Electrical Engineering Technology Degrees: Associate, Bachelor's & Online Class Info

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What will you learn in an electrical engineering technology degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of an associate's and bachelor's degree, and potential careers.
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Study Electrical Engineering Technology: Degrees at a Glance

As an electrical engineering technology student, you learn to help develop equipment and devices that people use on a regular basis, such as navigation and communication systems, power generation equipment, and electric motors. You can attain an entry-level position as an electrical engineering technician with an associate's degree. However, a bachelor's degree prepares you for more positions and supervisory posts, such as an electrical engineering technologist. In some states, you may qualify for licensure as an electrical engineer after completing a bachelor's degree and gaining work experience.

Even though this discipline is the largest of the engineering technology fields, job growth is expected to rise slowly in this industry. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that electrical and electronic engineering technicians would only see a two percent increase in employment opportunities between 2010 and 2020, while electrical engineers could expect a six percent growth.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in entering the field as soon as possible People who want more versatile career options
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Electrical and electronic engineering technician ($57,000)*
- Electrical and electronic repairer ($52,000)*
- Engineering assistant (salary unavailable)
- Electrical engineer ($89,000 - with experience, depending on state licensure laws)*
- Electrical engineering technologist (salary unavailable)
- Computer programmer ($76,000)*
- Technical writer ($67,000)*
Time to Completion 2 years full-time 4-5 years full-time; 2 years for transfer students
Prerequisites - High school diploma
- Previous coursework in geometry, physics, and computers preferred
- High school diploma
- If transferring from an associate's degree program, a minimum grade point average may be required
Online Availability Not at this time Some courses might be available online

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

Associate's in Electrical Engineering Technology

In an electrical engineering technology associate's degree program, you study the foundational concepts of electrical energy and how they are used to power machines and equipment. You develop the skills to support engineers and technologists in designing, testing, and installing electrical systems and electronics. Many schools offer this program as a stepping stone to a bachelor's degree program, and others allow you to pursue a specialization in your second year. The primary goal of an associate's degree program in electrical engineering technology is to prepare you for entry-level work as a technician. Consider the pros and cons when deciding if this degree program's right for you.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Prepares you for a 4-year program
  • Most programs include labs and hands-on experiences, which can strengthen teamwork skills necessary for employment
  • Qualifies graduates for immediate employment

Cons

  • The job outlook for electrical engineering technicians was expected to be slower than average*
  • Getting a broad-based education could mean you don't become an expert in a specific area
  • Less likely to qualify for management or leadership positions

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Courses and Requirements

General education courses make up a good portion of the curriculum, and the major courses introduce you to the basic concepts behind electrical engineering technology. You may participate in lab components, since many classes have an attached lab requirement.

Here are some examples of courses you could take at the associate's level:

  • Digital electronics
  • DC/AC circuits
  • Microprocessors
  • Computer applications

Online Degree Options

It's unusual to find online associate's degree programs in electrical engineering technology. You'll want to research your options carefully, since the online programs you find may not be ABET-accredited. A career as an electrical engineering technician involves a lot of hands-on teamwork, and an on-campus program can provide the practical instruction necessary.

Stand Out with this Degree

When looking for associate's electrical engineering technology programs, keep an eye out for ones accredited by the Technology Accreditation Commission of ABET. ABET reports that graduating from an accredited program helps your employment potential. Take advantage of the hands-on experiences and lab work your program offers. According to the BLS, electrical and electronic engineering technicians require manual dexterity, so you may want to get plenty of practice time in with using hand tools and soldering. This environment also gives you the chance to practice your problem-solving skills. Since writing is involved with this type of job, whether it's writing reports, recording results, or identifying problems on paper, you could also benefit from an elective writing course.

You can also maximize your potential by becoming certified as a technician. The National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET) administers certification programs in electrical and mechanical systems engineering technology, such as electrical power testing. To qualify for the exam, you generally need a certain amount of experience in the field, depending on which level you're interested in. Becoming NICET-certified can indicate to employers that you have the necessary skills and knowledge for the job.

Bachelor's in Electrical Engineering Technology

Like in the associate's degree program, math, science, and engineering come together in an electrical engineering technology major. However, students have more research opportunities in a bachelor's program, and some schools encourage you to participate in an independent study. Computers and networks can play more of a role alongside electrical systems and electronic devices. If you already have your associate's degree, then you can focus on the upper-level courses, which typically take two years to complete. You can take this into consideration when weighing the pros and cons of a bachelor's degree program in electrical engineering technology.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • You may qualify for leadership or management roles
  • Allows you to creatively contribute to advancement in technology
  • Many jobs in the field require a bachelor's degree

Cons

  • Not all states accept an engineering technology degree for licensure as a Professional Engineer
  • States accepting an electrical engineering technology degree for licensure often require more work experience
  • Lifelong learning commonly needed to stay up-to-date with technology

Courses and Requirements

Many programs emphasize lab work, so you have plenty of time to practically apply the theories you learn in class. You can also choose technical electives, such as optics and robotics, in order to specialize your study.

In addition to general education requirements, some major coursework could include:

  • Analog and electronic circuit design
  • Computer-aided drafting
  • Programming languages for engineers
  • Energy conversion

Online Class Info

Due to the hands-on nature of this major, online programs aren't as common as on-campus ones. Hybrid options for this degree may require on-campus attendance for the labs, while some on-campus programs require students to complete one distance-learning course per year. Your online courses may be taken at your own pace, and hybrid programs may require you to be a transfer student with an associate's degree.

Getting Ahead with this Degree

As at the associate's level, you'll want to look for ABET-accredited bachelor's degree programs in electrical engineering technology. Not only does it increase your employment opportunities, per ABET, but it can help qualify you for certification and licensure credentials. While in your bachelor's degree program, you may want to consider getting involved in work-for-credit opportunities. According to the BLS, employers looking for electrical engineers desire candidates with practical experience, and cooperative education programs can provide such a background.

In order to stand out with a bachelor's degree, you can obtain certification as an Associate Engineering Technologist through NICET. This credential requires a 4-year degree from an ABET-accredited program. After accruing five years of work experience, you can qualify for the Certified Engineering Technologist credential.

Some employers looking for engineers may prefer to hire a Professional Engineer (PE), which is a designation regulated at the state level. The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying reports that Professional Engineers have more job opportunities. Requirements vary by state, but general requirements include graduating from an ABET-accredited program in engineering and passing exams, as well as having acceptable work experience (about four years). Some states won't allow you to take the licensure exams with an engineering technology degree. Other states may require an engineering technology graduate to have more work experience than applicants with an engineering degree.

Other Degrees

Although electrical engineering technology careers have a high average salary, computer engineering has a slightly higher projected job growth (nine percent instead of six) and salary potential. If you're still interested in researching, developing, and testing equipment, but you'd like to focus on computers exclusively, you can consider earning a bachelor's degree in computer engineering. Since electrical engineering technology touches on programming and computer networks, these programs are somewhat related. In May 2011, computer hardware engineers had an average salary of $101,360.

Since not all states accept engineering technology degrees to qualify for licensure as an engineer, electrical engineering could also be a good alternative for a field of study. Bachelor's degree programs in electrical engineering focus less on implementing and applying concepts and more on design and theory. If you definitely want to become an engineer, you may want to consider an electrical engineering degree over one in electrical engineering technology.

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