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:
- Computer Hardware
- Electrical and Electronics
- Mining and Geological
In 2017 engineering technicians reported an average annual salary of $64,550. Specialization for these jobs can vary widely. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s most recent Occupational Outlook Handbook data for 2016, there were 46,100 mechanical engineering technicians, 137,000 electrical and electronics technicians, 74,500 civil engineering technicians, 63,900 industrial engineering technicians, 17,000 environmental technicians, and 134,300 broadcast and sound engineering technicians.
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. Some engineering technicians may also be self-employed.
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, 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 from 2016 through 2026 is varied by specialty. Most focus areas are reporting average growth at around 5 percent. Electrical/electronics engineering technicians and industrial engineering technicians are below average with 2 percent and 1 percent expected growth respectively. Environmental engineering technicians are slightly above average with a 13 percent growth rate.
Median annual earnings across industry specialties (US, 2017)
- Aerospace engineering and operations technicians: $67,240
- Electrical and electronic engineering technicians: $63,660
- Mechanical engineering technicians: $55,360
- Civil engineering technicians: $51,620
- Environmental engineering technicians: $50,230
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, materials used, data analysis, and conclusions. 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, system specifications, and test procedures.
- May support engineers in the development of a technical proposal and provide input on the technical content and work involved in a proposed scope of work.