Engineering technology – degrees and careers
Engineering technology is one of the most lucrative careers you can pursue with a 2-year college degree. Taking a less theoretical and more hands-on approach, an engineering technology degree can lead to earnings of $47,901 just 3 years after graduation. This amounts to $11,923 more than the average associate degree.
Average associate degree
Associate in engineering technology
The above table provides a snapshot of earnings 3 years after graduation. We compare the earnings of all bachelor degree recipients to those who graduated from this specific program.
What is engineering technology?
Engineering technology focuses on the practical application of engineering principles. An engineering technology career as an engineering technician requires an associate degree only. Engineering technologists earn at least a bachelor’s. Programs in engineering technology place less emphasis on theory and advanced math and science than engineering science programs.
Engineering vs engineering technology
Engineering technology, or applied engineering, is contrasted with ‘traditional’ engineering, also known as engineering science or theoretical engineering. Before deciding between an engineering vs engineering technology degree, it is important to consider their differences and your career goals.
4-year degree (usually)
emphasizes theory and advanced concepts
students take calculus I–III, differential equations, calculus-based science
qualifies you to take the PE exam and become a professional engineer
leads to careers as an engineer
2-year degree (usually)
emphasizes hands-on application
students take college algebra, trigonometry, statistics, calculus I, and calculus-based science
may qualify you for the PE exam depending on your state
leads to careers as an engineering technician or technologist; may lead to a career as a full engineer if 4-year degree is earned
Careers in engineering technology
The most important thing to consider when choosing a degree are the career options available upon graduation. A degree in engineering technology can prepare you for work as an engineering technician or technologist. A 4-year degree in engineering technology may even lead to a career as a full engineer.
How to become an engineering technician or technologist
Engineering technologists and technicians work alongside engineers, performing tests, assembling equipment, collecting data, and carrying out other hands-on tasks.
1. Earn an associate degree in engineering technology
An associate degree in engineering technology is required to pursue a career as an engineering technician. Four-year engineering technology degrees are available but make more sense if pursuing a full engineer title or licensure as an engineering technologist.
2. Gain work experience in engineering technology
It is possible to get hired as an entry-level engineering technician as soon as you earn your associate degree. Look for positions in the engineering field that interests you most. Entry-level positions may be titled ‘technician’ rather than ‘engineering technician’. After at least 1 year in the field, you have the option to apply for licensure.
3. Get certified by NICET
The National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET) is the main licensing body for engineering technology. While not mandatory in most settings, licensure can make you more employable. Technician certification requires a 2-year engineering technology degree, while technologist certification requires a 4-year degree.
Engineering technician vs technologist
The Bureau of Labor Statistics groups engineering technicians and technologists together. To become certified, engineering technologists need a 4-year degree. However, a quick search on any job platform reveals that very few companies advertise ‘engineering technologist’ roles.
In fact, it has been reported that most companies who employ graduates with a 4-year engineering technology degree offer them the title of full engineer. The only caveat is that in some states, it is not possible to get a PE license with an engineering technology degree. In other states, licensure requires more years of professional experience with an engineering technology vs engineering degree.
Engineering technologists need a 4-year degree to become certified. However, few companies look for engineering technologists. It may make more sense to use your 4-year degree to pursue full engineer roles or even get licensed as a professional engineer (PE).
Engineering technologist and technician salaries by industry
Engineering technicians and technologists specialize by industry. See below the average annual salaries and projected job growth for engineering technology positions across a variety of sectors.
|Median pay||Projected job growth (2018-2028)|
|Mechanical engineering technologists and technicians||$60,460||2.8%|
|Electrical engineering technologists and technicians||$63,640||0.2%|
|Civil engineering technologists and technicians||$58,320||4.9%|
|Industrial engineering technologists and technicians||$60,220||-0.7%|
|Environmental engineering technologists and technicians||$48,390||8.9%|
|Aerospace engineering technologists and technicians||$73,580||4.8%|
What is an engineering technology degree?
This is a 2-year engineering associate degree or 4-year bachelor’s degree that covers the application of engineering principles. While basic college math and applied science are an important component, the coursework is less challenging and theoretical than in an engineering science program.
It is a good idea to prioritize accredited programs when choosing an engineering technology degree. This ensures a high-quality education that meets rigorous standards. Engineering technology programs are accredited by the Engineering Technology Accreditation Council (ETAC) or ATMAE (Association of Technology, Management, and Applied Engineering).
What is an engineering technologist degree?
Aspiring engineering technologists complete a 4-year bachelor’s in engineering technology. They can then pursue certification through NICET.
Online engineering associate’s degree
Very few online engineering technology degrees are available, and programs that do exist are not likely to be accredited. Choosing an on-campus program is therefore preferable.
Associate in engineering technology
The above table shows the percentage of programs available either completely in person or fully online. Figures that do not add up to 100% indicate the existence of hybrid programs.
Associate in engineering science
An associate in engineering science is intended to serve as a springboard for students who plan to pursue their bachelor’s degree in engineering at a 4-year school. This path allows students to complete the first 2 years of their degree at a community college, which is likely to be more affordable and less competitive.
The first 2 years of coursework in an engineering bachelor’s cover courses in math and science before getting into core engineering classes. This means completing the first 2 years at a community college does not put you at a disadvantage. Just make sure to verify that your associate program has an articulation agreement (2+2 program) with a 4-year college if you wish to transfer.
An associate in engineering science is not a shortcut to a full engineering title. Instead, it’s a way to complete the first 2 years of your engineering bachelor’s at a more affordable and less competitive community college.
Other engineering associate degree jobs
Along with working as an engineering technologist or technician, other careers that you can pursue with an associate in engineering technology include the following:
Mapping technicians assist cartographers and photogrammetrists in producing and updating maps. Mapping technicians are most commonly employed by engineering, surveying, and mapping services firms but are also heavily employed by the government in highway and planning departments.
Engineering drafters specialize in helping engineers and architects turn their designs into technical drawings. They work primarily with computer-aided design (CAD) software and are found in most companies that employ engineers.
ASCET provides a variety of resources and networking opportunities to certified engineering technicians.
The ASEE is an excellent resource for students interested in pursuing an engineering degree. They offer professional interest groups, conferences, and membership, and otherwise support engineering students and professionals.