Education and Training Requirements
Preparation for this career begins in high school. Although entrance requirements to associate's degree programs vary somewhat from school to school, mathematics and physical science form the backbone of a good college preparatory curriculum. Classes should include algebra, geometry, science, trigonometry, calculus, chemistry, mechanical drawing, shop, and physics. Because computers have become essential for engineering technicians, especially for design and data management, computer courses are also important. Many engineering technician careers require skill in computer-aided design (CAD), so be sure take CAD classes if they are offered.
English and speech courses provide invaluable experience in improving verbal and written communication skills. Since some technicians go on to become technical writers or teachers, and since all of them need to be able to explain technical matter clearly and concisely, communication skills are important.
While some current engineering technicians enter the field without formal academic training, it is increasingly difficult to do so. Most employers are interested in hiring graduates with at least a two-year degree in engineering technology. Technical institutes, community colleges, vocational schools, and universities all offer this course of study.
The Engineering Technology Accreditation Commission of ABET (http://www.abet.org) accredits engineering technology programs.
Some engineering technicians decide to pursue advancement in their field by becoming engineering technologists. Others decide to branch off into research and development or become engineers. These higher-level and higher-paid positions typically require the completion of a bachelor's degree in engineering technology (for engineering technologists) or at least a bachelor's degree in engineering (for technicians interested in working in research and development or becoming engineers).
Other Education or Training
Continuing education (CE) plays a large role in the life of engineering technicians. They may attend classes or seminars, keeping up to date with emerging technology and methods of managing production efficiently. Many professional associations provide CE opportunities. For example, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics offers instructor-led, web-based, and CD-ROM-based training; correspondence courses; conference sessions; and webinars. Topics include aerospace electronics and power systems; fluid dynamics; guidance, navigation, and control; liquid propulsion; satellite design; and space operations and support. The American Society for Engineering Education offers continuing education opportunities for engineers and engineering technicians via its annual conference and other events. Contact these and other engineering and science associations for more information.
Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements
Certification or Licensing
Certification and licensing requirements vary by specialty. Check with your state's department of labor and professional associations within your field for further information.
Many engineering technicians choose to become certified by the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies. To become certified, you must combine a specific amount of job-related experience with an examination. Certifications are offered in civil, electrical, and mechanical systems engineering, and at several levels of expertise. Such certification is generally voluntary, although obtaining certification shows a high level of commitment and dedication that employers find highly desirable.
Electronics engineering technicians may obtain voluntary certification from the International Society of Certified Electronics Technicians and Electronics Technician Association International. Certification is regarded as a demonstration of professional dedication, determination, and know-how.
SpaceTEC, which provides skill-based, nationally recognized certifications for the U.S. aerospace industry, provides a certification for entry-level employees. The certification covers general knowledge in six areas: introduction to aerospace, applied mechanics, basic electricity, test and measurements, materials and processes, and aerospace safety. It also offers concentration examinations in aerospace vehicle processing, aerospace manufacturing, and aerospace composites.
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
A solid background in mathematics and science will be helpful for aspiring engineering technicians. Many students also obtain valuable experience through internship and co-op programs.
All engineering technicians are relied upon for solutions and must express their ideas clearly in speech and in writing. Good communication skills are important for a technician in the writing and presenting of reports and plans. These skills are also important for working alongside other technicians and professionals, people who are often from many different backgrounds and skilled in varying areas of engineering.
Engineering technicians need mathematical and mechanical aptitude. They must understand abstract concepts and apply scientific principles to problems in the shop, laboratory, or work site.
Many tasks assigned to engineering technicians require patience and methodical, persistent work. Good technicians work well with their hands, paying close attention to every detail of a project. Some technicians are bored by the repetitiveness of some tasks, while others enjoy the routine.
Individuals planning to advance beyond the technician's level should be willing to and capable of pursuing some form of higher education.