Pros and Cons of Being an Engineering Technician
Engineering technicians assist engineers with work in manufacturing or industrial plants, labs or on construction sites. Reading the pros and cons of being an engineering technician may help you decide if this is the career you want.
|PROS of Being an Engineering Technician|
|Many specialization options (mechanical, civil, electrical engineering)*|
|Variety in daily duties*|
|Can work in various geographic locations*|
|Technical training or associate's degrees may be sufficient for entry-level positions*|
|CONS of Being an Engineering Technician|
|Possible exposure to hazardous materials*|
|May require additional training to advance to managerial positions*|
|Must have continued training to keep up with technology*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Engineering technicians are professionals who assist engineers in various fields, depending on the career choice. Their duties typically involve the installation, upgrade and service of various products. Engineering technicians are often confused with engineering technologists and engineers due to the similarities of their duties. For example, while engineering technologists look for ways to improve the efficiency and quality of the computers, technicians are called upon when the computer needs repair or service.
Because of this, technicians must keep up with their education so they're knowledgeable of the constantly changing technology. In addition to servicing products, engineering technicians may inspect and test products to ensure their efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Some engineering technicians may include electrical and electronic engineering technicians, civil engineering technicians, mechanical engineering technicians and electro-mechanical engineering technicians, among others.
Salary Info and Employment Outlook
Employment growth for engineering technicians will vary by industry. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), electrical engineering technicians are not expected to see any increase in employment from 2012-2022, while environmental engineering technicians should see jobs increase by 18% between 2012 and 2022.
Wages for engineering technicians also vary by specialty. For example, aerospace engineering technicians earned a median annual wage of around $64,000 in 2014, while civil engineering technicians earned around $48,000.
Education and Training Requirements
What Employers Are Looking For
If you're interested in pursuing a career as an engineering technician, you may be lucky enough to find a job where you receive on-the-job training; however, employers usually prefer to hire individuals who have postsecondary training, such as an associate's degree in engineering technology. This type of training is found at community colleges and technical schools. Engineering technician programs typically require applicants to have high school diplomas or GED equivalent.
Depending on their specialty, they may also have to take additional science and math courses in their formal training. Training programs include courses such as geometric dimensioning and tolerancing, electrical circuits, computer integrated manufacturing, CNC programming and control, statistical process control and AutoCAD.
Job Postings from Real Employers
Employers generally advertise for prospective engineering technicians with some experience. Below are some job postings open during March 2012:
- An engineering company is looking for an engineering technician to work in their Washington firm. The self-motivated individual must be proficient in CAD and SolidWorks, as well as Designer, Drafter and Lab. Applicants should have at least four years experience in either mechanical or electrical engineering.
- A Kentucky civil engineering company is seeking an entry-level engineering technician. Although experience is preferred, it's not required. This position requires testing on concrete, soils, steel and asphalt for construction projects. Applicants must have their own transportation to haul testing equipment.
- A North Carolina consulting company is looking for an engineering technician to work with the engineering department in their construction company. Applicants should have an associate's degree or at least two years experience working in a construction company and with CADD. This full-time position requires some overnight travel, as well as performing testing and assisting engineers.
How to Get an Edge in the Field
The National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET) and the American Society of Certified Engineering Technicians (ASCET) offer voluntary certification programs for engineering technicians. The ASCET also offers information on re-certification, continuing education and various training programs available for interested engineering technicians.
Employers often look favorably on employees who need little training, as well as those who are cross-trained and knowledge in several areas. Continuing education will help keep you abreast of new technology and is also a requirement for re-certification. Obtaining additional training is also a good way to improve your chances for advancements and promotions.
Other Careers to Consider
Civil Engineering Technician
If you like the idea of becoming an engineering technician, but you want a field with a better employment outlook, you might consider becoming a civil engineering technician. The training program is similar to being a general engineering technician but with civil engineering courses. As a civil engineering technician, you'll assist engineers in designing bridges, highways and buildings. The BLS predicted civil engineering technicians would see an employment growth of 12% between 2010 and 2020.
Industrial Machinery Mechanics and Maintenance Workers
A career as an industrial machinery mechanic and maintenance may be a good fit for you if you enjoy fixing things and want to be part of a career with a good employment outlook. One year of formal training is all you'll need to be qualified for an entry-level position. The BLS reported that these workers earned median annual wages of $48,000 in 2011. Employment of industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers was expected to grow 19% between 2010 and 2020, according to the BLS.