Engineering and engineering technology are terms that are not only used interchangeably but are also often confused with each other. While closely related professions, they differ in a couple of ways. Engineering programs are based on theory and concept while engineering technology programs are based on application and implementation. In other words, engineering technology students learn more through hands-on training as opposed to theory.
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They also differ in terms of the subject matter they each require. Engineering technology programs require practical courses like algebra, calculus and trigonometry. Engineering programs, on the other hand, require knowledge of advanced-level math and calculus as well as theory-based science courses.
Another major difference between the two is the program length and the end result. Engineering programs, which are usually four-year bachelor degree programs, result in the student becoming an engineer. Engineering technology programs may also be four-year programs but are usually two-year associate degree programs that result in the student becoming and engineering technologist or engineering technician in a specific area of engineering.
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Engineering technology is a field that offers many possibilities in career options. Learn about the many engineering technology degrees available as well as what to expect in programs and schools.
Graduates of engineering technology programs may work with engineers but are not engineers. Graduates of engineering programs are usually required to complete an internship whereas engineering technology graduates can go to work immediately. Regardless of what type of program the student chooses, it’s important that the school be accredited and the program be accredited by the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET). Both engineering and engineering technology programs may be ABET-accredited, but they’re actually accredited by two different commissions.
Another difference within the engineering technology field is that of engineering technician and engineering technologist. Technicians usually have associate degrees in engineering technology and can transfer into an engineering technology bachelor’s degree program. However, the technician may not have an easy time transferring into an engineering bachelor’s degree program without losing credits. Engineering technicians often work as engineering assistants, field service technicians or engineering technicians.
Degree Options for Engineering Technology
Engineering technologists may also have associate degrees in engineering technology but often have bachelor’s degrees. They also work alongside engineers using both their technical skills and their knowledge of engineering principles. They may work as project designers or engineering technologists. They often have degrees while technicians often have diplomas or certificates. Now that we have a clear understanding of engineering technology and what it offers, we can take a look at the many possibilities this field offers in terms of educational programs and career options.
Engineering Technology Programs
Students can choose a “generic” engineering technology program or can focus on a specific area of engineering. Aims Community College in Colorado, for instance, offers an Associate of Applied Science in Engineering Technology: Computer-Aided Drafting. This two-year program has courses like computer-aided drafting, AutoCAD, print reading and Inventor – all courses that are engineering-based – but not for any specific engineering field. Capital Community College in Connecticut offers an Associate in Science in Architectural Technology program. Also a two-year program, this program focuses on a specific engineering area: architecture. It includes some of the same courses as Aim but also offers field-specific courses like architectural drafting, codes & ordinances, structures and architectural design.
Central Washington University in Ellensburg, WA, offers bachelor degree programs in both electronics engineering technology and mechanical engineering technology as well as a Master of Science in Engineering Technology. The electronics engineering technology program has courses like basic electricity and electronics, microprocessor applications and digital circuits while the mechanical engineering technology program has courses like machining, mechanical design and strength of materials.
Master’s in Engineering Technology Degree Options
The master degree program is aimed at individuals interested in teaching the field of engineering technology. Students in this program can expect courses in product design and development, systems analysis and simulation, engineering project management and quality control. Prior to graduation, the student will also complete a thesis, a project of pass an equivalent examination.
Unlike engineering degree programs which can have concentrations or tracks, engineering technology program generally do not. The area of interest is already implemented in the curriculum as seen in the Aims and Capital programs. All the engineering technology programs require completing some general education courses like communication, technical writing, technical math and composition. Some students complete the general education courses prior to starting the actual program just to get them out of the way. A lot of the general education courses can also be completed online. Engineering technology programs also include lab studies and possible internships.
Engineering technology programs are generally available in almost the same fields as engineering. Depending on the school, the student may find the following engineering technology programs.
- Civil engineering technology
- Electrical engineering technology
- Mechanical engineering technology
- Architectural engineering technology
- Electro-mechanical engineering technology
- Aeronautical engineering technology
- Petroleum engineering technology
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there are well more than 500 accredited engineering technology programs throughout the United States.
Online Engineering Technology Degrees
Engineering technology programs can also be completed through distance learning. ABET accredits many programs that are 100% online. The University of Southern Mississippi offers a 100% online Bachelor of Science in Construction Engineering Technology. Excelsior College also offers a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering Technology program that’s all online. Online programs allow students to earn their degrees at their own pace while also continuing to work or meet other responsibilities. Online schools offer various learning tools such as webinars, streaming media, videos, DVDs, email, online lectures and simulated laboratories.
Engineering Technology Certification
In addition to obtaining degrees, graduates who have a four-year engineering technology degree can also obtain certification through the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies. The NICET offers certification for civil engineering technology as well as electrical and mechanical systems engineering technology. Although certification is voluntary, it can enhance employment opportunities and earning potential.
Engineering Technologists Careers
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) puts engineering technicians and technologists in the same category in terms of career growth and potential salaries. They do, however, list the wages based on the field. The BLS reports that electrical and electronics engineering technicians earned an average annual wage of $58,540 as of May 2013 while mechanical engineering technicians earned $52,390. Industrial engineering technicians earned $52,020 and civil engineering technicians earned $47,780. Engineering technicians in general earned $60,560.