Engineering technicians use their knowledge of science,engineering, mathematics, machinery, and technical processes inresearch and development, manufacturing, sales, and customerservice. They often apply the principles, designs, or procedures developed by engineers to practical situations. Many engineering technicians assist engineers and scientists, especially in research and development. Other technicians, such as those in service jobs, work on their own.
In research and development, engineering technicians set up equipment, prepare experiments, calculate or record the results, sometimes with the aid of computers, and assist engineers in developing laboratory equipment. Some build experimental equipment or models and others do routine design work, sometimes using computer-aided design equipment.
In manufacturing, engineering technicians follow the general directions of engineers, often without close supervision. They may prepare specifications for materials, devise and run tests to ensure product quality, or study ways to improve manufacturing efficiency. They may also supervise production workers to make sure they follow prescribed procedures.
Engineering technicians also work as field representatives of manufacturers, or retailers. They advise customers on the installation, operations, and maintenance of complex technical equipment, and may write repair or operating manuals.
Civil engineering technicians assist civil engineers in planning, designing, and constructing highways, buildings, bridges, dams, wastewater treatment systems, and other structures and do related surveys and studies. Some civil engineering technicians inspect water and wastewater treatment systems to ensure that pollution control requirements are met. Others estimate costs, specify materials to be used, and participate in designing highways, dams, and other structures.
Industrial engineering technicians assist industrial engineers on problems involving the efficient use of personnel, materials, and machines to produce goods and services. They prepare layouts of machinery and equipment, plan the flow of work, make statistical studies, and analyze production costs. They also conduct time and motion studies to improve efficiency in manufacturing plants.
Mechanical engineering technicians assist engineers in design and development work by making sketches and rough layouts of proposed machinery and other equipment and parts. In planning and testing experimental machines, they record data, make computations, plot graphs, analyze results, and write reports. When a product is ready for production, mechanical engineering technicians prepare layouts, and drawings of the assembly process and of parts to be manufactured. They estimate labor costs, equipment life, and plant space. Some test and inspect machines and equipment in manufacturing departments or work with engineers to eliminate production problems.
Most engineering technicians work regular hours in laboratories, offices, and industrial plants. Service representatives usually spend much of their time working in customers' establishments.
Engineering technicians held about 726,000 jobs in 1990. About two-fifths worked in manufacturing, mainly in the electrical and electronic machinery and equipment, transportation equipment and machinery industries. Over one-fifth worked in service industries, mostly in engineering or career services companies who do engineering work on contract for government, manufacturing, or other organizations.
Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement
Although there are many ways to obtain training as an engineering technician, most employers prefer applicants who have had specialized technical training in associate-degree-granting technical institutes, junior and community colleges, extension divisions of colleges and universities, or public and private vocational-technical schools. Persons with college courses in science, engineering, and mathematics may also be able to qualify for some positions with additional training and experience.
Persons also can qualify through on-the-job training, apprenticeship programs, or correspondence schools. Armed Forces experience also may be acceptable for some kinds of engineering technician jobs. Some of the types of schools that provide training for engineering technicians are discussed in the following paragraphs.
Technical Institutes. Technical institutes offer training to qualify students for a job as an engineering technician immediately after graduation with a minimum of on-the-job training. In general, students receive intensive technical training but less theory and general education than they would in junior or community college. Many technical institutes are similar to or are part of a community college, and others are part of State university systems. These schools usually offer 2 year associate degree programs. Other technical institutes are run by private, often for-profit, organizations (sometimes called propriety schools). Programs in these schools vary considerably in length and type of courses offered. Some are 2-year programs, many of which offer an associate degree at completion.
Junior and Community Colleges. Curriculums in junior and community colleges which prepare students for technical occupations are similar to those in technical institutes but in addition emphasize theory and liberal arts. Often there may be little or no difference between technical institute and community college programs. However, courses taken at junior or community colleges are more likely to be accepted for credit at 4-year colleges than those at technical institutes.
Four-year Colleges. Many engineering technicians obtained some or all of their training in a 4-year college. Although 4-year colleges usually do not offer engineering technician training, college courses in science, engineering, and mathematics are useful for obtaining a job as an engineering technician.
Area Vocational-Technical Schools. These postsecondary public institutions serve local students and emphasize training needed by employers in the area. Most require a high school diploma or its equivalent for admission.
Other Training. The Armed Forces offer training in many areas, some of which can be applied in civilian engineering technician jobs. Some additional training may be needed, depending on the military skills acquired and the kind of job, but often this is gained on the job. Some correspondence schools also offer training for engineering technicians.
Persons interested in a career as an engineering technician should have an aptitude for mathematics and science and should take as many high school science and math courses as possible. They should enjoy technical and mechanical work and be able to work well with others since they are often part of a team of engineers and other technicians. Engineering technicians in sales, service, and repair work should e able to work independently and deal effectively with customers.
Engineering technicians usually begin doing routine work under the close supervision of an experienced technician, engineer, or scientist. As they gain experience, they are given more difficult assignments with only general supervision. Some engineering technicians eventually become supervisors, and a few, engineers.
Well-qualified engineering technicians should experience very good employment opportunities through the year 2000. Employment is expected to increase faster than the average for all occupations due to anticipated increases in research and development expenditures and expected continued rapid growth in the output of technical products. Competitive pressures and advancing technology will force companies to improve and update product designs more rapidly than in the past, further adding to the growth in requirements.
Despite the projected faster than average growth, most job openings will be to replace technicians who transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force.
May technician jobs are defense related; cutbacks in defense spending could result in layoffs.
Median annual earnings of full-time engineering technicians were about $27,350 in 1990; the middle 50 percent earned between $21,000 and $33,500. Ten percent earned less than $15,800 and 10 percent earned over $41,350.
Engineering technicians apply scientific and engineering principles in their work. Other workers who apply similar principles include science technicians, drafters, surveyors, broadcast technicians, and health technologists and technicians.
Sources of Additional Information
For information on a career as an engineering technician, contact:
Jets, Inc., 345 East 47th St., New York, N.Y. 10017.