Engineering technicians solve technical problems in research and development, manufacturing, sales, construction, inspection, and maintenance by using science, engineering and mathematical principles. They often assist engineers and scientists. The work of engineering technicians is more application oriented and more limited in scope than that of engineers. Engineering technicians specialize in the following engineering disciplines:
In 2012 there were 9,750 aerospace, 70,790 civil, 144,460 electrical and electronics, 16,990 electro-mechanical, 18,590 environmental, 67,400 industrial and 46,630 mechanical engineering technicians. There were 65,090 people who worked as technicians in other engineering disciplines.
Engineering technicians typically work full time. Most work in offices and laboratories alongside engineers. In some disciplines, for example civil, agricultural and environmental engineering, technicians may spend time outdoors. Mechanical and industrial engineering technicians work in manufacturing settings.
Those who want to work as engineering technicians should have at least an associate degree in engineering technology, although some employers will hire candidates who don't have formal training. Students can expect to take courses in college algebra and trigonometry and basic science. Other coursework depends on the specialty. For example, future electrical engineering technicians will take classes in electrical circuits, microprocessors and digital electronics.
Certification of engineering technicians is voluntary but it can give job candidates a competitive advantage. It is offered by the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies and includes a written exam in one of 30 specialties, job-related experience, a supervisory evaluation and a recommendation.
In addition to formal training, an engineering technician needs certain soft skills, or personal qualities. One must have strong reading comprehension skills. He or she must have excellent listening and speaking skills. Also important are critical thinking skills—the ability to evaluate various solutions to problems—and complex problem-solving skills.
Engineering technicians initially work under the supervision of more experienced technicians, technologists, engineers or scientists. As they gain experience they are given more difficult assignments with limited supervision. Eventually, they may become supervisors.
The job outlook for engineering technicians, through 2022, will vary by specialty. For example, civil engineering and electrical engineering technicians will see little or no growth, mechanical engineering technicians will experience slow growth and employment of industrial engineering technicians will decline (The US Bureau of Labor Statistics).
Median Annual Earnings in the Industries Employing the Largest Numbers of Engineering Technicians (US, 2013)
- Aerospace engineering and operations technicians: $63,780
- Electrical and electronic engineering technicians: $59,820
- Mechanical engineering technicians: $53,530
- Civil engineering technicians: $60,520
- Environmental engineering technicians: $48,170
Use the Salary Wizard at Salary.com to find out how much engineering technicians currently earn in your city.
A Day in an Engineering Technician's Life
These are some typical job duties taken from online ads for engineering technician positions found on Indeed.com:
- Perform agency testing (domestic and International) in line with federal and international standards.
- Perform testing prescribed and or monitored by engineers.
- Analyze, repair and build devices.
- Provide technical assistance to process development and engineering personnel.
- Complete lab reports including problem statements, methods and materials used, data analysis, conclusions and recommend future/follow up work.
- Train manufacturing personnel on new product production process.
- Interface with other departments to resolve problems.
- Comply with engineering documentation standards, engineering plans, and system specifications and test procedures.
- May support engineers in the development of a technical proposal and provide input on the technical content and level of effort of the proposed scope of work.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/oco/ (visited April 2, 2015).
Employment and Training Administration, US Department of Labor, O*NET Online, on the Internet at http://online.onetcenter.org/ (visited April 2, 2015).
Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/oes/ (visited April 2, 2015).