Mechanical Systems Technology: Diploma, Associate & Online Degree Info

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What kind of job can you get with a diploma or associate degree in mechanical systems technology? Find out degree program requirements, online options and info on courses and mechanical systems technology training programs.
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Studying Mechanical Systems Technology: Programs at a Glance

People employed in the mechanical systems technology field apply advanced knowledge of electronics, mechanical systems and electricity to the development, design and maintenance of a range of products and machinery. Pursuing an education in mechanical systems technology might make a career in process control, manufacturing, testing or sales available to you. Employers want job candidates who understand digital electronics, manufacturing processes and the interaction of electricity with movable parts.

The diploma program prepares students for entry-level equipment maintenance positions. The associate degree program offers the education required to pursue a career in a range of mechanical systems positions. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that service technicians could expect average job growth from 2010-2020, while engineering technicians were expected to see fewer opportunities. Automotive service technicians and mechanics would see 17% job growth from 2010-2020, the BLS reported (www.bls.gov). Industrial engineering technicians would see four percent growth.

Diploma Associate
Who is this degree for? People interested in entry-level technician positions in a range of industries Individuals who want to pursue an engineering technician career
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - Automotive service technician ($36,000)*
- Industrial machinery mechanic ($46,000)*
- Industrial engineering technician ($49,000)*
- Mechanical engineering technician ($51,000)*
Time to Completion Two years full-time Four years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements Roughly 60 credits Roughly 120 credits
Prerequisites High school diploma or equivalent High school diploma or equivalent
Online Availability None found as of September 2012 None found as of September 2012

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Diploma in Mechanical Systems Technology

The diploma in mechanical systems technology offers the basic education required for entry-level maintenance and repair opportunities. Students of the program learn the basic safety procedures, manufacturing processes and digital electronics theories. You learn about computer applications and technologies that impact the mechanical systems used in manufacturing settings. Programs emphasize the development of technical, communication and computer skills to offer a well-rounded foundation for immediate workforce entry or transfer to an associate degree program.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Industrial machinery mechanics were expected to see a 22% increase in job growth over the 2010-2020 decade*
  • Some positions paid relatively competitive salaries; industrial machinery mechanics earned a median annual salary of $46,000**
  • Many positions only require a high school diploma, which might make your diploma more marketable

Cons

  • Machinery maintenance workers would only see job growth of six percent over the 2010-2020 decade*
  • Diploma programs do not deliver education in automation, a growing skill set required in manufacturing
  • Pursuing the appropriate certification requires an additional commitment of time and financial resources

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2010-2020 job growth projections), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Courses and Requirements

The diploma program emphasizes the fundamentals of electronic engineering, materials, manufacturing and mechanical systems. You learn a range of concepts in the laws and principles of mechanics and circuitry. Following are some common courses offered by the program:

  • Maintenance and reliability
  • Welding and cutting techniques
  • Industrial mechanics
  • Fluid power
  • Computer-aided design
  • Survey of electronics
  • Design process

Online Program Info

The practical nature of mechanical systems makes offering a diploma through distance education difficult. Some schools offer programs that provide technical courses online. Despite this, locating a complete online mechanical systems technology diploma might prove difficult. If you do locate online diploma programs, research the school's accreditation status. The accreditation of some programs may not provide the opportunity to pursue relevant certification.

Stand Out with This Credential

Certification and experience play an important role in securing automotive service and industrial machinery positions. Fully qualified service technicians generally have 2-5 years' experience and spend time working with experienced technicians. Following are a couple of steps you can take to stand out with this degree:

  • Pursue the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence's certification if you plan to work with automobiles. The ASE certification is available in 40 domains and demonstrates your knowledge of a range of concepts and skills.
  • Take internship opportunities or work with a certified or experienced mechanic.

Associate in Mechanical Systems Technology

The associate degree program combines training in product design theories with an education in mechanical systems. Students explore computer-drafting technologies and develop the practical skills required to bridge the gap between engineers and production staff. You learn to develop consumer products through training in the installation, operation and maintenance of industrial machinery. Students spend time in laboratories applying the theoretical knowledge they gain in the classroom and some programs require the successful completion of a design project.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Programs offer technical, information technology and practical skills, which you might transfer to other industries
  • Fluctuations in the manufacturing industry affect mechanics less than other occupations due to the mechanic's ability to maintain and remanufacture equipment
  • Many programs transfer to a bachelor degree program, should you decide to continue your education

Cons

  • Salaries were comparable to those with a diploma; industrial machinery mechanics earned a median annual salary of $46,000 and industrial engineering technicians earned $49,000*
  • Mechanical engineering technicians will see a four percent increase in jobs over the 2010-2020 decade**
  • Associate degree programs will not prepare you for an engineering career; employers generally require a bachelor degree

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2010-2020 job growth projections).

Courses and Requirements

Programs deliver broad training in the technical skills required to support the manufacture of products, mechanical devices and engineering activities. You gain the knowledge required to perform safely in plants, manufacturing facilities and product testing environments. Schools design programs to provide a strong foundation in mathematics and physics. You take courses in technical physics, materials science, calculus, engineering graphics, engineering documentation, metrology and kinematics. Many programs offer a mechanics laboratory and students participate in senior design projects.

Online Program Info

Similar to the diploma program, the online associate degree might prove difficult to locate. The practical nature of the program and the emphasis on designing and operating heavy machinery do not mesh well with distance-learning programs.

Stand Out with This Credential

Industrial and mechanical engineering technicians were expected to experience slower-than-average job growth of four percent from 2010-2020, according to the BLS. Despite this, the BLS reported that mechanical engineering technicians might experience broader growth in re-manufacturing and alternative energies. Similarly, industrial engineering technicians may see stronger growth in project management. Consequently, prepare yourself by taking courses in alternative energy product design, including solar and wind power products, and project management might improve your marketability. In addition, mechanical engineering technicians should take advantage of emerging technologies by utilizing new computer applications during design projects or in the classroom.

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