What You'll Do
By Sarah Stevenson
Engineering technology involves the hands-on application of technical expertise to engineering tasks in a wide range of industries. From building our nation's infrastructure to making our transportation and energy systems more efficient, wherever scientists and engineers are found, so are engineering technicians and technologists. Engineering techs may assist with setting up equipment, conducting experiments, and collecting data, or they may be involved in the design and development end of the process, using computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) equipment or constructing prototypes.
Working in the field of engineering technology most likely means spending a lot of time in a lab, at a construction site, or in a manufacturing or industrial plant. Depending on your area of specialization, you might find job opportunities anywhere from microelectronics to biotechnology to industrial manufacturing.
A career in the technology of engineering is more narrowly focused than the career of a regular engineer, focusing on applied rather than theoretical knowledge. Most people who work in the field specialize in a particular area, such as aerospace engineering technology, environmental engineering technology or manufacturing engineering technology, to name just a few.
The Future of Engineering Technology
Because of the continuing need for skilled workers on-site at infrastructure improvement projects such as transportation, pollution control systems, and building and road repair, civil engineering technology is expected to be a rapidly-growing field in the decade to come. Environmental engineering technology is one of the most exciting areas in terms of expansion, and environmental engineering techs help companies and governments comply with environmental regulations and implement new, cleaner technologies. Some job growth is also expected in the area of industrial engineering technology, where skilled workers are needed to analyze performance, reduce costs and improve productivity.
Schools & Degrees
- Associate's Degree in Engineering Technology: A 2-year associate's degree is the minimum education needed to start a career as an engineering technician. This program involves training within one of the many engineering technology specialties. Technical institutes, community colleges, university extension programs, vocational schools and the Armed Forces offer associate's degree programs.
- Bachelor's Degree in Engineering Technology: A 4-year degree specializing in the technology of engineering usually prepares you to become an engineering technologist or even an applied engineer, rather than a technician. If you already hold a 2-year degree in engineering technology, you may be able to transfer some or all of your credits to a 4-year degree program.
- Master's and Doctoral Degrees in Engineering Technology: Higher-level jobs may be available to those who complete a master's degree, such as a Master of Science in Engineering Technology (MSET). An advanced degree will teach you a more sophisticated skill set and prepare you for supervisory roles. Doctorates in engineering technology itself are rare, but some engineering techs choose to pursue a PhD in management or in a specific engineering discipline.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2018-19 Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median national annual salary for environmental engineering technicians is $49,170; for civil engineering technicians, $49,080; and for industrial engineering technicians, $53,330. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.