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Engineering technician good career choice? For sure

  1. Apr 7, 2014 #1
    Hi, so as the title reads is engineering technician a good career choice? I think it is. I've been doing my homework and it looks like there is and will always be a need for engineer technicians.
    As I understand it one who goes to school to become a technician has two choices at the end of their training...one; end their training right there and just remain a technician in whatever field they studied for...two; end their training but leave an opening to go on to get a B.S or higher. I've been looking through the want ads for years and as far as engineer technicians go it runs the whole gamut from plant maintenance to possibly working with a group of engineers doing R & D work at major companies. Most of the employers only require a degree in Applied Science and maybe some other training that is job specific i.e. training in certain drafting software or in tolerancing etc. I don't see how I could not get a job; worse case scenario I'd wind up working doing plant maintenance; the ideal would be doing R & D work because then I'd be able to use the theory taught in school and working with my hands. I've been a machinist and a mechanic my whole life, now I'm working in your typical dirty little New England factory and I'm sick of it. I have other ideas that I'd like to share too but this is already a lengthy post. What do you all think?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 7, 2014 #2
    Look at it this way: Engineers plan what to do, technicians go out and do it.

    It's up to you if you want to do the planning/problem solving or just do as your told by engineers.
  4. Apr 8, 2014 #3


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    More and more it is engineers who are going out and doing it. My organization hires fewer and fewer technicians compared to what it used to.
  5. Apr 8, 2014 #4
    From my job searching I have seen this. Many or most of the technician jobs I see posted require a BS in engineering.
  6. Apr 8, 2014 #5
    I'm going to look through the position openings at certain companies and want ads and show you what's going on in my area of the country and post the descriptions e.g. Sturm Ruger was looking for people who only had a associates in applied science for a position also a local company had the same requirements. I've been reading posts a lot and if I got more training to enhance my skill set then why would engineer tech be so bad. I've read on this forum that engineer tech is not a bad job (someone posted how being an engineer tech is no good and an engineer replied that he had respect for the technicians that worked under him) one can always get certificates and more training. Keep your opinions coming because I'm starting school this year and I need all the info I can get.
  7. Apr 8, 2014 #6


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    I think if you can find a technician job it can be great. The technicians I have worked with have all be competent and respected. It's not a bad job at all. If you can find one it could be just what you're looking for.
  8. Apr 8, 2014 #7
    "...typical dirty little New England factory..." Don't get me started. It's not about the dirt. It's about curiosity, good co-workers, interesting work, and so on.

    Want to know where I was today? I was working on several Programmable Controllers networked together in a very large sewage pumping station. Despite an attempt at positive pressure in the control room, you can never quite rid yourself of the stench of sewage. And if that wasn't good enough, I had to work on a network timing problem at a waste-water treatment plant undergoing heavy construction and upgrades. That place was ripe.

    But I don't mind. The work is intellectually interesting. The people are fun to be with. And where would we be without well run sewage treatment plants? This is very unsung, but very meaningful work.

    The point is to keep your attitude and expectations in check. There is lots of work out there which are actually quite rewarding, interesting, and virtually unknown to the world at large. After all, who thinks about what happens after you flush a toilet? And yes, we do burn through a lot of energy and chemicals to process that sewage. The process is surprisingly complex. And the end result is cleaner water than what people drink from the tap (and we just send it down the river).

    As for technical work, get your experience working with your hands. I say this as an engineer who did that too. I am appalled at the number of electrical engineering graduates who can't even figure out how to set up the trigger for an oscilloscope, set up a spectrum analyzer, or to make reasonable initial settings for a variable frequency drive.

    When I was younger, I climbed radio towers, inspected antennas and waveguide installations, did two way mobile radio installations, and instrumentation diagnostics and repair. I know very well what is in the field in a way that few consulting engineers ever will.

