Electronics Technology Degrees: Associate, Bachelor's & Online Course Info

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What kind of job can you get with an associate or bachelor's degree in electronics technology? Find out the pros and cons of these degrees, program requirements and online course options.
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Studying Electronics Technology: Degrees at a Glance

We use electronics to conduct business, play, communicate and provide medical care. Earning a degree in electronics technology can teach you the physics and science behind how electronic devices work and the integration of electronic components for a variety of uses. However, getting a job in electronics manufacturing or repair after graduating from any degree program could be difficult. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) anticipated slow growth for electronics repair and engineering jobs and rapid decline for electronics manufacturing work from 2010-2020.

If you want to perform repair or assembly line work, you probably won't need to get a degree, but employers do prefer that you have a working knowledge of electronics. You can get introductory training through vocational and associate degree programs. If you decide to earn a bachelor's degree, most majors include electronics engineering instruction, which can provide you with advanced skills in design and management.

Associate Degree Bachelor's Degree
Who Is This Degree for? Mechanically minded individuals with no electronics experience - People with no electronics experience
- Associate degree holders interested in more advanced electronics design and engineering work
Common Career Paths (with salary ranges for majority of professionals) - Electronics technician ($25,000-$55,000)*
- Electronics equipment assembler ($20,000-$42,000)*
- Electronics manufacturing technician ($29,000-$51,000)*
- Commercial electronics repairer ($38,000-$48,000)*
- Electronics engineering technician ($32,000-$70,000)*
- Electronics drafter ($28,000-$47,000)*
- Electronics technician ($26,000-$62,000)*
- Electronics manufacturing technician ($25,000-$60,000)*
- Electronics drafter ($31,000-$42,000)*
- Electronics engineering technician ($36,000-$64,000)*
Time to Completion 2 full-time years 4 full-time years, 8 part-time years or 2 full-time years for a completion program
Common Graduation Requirements - Some programs require field work or internships
- You might need to supply your own tools
- Might require licensure testing, depending on specialty
Prerequisites - Most, but not all, schools require a high school diploma or GED
- Geometry and algebra courses
- Skills testing
- Sufficient vision and motor skills
- Traditional 4-year programs usually require only a high school eduction
- Completion programs require an associate degree or previous college coursework
- Demonstrated competencies in math, science and communication
Online Availability Uncommon, some blended format Fully online or blended

Sources: *April 2012 PayScale.com statistics: distinguished by degree earned.

Associate Degree in Electronics Technology

Associate degree programs generally involve quite a bit of hands-on learning to familiarize you with electronic components, theories and practical applications. While some schools introduce you to the general concepts of electronics, you can find several programs that offer a particular focus area, such as computer, telecommunication, automation or industrial electronics. Since you aren't expected to have any background knowledge or experience, you'll have an opportunity to learn by doing in electronics labs, field experiences and internships. However, you could have the added expense of purchasing your own tools for the program.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • No prior electronics experience or knowledge necessary
  • Generally acceptable to employers
  • Gain practical knowledge through work and labs
  • Can specialize in several areas

Cons

  • Purchasing your own tools can be expensive
  • Applicants with a bachelor's degree could trump your education in the job market
  • There is some risk in electrocution or electrical burning - follow proper safety precautions
  • Job options could be limited to assembly, repair and technician work

Courses and Requirements

The courses you'll take largely depend on the focus of the program or the concentration you select. If you want to specialize in computer electronics, you might choose electives in networking devices and programming. Communications electives could include broadcasting systems and telephony. Regardless of your focus area, some common course topics in all electronics technology programs include:

  • AC and DC circuitry
  • Electronics fabrication
  • Digital electronics
  • Electrical controls
  • Microprocessors
  • Communications
  • Technical math and physics

Online Course Info

While you'll be able to find a few schools that offer some online coursework, at the associate degree level you'll generally need to attend campus for at least your practical lab coursework. In some cases, you might also need to participate in an orientation to familiarize you with online learning. Technical requirements might be a little higher for an electronics program; some schools might require you to have a webcam or high-resolution graphics capabilities. Courses offered online usually consist of general education, but you might be able to take online classes in microprocessors, electronic systems, home technologies and basic digital electronics.

Standing Out With This Degree

Since repair and maintenance work in electronics might require no more than a high school diploma, getting formally trained in electronics technology could put you ahead of the competition. However, employers also prefer that you have experience in specific products and knowledge of safety standards. All associate degree programs include hands-on assignments and projects that let you dig in and learn through practice. Most associate degree programs include a work co-op or internship requirement where you can learn from professionals and establish contacts for future employment.

