systems to correct functional deviations, as well as collaborate with electrical engineers and other personnel to identify, define, and solve developmental problems. They often write procedures for electrical installations and prepare project cost and work-time estimates.

Electromechanical Engineering Technicians combine fundamental principles of mechanical engineering technology with knowledge of electrical and electronic circuits to design, develop, test, and manufacture electric and computer- controlled mechanical systems (such as nuclear-plant controlling devices and electric transmission switching devices).

Environmental Engineering Technicians work closely with environmental engineers and scientists to develop methods and devices used in the prevention, control, or correction of environmental hazards (such as nuclear waste products, or coal-mining by-products). They aid in inspecting and maintaining equipment related to air pollution and recycling. Some inspect water and wastewater treatment systems to ensure that pollution control requirements are met and standards are maintained.

Industrial Engineering Technicians study the efficient use of personnel, materials, and machines in factories, power plants, stores, repair shops, and offices. They prepare layouts of machinery and equipment, plan the flow of work, make statistical studies, and analyze production costs.

Mechanical Engineering Technicians help engineers design, develop, test, and manufacture industrial machinery, consumer products, and other equipment (such as gas turbines, oil-well drilling equipment, or coal-mining machinery). They may assist in product testing, make sketches and rough layouts, and write orders and purchase requests for work furnished by outside contractors. They record and analyze data, comparing test results to design or rated specifications/test objectives, make calculations and estimates, and report their findings to engineers and project managers. When planning production, mechanical Engineering Technicians prepare layouts and drawings of the assembly process and of the parts to be manufactured. They devise, fabricate, and assemble new or modified mechanical components for products such as industrial machinery/ equipment or coal-mining drilling equipment and measuring instruments. They estimate labor costs, equipment life spans, and plant space. Some may be assigned to test and inspect machinery and equipment, or work with engineers on quality control and the elimination of any potential production problems.

Salaries

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, median annual earnings in May 2004 of Engineering Technicians ranged from $38,480 to $52,500, depending upon their specialty. Median annual earnings of electrical and electronics Engineering Technicians were $46,310 in May 2004. Their yearly salaries ranged from a low of $29,000 to a high of $67,900. Median annual earnings of civil Engineering Technicians were $38,480 in May 2004. Their yearly income ranged from a low of $24,180 to a high of $57,550. Median annual earnings of mechanical Engineering Technicians in May 2004 were $43,400, and the average annual salary for environmental Engineering Technicians was $36,530.

In their joint annual salary survey of 2006, the American Society of Certified Engineering Technicians (ASCET) and the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET) found that the largest percentage of Engineering Technicians were earning yearly salaries between $40,000 and $65,000.

Employment Prospects

Job opportunities are best for aspiring Engineering Technicians who have an associate’s degree or extensive job training in engineering technology. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, overall employment of Engineering Technicians is expected to increase about as fast as the average for all occupations through 2014. Competitive pressures will force companies (such as those in the electric power and oil and gas industries) to improve and update manufacturing facilities, product designs, and facilities, resulting in more opportunities for Engineering Technicians.

Because Engineering Technicians work closely with engineers, employment of Engineering Technicians is often influenced by the same local and national economic conditions that affect engineers. As a result, the employment outlook tends to vary according to the industry and the particular specialization. Growth in the largest specialty—electrical and electronics Engineering Technicians—is expected to be about as fast as the average, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2006–07 Edition, whereas employment of environmental Engineering Technicians is expected to grow faster than average in order to meet the environmental demands of an ever-growing population.

Advancement Prospects

Engineering Technicians can expect to be upgraded to full-fledged engineers within their specialty after sufficient years of training (usually 10 or more) and demonstrated proof of their capabilities. Engineering Technicians usually begin by performing routine tasks under the close supervision of an experienced technician, technologist, or engineer. As the newcomers gain experience, they are given more difficult assignments with only general supervision. (Some of them may even become supervisors.) Becoming engineers in their specialty is a process of gained experience, excellent job recommendations, and, usually, the successful completion of the certification process that most engineers undergo.

Education and Training

Most employers prefer to hire an Engineering Technician who has at least a two-year associate’s degree in engineering technology from an accredited school. (Most two-year associate’s degree programs are accredited by the Technology Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, or ABET.) Training is available at technical institutes, community colleges, extension divisions of colleges and universities, public and private vocational-training schools, and in the U.S. Armed Forces. Individuals with college courses in science, engineering, and mathematics may qualify for some positions as Engineering Technicians but may need additional specialized training and experience.

Prospective Engineering Technicians should take as many science and mathematics courses as possible. The type of technical courses required depends on the specialty of the aspiring Engineering Technician. For example, mechanical Engineering Technicians need to take courses in fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, and mechanical design, whereas electrical Engineering Technicians may need classes in electrical circuits, microprocessors, and digital electronics.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

On-the-job activities for Engineering Technicians usually include work in a laboratory, traveling to plants or construction sites, and gaining practice working as part of a team. Because they often are part of a team of engineers and other technicians, good communication skills and the aptitude to work well with others is critical. Their laboratory proficiency will include becoming knowledgeable about high-speed oscilloscopes, Multi-meters, logic and spectrum analyzers, and becoming proficient in using other standard test equipment. They will need to keep up with new technology and equipment utilized in their specialty, and demonstrate that they can work carefully and accurately.

Because many Engineering Technicians assist in design work, creativity is desirable. They must be able to read schematics and be computer literate. Knowledge of computer- aided design and drafting (CADD) software and techniques is recommended. They must have the ability to perform basic mathematical calculations and be proficient in algebra and trigonometry. They must have solid writing skills, as they will likely be required to prepare (daily) written reports. They will need to be analytical in their thinking, exhibit close attention to detail, and have problem-solving abilities.

Special Requirements

While most employers of Engineering Technicians do not require them to be certified, such certification may provide them with an edge when job seeking. The National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET) has established a voluntary certification program for Engineering Technicians. Certification is available at various levels; each stage combines a written examination in one of about 30 specialties with a specified amount of job-related experience, a supervisory evaluation, and a recommendation. Specialty certifications are also offered by a variety of professional societies and associations in the various disciplines of engineering.

Unions and Associations

The American Society of Certified Engineering Technicians (ASCET) is the only national, professional society created especially for, and administered by, the Engineering Technicians and technologists in all types of engineering disciplines. Engineering Technicians may also find it useful to belong to the primary professional associations devoted to their specialty in engineering.

Tips for Entry

1. While in high school or college, upgrade your computer skills by learning drafting (CAD) methodologies.

2. If your interest resides in electrical engineering or construction, work with the stage crew of college dramatic productions and get experience building sets or working the light board.

3. Join an engineering club and/or get involved in engineering competitions, such as the one offered by the Junior Engineering Technical Society (JETS).