    You can too. Do the technical work. Get a degree while working as a technician. Some places will help pay for your education if you sign on to stick with them for a few years after you graduate. And yes, some of those places are "dirty." It's not about the dirt. It's whether you have any respect for the work.
  9. Apr 9, 2014 #8
    Thank you jake and analog. Your replies are just the ones I need; opinions about techs from engineers themselves. And as far as what I said about where I work jake the only good thing about it is the pay check, my co workers couldn't care less about their work, management is just impossible to get through to; bottom line, it's the people not the work and I'm one of the few that care about the job and the finished product. I can't do perfunctory work; I'll stay on my own time until I'm satisfied that the job is done right if I have to. That's why I can't stand where I work. As far as water treatment and that whole field goes jake I have a little experience with that and IT IS quite important work. You have to know your s$%@. It was one of my duties being in plant maintenance at a job I had years ago. Again thank you for your replies and thank you jake, you just taught me more about water treatment. I'd like to speak more with the both of you, especially jake; you sound like the type of man I could learn from and get along with but it's up to you guys. You're time would not be wasted. I'm not messing around with this I AM going back to school this year and that's it. I need knowledge from those who know. I eagerly await your replies and hope very much you would be kind enough to help me with my new journey I'm about to undertake.
  10. Apr 9, 2014 #9


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    It has been my experience that engineering techs are experienced (5+ years) techs who are also VERY good techs. They are frequently hired from the existing pool of techs. Do not expect to get an engineering tech position right out of school. You have a lot of learning left to do and that learning must be on the job. Meanwhile depending upon your location techs can make very good money.

    Oh yeah, I am a tech with 30+ years of experience.
  11. Apr 9, 2014 #10
    Thanks integ you have just verified all of my research. The numbers and facts don't lie, engineer technicians do and can make a good living (I care more about my piece of mind...the job itself..more than the money; it's nice to have a good pay check but what's the point if you're miserable) it's the details about the job that I know nothing about, what classes should I take and which ones I shouldn't etc that's why I'm here. Before I even start school I'm going to do even more research about being a tech from the people who are in the business. I know that while going to school you should start networking as early as possible with everyone related to your field of study in particular prospective employers...what are they looking for...what type of training is needed in ones field of study etc. I plan on speaking to the proper people at companies I'd like to work at, possibly get an internship or something to that affect. By the way I'd like to be a mechanical engineer tech...electro mechanical would be the ideal. The school I'm looking at attending has these engineer tech programs, mechanical, electrical, chemical and electrical plus electronics combined I believe. The next step is to find out if the programs I'm interested in are any good at all. Also as far as hands on experience I have over 20 years and I'm presuming you mean 5+ years of engineer tech experience but how could 20 years of hands on in other fields related to what I want to study hurt?. I got my start on cars like a lot of people and I found out early that I had a knack for it I've also worked plenty of jobs heavy on the mechanical side...I found out I was good with other things besides cars too. I'm confident in my abilities and most eager to learn..it's just so frustrating because I can't get enough of what I need to know fast enough.
  12. Apr 10, 2014 #11
    Integral has it right. Look, there are generally three groups of technician. There are those who are just learning to tweak things, they know when they're broken and but they may not know the likely causes. There are journeymen technicians. Assuming that something did work once, they can fix pretty much anything. The senior engineering technician can tell when something never did work right to begin with and perhaps how to fix it.

    Engineers also come in three flavors. The beginning engineers know how to make something functional. However, it may not be particularly durable. The experienced engineers have seen what broke and how, and they can make something that will last. And finally the research engineers are the ones who have seen the methods that work well, the ones that don't, and the ones that have not yet been tried. They know how to make radical new designs that truly advance the state of the art.

    So what happens when you take an engineering technician and give him or her an engineering education? You get someone who starts off knowing how to design and build something durable. That field experience counts for something. After a few years, they'll read some new methods and be able to apply them with confidence that they'll know how to make something that will work reliably.

