Automotive Engineering Technician

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CAREER PROFILE

Duties: Under supervision, prepare specifications for materials, devise and run tests to ensure product quality, and study ways to improve manufacturing efficiency
Alternate Title(s): Engineering Technologist, Automotive Engineering Technician
Salary Range: $27,440 to $66,170+
Employment Prospects: Good Advancement Prospects: Good
Best Geographical Location(s): Most jobs in the automotive field are located in Michigan, although automotive plants in other parts of the country also hire engineering technicians

Prerequisites:

Education or Training—Associate degree in engineering or engineering technology, or extensive job training in engineering technology
Experience—A solid background in math and science is helpful
Special Skills and Personality Traits—Creativity, good communication skills, attention to detail
Licensure/Certification—Voluntary certification programs are available

CAREER LADDER
Engineering Technician Supervisor
Engineering Technician
Entry Level


Position Description

Under the direction of automotive engineers, automotive Engineering Technicians prepare specifications for materials, devise and run tests to ensure product quality, and study ways to improve manufacturing efficiency. For example, testing may reveal how metal parts perform under conditions of heat, cold, and stress, and whether emissions control equipment meets environmental standards. Finally, prototype vehicles incorporating all the components are built and tested on test tracks, on road simulators, and in test chambers that can duplicate almost every driving condition, including crashes.    

Engineering Technicians use the principles and theories of science, engineering, and mathematics to solve technical problems in research and development, manufacturing, construction, inspection, and maintenance. Their work is more limited in scope and more practically oriented than that of engineers.    

Many Engineering Technicians help engineers, especially in research and development. They build or set up equipment, prepare and conduct experiments, collect data, calculate or record the results, and help engineers or scientists in other ways, such as making prototype versions of newly designed equipment. They also assist in design work, often using computer-aided design equipment. Others work in quality control, inspecting products and processes, conducting tests, or collecting data. They may assist in product design, development, or production.    

Most Engineering Technicians specialize in certain areas, learning skills and working in the same disciplines as engineers, so job titles tend to follow the same structure as those of engineers:
• Electrical and Electronics Engineering Technicians help design, develop, test, and manufacture electrical and electronic equipment such as automobile electrical systems, industrial measuring or control devices, and onboard computers. They may work in product evaluation and testing, using measuring and diagnostic devices to adjust, test, and repair equipment. About 45 percent of Engineering Technicians are electrical and electronic engineering technicians.
• Electromechanical Engineering Technicians combine fundamental principles of mechanical engineering technology with knowledge of electrical and electronic circuits to design, develop, test, and manufacture electrical and computer-controlled mechanical systems.
• Industrial Engineering Technicians study the efficient use of personnel, materials, and machines in factories and repair shops. They prepare layouts of machinery and equipment, plan the flow of work, make statistical studies, and analyze production costs. Mechanical Engineering Technicians help mechanical engineers design, develop, test, and manufacture industrial machinery and vehicles themselves. They may assist in product tests by setting up instrumentation for auto crash tests, for example. They may make sketches and rough layouts, record data, make computations, analyze results, and write reports. When planning production, mechanical Engineering Technicians prepare layouts and drawings of the assembly process and of parts to be manufactured. They estimate labor costs, equipment life, and plant space. Some test and inspect machines and equipment in manufacturing departments or work with engineers to eliminate production problems.


Most Engineering Technicians work at least 40 hours a week in laboratories, offices, or manufacturing or industrial plants, or on construction sites. Some may be exposed to hazards from equipment, chemicals, or toxic materials.    

Salaries

The average annual salary for electrical and electronics Engineering Technicians range between $43,650 and $45,150. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $27,660, and the highest 10 percent earn more than $66,170. The average annual salary for industrial Engineering Technicians ranges from $41,860 to $45,090. The average annual salary for mechanical Engineering Technicians is $41,890; the lowest paid 10 percent earned less than $27,440 and the highest paid 10 percent earned more than $61,640.    

Employment Prospects

Complex optical alignment system

Opportunities will be best for students with an associate degree or extensive job training in engineering technology. As automotive technology becomes more sophisticated, employers continue to look for technicians who are skilled in new technology and require a minimum of additional job training. Overall employment of Engineering Technicians is expected to increase about as fast as the average for all occupations through 2012. As automotive production continues to grow, competitive pressures will force companies to improve and update manufacturing facilities and product designs more rapidly than in the past. However, the growing availability and use of advanced technologies, such as computer-aided design and drafting and computer simulation, will continue to increase productivity and limit job growth. In addition to growth, many job openings will stem from the need to replace technicians who retire or leave the labor force. Like engineers, employment of Engineering Technicians is influenced by local and national economic conditions. Increasing demand for more sophisticated electrical and electronic products will contribute to average growth in the job situation for electrical and electronics Engineering Technicians.    