Additionally, taking the electrical standards course offered by OSHA can demonstrate your awareness of precautions associated with the repair and installation of electrical equipment. If you want to work in avionics, you might stand a better chance by getting certified in airframe and powerplant through the FAA. Likewise, to repair communications equipment, obtaining FCC licensure in general radiotelephone operations could help you stand out from the competition.

Degree Alternatives

A specialized program in biomedical equipment technology also teaches you about electronics and might afford you more job opportunities. Associate degree programs in this field can prepare you for work in the health care field. The BLS anticipated a much brighter future for these jobs, with a 31% expected increase from 2010-2020.

If you're more computer savvy, earning an associate degree in an information technology field could qualify you for a job as a computer support specialist. The BLS anticipated jobs in this field to grow 18% during the reporting period. Several schools also offer specialized programs in IT, such as health, library and security technologies, all of which have a much higher anticipated job growth than electronics technologies.

Similar in concept, though different in practice, electrician jobs don't usually require you to earn a degree. It's more common to get into this career by completing an apprenticeship. However, you can also learn the basics about electricity and electrical wiring through electrical technology certificate and associate degree programs at a local community or vocational college. Most programs include internship or apprenticeship opportunities that count as credit toward the program and can qualify you for state licensure.

Bachelor's Degree in Electronics Technology

Although you might find a few 4-year bachelor's degree programs in electronics technology, most majors at this level are in electronics engineering technology. Quite a few schools offer completion programs that award a degree within a shorter period, as long as you have an associate degree in a related field or sufficient college-level coursework in electronics. You'll find more online courses at the bachelor's degree level, especially for degree completion programs. These generally assume that you have enough practical knowledge and hands-on experience that you only need to learn advanced electronic science and theory, which can be covered online. Majoring in electronics technology isn't going to offer you much of a salary bump over people with only an associate degree; however, selecting an electronics engineering technology major could open up more career possibilities.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Could increase job opportunities
  • Some programs specifically train you for electronics licensing/certification
  • You could also receive business management training
  • Some schools offer online and blended programs

Cons

  • The same jobs offer little salary improvement regardless of degree earned*
  • Outsourcing and automation is expected to limit employment in the U.S.**
  • Engineering jobs could require additional education and licensing

Source: *PayScale.com, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Courses and Requirements

Like associate degree programs, bachelor's degree curricula let you choose an area of emphasis for your elective courses. Core courses include introductory or refresher instruction in basic electronic concepts. Depending on your focus, you could learn programming and computer circuit analysis, industrial electronics and robotics, telecommunications, aviation technologies or general electronics.

Online Course Info

You might find more fully online options through an electronics engineering technology degree completion program, but even blended and on-campus programs are still more common at the bachelor's degree level. Fully online programs make use of interactive simulations, which generally need a high-speed Internet connection to access and download. Blended formats give you the chance to learn the fundamentals online and practice through on-campus labs. Some courses you might be able to take online include:

  • Introductory electronics
  • AC and DC circuitry
  • Computer components
  • Circuit analysis
  • Computer logic boards
  • Microcontrollers

Standing Out with This Degree

During your program, you'll usually have a few opportunities to work on individual and group projects that allow you to hone your skills for future employment. Some programs require you to present your work, which can develop your public speaking and communication skills. If your school sponsors a chapter of a professional organization, such as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, joining can offer you extracurricular educational opportunities through peer review, conferences and access to professional publications.

With a bachelor's degree in electronics engineering technology, you could work toward licensure as a Professional Engineer in some states, which might be a benefit to some employers. Additionally, the BLS states that certification in your particular specialty could make your qualifications more attractive to employers. Organizations, such as the Electronics Technicians Association International or the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation, offer general and specific credentials that can not only help you get a job but also advance your career.

Degree Alternatives

If you decide that electronics is nice, but engineering definitely suits your career goals, most engineering jobs only require a bachelor's degree. Other disciplines could provide better employment opportunities and still offer pretty high salary potential. A few similar options within an engineering major include electrical, mechanical and biomedical engineering. Though distinctive in focus, these engineering programs all usually contain courses that cover electronic circuitry and the components that make up different electronic systems. Like electronics technology programs, bachelor's degree programs in engineering are available online and in a blended format if you have enough relevant previous education.

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Virginia College

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Excelsior College

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