    As for specific fields, do note that we do many of the same things in water treatment as you do when brewing beer, or running a nuclear reactor. We even use the same equipment. A pressure sensor is still a pressure sensor regardless of where you use it. A metered pump can be used to dispense cookie dough, just as much as it could be used to pace the polymer coagulant injection for a sludge press at a waste-water treatment plant.

    My point is that you shouldn't pigeon-hole yourself. Think about the broader picture.
  13. Apr 11, 2014 #12
    Absolutely jake in no way do I plan just to limit myself. I want a dynamic skill set. Materials science, some inorganic chemical engineering, polymer science, tolerances; perhaps some metrology courses (I forgot the exact name for the field) but you see where I'm going with my thinking. It's like career sergeants or warrant officers; they focus more on increasing their skills and training than advancing in rank although being recognized by my superiors if my skills are that good to them possibly I could do things that a tech would not normally do. Materials science I feel would make me a better tech because not only would know how to approach certain tasks (after training in my major) I would also know what materials x task is made of thus understanding it even more. There is so much to learn and If all goes to plan I'll be getting more training as a tech for as long as I can and I'd get the dream job of being on a R & D team working hand in hand with B.S engineers and higher and some really smart people.
  14. Apr 11, 2014 #13
    Ya gotta let a guy dream a little.
  15. Apr 11, 2014 #14


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    Sorry for not replying sooner.

    First of all learn to put some white space in your posts. Blocks of solid text are daunting and some times don't even get read.

    Tech skills you should acquire:
    Electronics and associated trouble shooting tools like an Oscope and a multimeter as well as a soldering iron.

    PID control of motion and temperature.

    Pneumatic control switches and actuators.

    Machine tools, lathe, milling machine as well as familiarity with metal working practices.

    These are basic skills that should be applicable to many jobs.

    I have never had a tech job I did not enjoy. By definition tech jobs require multitasking skills as well as a high base level intelligence. You need to be able to learn and understand complex tools and processes. It is generally 6 months to a year before you can become competent on any job. What keeps my interest up is the never ending learning that is required of tech jobs in general.
  16. Apr 12, 2014 #15
    thanks integ. i know i'm new to this forum but is there a engineer tech section? and if not at least it should be considered by the ones who run the forum to start one.

    Lastly you didn't mention hydraulics, factories are full of machines and systems that use hydraulics. every factory job i've ever had hydraulics hydraulics hydraulics. my current job requires me to know hydraulics and pneumatic systems of course. on the machines i work on there is usually both used to perform one function or another.

    anymore information you can give me would very much appreciated. thanks.
  17. Apr 15, 2014 #16


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    I have worked in clean rooms in wafer fabs. The only hydraulics I encountered was a wet bench lid that used water hydraulics to open and close lids. Heavy industries are more apt to use hydraulics. Oil hydraulics tend to be massive and dirty, they are used to move massive objects and are not clean room happy systems. So it depends on the industry you find a job in.
  18. Apr 15, 2014 #17


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    As a very young engineer, I have noticed that compared to engineers techs may not know as much of the math or theory, but they know just as much about practical design and production. The person who has taught me the most about control system design is a 'tech'. I put the word in quotes because he is treated as a chief engineer, even though he is technically a tech.
  19. Apr 15, 2014 #18


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    Absolutely, generally techs get about 2yrs of formal education. This does not include math beyond 1st year calculus. So they have limited knowledge of Diff Eqs. for example. In my experience it is not unheard of for a tech to get an "engineering" level job. Employers are, after all, able to choose what they call a job and how they select the people who fill them.
  20. Apr 16, 2014 #19
    thanks don, sturm ruguer placed a job ad that went to the effect that some one with a techs skills may be considered for an engineering job at that companw
  21. Apr 17, 2014 #20
    From my own personal experience technicians concern themselves with the day to day production and operations. They are problem solvers but in a more immediate way. Let say a utility is having trouble with some switch gear or MVI a technician can easily problem solve that on the spot. The big picture problems done by engineers is usually slow process. The solution exist only in the engineers head first before it goes through R&D. That why Engineers rely on theory so much.
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