Advancement Prospects

Engineering Technicians usually begin by performing routine duties under the close supervision of an experienced technician, technologist, engineer, or scientist. As they gain experience, they are given more difficult assignments with only general supervision. Some Engineering Technicians eventually become supervisors.    

Education and Training

Opportunities will be best for individuals with an associate degree or extensive job training in engineering technology. Because the type and quality of training programs vary considerably, prospective students should carefully investigate training programs before enrolling.    

Although it may be possible to qualify for a few Engineering Technician jobs without formal training, most automotive employers prefer to hire someone with at least a two-year associate degree in engineering technology. Training is available at technical institutes, community colleges, extension divisions of colleges and universities, public and private vocational-technical schools, and the Armed Forces. People with college courses in science, engineering, and mathematics may qualify for some positions, but they may need additional specialized training and experience.    

Prospective engineering technicians should take as many high school science and math courses as possible to prepare for postsecondary programs in engineering technology. Most two-year associate degree programs accredited by the Technology Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (TAC/ABET) have minimum requirements of college algebra and trigonometry, and one or two basic science courses. Depending on the specialty, more math or science may be required.    

The type of technical courses required also depends on the specialty. For example, prospective mechanical Engineering Technicians may take courses in fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, and mechanical design, while future electrical Engineering Technicians may take more classes in electric circuits, microprocessors, and digital electronics. Although many publicly and privately operated schools provide technical training, the type and quality of programs vary considerably. Prospective students should be careful in selecting a program. Students should ask prospective employers about their preferences, and ask schools to provide information about the kinds of jobs obtained by graduates, the facilities and equipment, and faculty qualifications.    

ABET-accredited programs usually offer an acceptable level of competence in the mathematics, science, and technical courses. Technical institutes offer intensive technical training through application and practice, but less theory and general education than community colleges. Many offer two-year associate degree programs and are similar to or part of a community college or state university system. Other technical institutes are run by private, for-profit organizations sometimes called proprietary schools. Their programs vary considerably in length and types of courses offered, although some are two-year associate degree programs. Community colleges offer curriculums that are similar to those in technical institutes, but that may include more theory and liberal arts.    

Often there may be little or no difference between technical institute and community college programs, as both offer associate degrees. After completing the two-year program, some graduates get jobs as Engineering Technicians, while others continue their education at four-year colleges. However, there is a difference between an associate degree in pre-engineering and one in engineering technology. Students who enroll in a two-year pre-engineering program may find it very difficult to find work as an Engineering Technician should they decide not to enter a four-year engineering program, because pre-engineering programs usually focus less on hands-on applications and more on academic preparatory work. On the other hand, graduates of two-year engineering technology programs may not receive credit for many of the courses they have taken if they choose to transfer to a four-year engineering program. Colleges with these four-year programs usually do not offer Engineering Technician training, but college courses in science, engineering, and mathematics are useful in getting a job as an Engineering Technician. Many four-year colleges offer bachelor's degrees in engineering technology, but graduates of these programs often are hired to work as applied engineers, not technicians.    

Area vocational-technical schools, another source of technical training, include postsecondary public institutions that serve local students and emphasize training needed by local employers. Most require a high school diploma or its equivalent for admission.    

Other training in technical areas may be obtained in the Armed Forces, and many military technical training programs are highly regarded by employers. However, skills acquired in military programs are often narrowly focused, so they may not be useful in civilian industry, which often requires broader training. Therefore, some additional training may be needed, depending on the acquired skills and the kind of job.    

Special Requirements

Although employers usually do not require Engineering Technicians to be certified, this can provide a competitive advantage. The National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET) has established a voluntary certification program for Engineering Technicians. Certification is available at various levels, each level combining a written examination in one of more than 30 specialties with a certain amount of job-related experience, a supervisory evaluation, and a recommendation.    

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Because many Engineering Technicians may help in design work, creativity is desirable. Good communication skills and the ability to work well with others is also important because these workers often are part of a team of engineers and other technicians. Engineering Technicians should also be detail-oriented and have good computer skills.    

Unions and Associations

Engineering Technicians may choose to join a variety of professional groups such as the Junior Engineering Technical Society; a few may join a union such as the United Auto Workers.    

Tips for Entry

1. Engineering Technician positions are often advertised in the classified section of the newspaper under “Mechanical” or “Professional.”
2. Visit Web sites to check out job posting for Engineering Technicians.
3. Mail a résumé to top automotive companies where you would like to work.
4. Attend professional conferences and check out job boards there. Check out helpful Internet websites such as the Junior Engineering Technical Society or the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (www.nicet.org).
5. Visit your college's career counseling office for help in identifying companies where you would like to work.

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