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Penn Foster Engineering Technician Degree?

  1. May 4, 2015 #1
    Hey everyone, long time lurker, first time posting. Awesome forum. Anyway, I've currently been a hvac service technician for 5 years. The applied science aspect of it is what I love. There's nothing like learning the science behind refrigeration, air flow, combustion, electricity, etc and then using that understanding to solve customers problems.

    With everything I can I try to understand principles to the engineering level. For example not just what is a capacitor/ how to change it but what does it actually do (something surprisingly few people know). Another example is actually understanding psychometrics. This level of understanding really does little to help me in my job but is what I love about this job.

    At this point I'm thinking about an engineering technology job because I love science/math/any kind of technical learning but I also love fixing things. Plus right now I have two very young kids and a wife so trying to start a mechanical engineering bachelors degree seems like over reaching.

    So all that to ask if an associates from penn foster is something that would get me an engineering technician job or is something from a community college required?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 4, 2015 #2


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    I would suggest you compare them to your nearest vo-tech or community college. Also look at On-line programs from State accredited institutions (the closer the better). That way if you do end up needing one or two classes that are NOT offered online, you can take that class (or two) in a pinch. I would certainly recommend looking at a Mechanical Engineering Technology degree (with the option to pursue a true Mechanical Engineering degree outright). The Technology degree is an easier degree to pursue and may be all you can find time to get. However, if you are in a program that offers both, you can certainly upgrade your studies and coursework if you find you have the time and energy to pursue the harder curriculum. Either can lead you to a path of engineering, it is just that an engineer has a better preparation of theory and better mathematical background to tackle the more difficult problems and designs.

    I would suggest that if you find Penn Foster offers exactly what you need, then give it some consideration, but if it is not an ABET accredited school, it will be considered a vocational school and many (if not all) of the courses will NOT transfer to a normal college.

    All classes taken at your local community college would transfer to a regular university.
  4. May 6, 2015 #3
    Thanks for the response, I've done some more checking and I don't see any abet certified mechanical engineering technician courses around Richmond, VA. The more I think about it the more realistic the penn foster course looked based on time and money constraints from already working.

    My next question since I know it will lead to a path in engineering is what kind of jobs would it open up and are there many of them? Talked to the company I work for and they recently closed their design/build department. Are hvac commercial design/build department jobs typically available and a place one could work with an engineering technician degree?
  5. May 6, 2015 #4


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    I would contact Southland Industries who have several projects in your area of the country. See if you can talk to both their engineering and their construction groups. Both have a need for designers (and engineers). See what paths to the to engineering and design that THEY recommend.

    My only hesitation to Penn and Foster are that they are pricey and probably are NOT an accredited school and therefore will NOT help you to become a formal engineer. If Penn and Foster is accredited, by all means give them full consideration.

    You might consider a local school with some type of engineering to get a few classes even if you have to commute. You might actually have to consider an online option. Pick a school that is at least state accredited vs private online programs that are usually impossible to transfer out of.

    Again, find a contact at Southland (or similar HVAC company with a design element) and get some feed back from an engineer or field engineer / designer.
  6. May 6, 2015 #5


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    "Penn Foster" jogged my memory. I couldn't find the article that I originally read (probably in the Chronicle of Higher Education), but I'm pretty sure it mentioned this guy:

    Penn Foster College must pay more than $73,000 after PCC refused Portland man's credit (The Oregonian)
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