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Engineering Technicians - What They Do


How to Advance (Advancement)
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.

Employment
Engineering technicians held 497,300 jobs in 2008. About 34 percent of all engineering technicians worked in manufacturing. Another 25 percent worked in professional, scientific, and technical service industries, mostly in engineering or business services companies that do engineering work on contract for government, manufacturing firms, or other organizations.

In 2008, the Federal Government employed 35,300 engineering technicians. State governments employed 31,300, and local governments employed 25,100.

Job Outlook
Overall employment of engineering technicians is expected to grow slower than the average for all occupations, but projected growth and job prospects vary by specialty. Opportunities will be best for individuals with an associate degree or other postsecondary training in engineering technology.

Job Growth
Overall employment of engineering technicians is expected to grow by 5 percent between 2008 and 2018, slower than the average for all occupations. Competitive pressures will force companies to improve and update manufacturing facilities and product designs, although increased efficiencies and automation of many support activities will curtail job growth for engineering technicians.

Employment of engineering technicians in some design functions may also be affected by increasing globalization of the development process. To reduce costs and speed project completion, some companies may relocate part of their development operations to facilities overseas, affecting both engineers and engineering technicians—particularly in electronics and computer-related specialties. However, some aspects of the work of engineering technicians require on-site presence, particularly in the environmental, civil, and industrial specialties, so demand for these engineering technicians within the United States should continue to grow.

Because engineering technicians work closely with engineers, employment of engineering technicians is often influenced by the same local and national economic conditions that affect engineers. As a result, the employment outlook varies with industry and specialization.

Aerospace engineering and operations technicians are expected to have 2 percent employment growth between 2008 and 2018, signifying little or no change. Although demand for aerospace products will continue to grow, increased use of computer simulations for designing and testing new products will diminish the need for new aerospace engineering technicians.

Civil engineering technicians are expected to have 17 percent employment growth between 2008 and 2018, faster than the average for all occupations. Spurred by population growth and the related need to improve the Nation's infrastructure, more civil engineering technicians will be needed to expand transportation, water supply, and pollution control systems, as well as large buildings and building complexes. They also will be needed to repair or replace existing roads, bridges, and other public structures.

The number of electrical and electronic engineering technician jobs is expected to decline by 2 percent between 2008 and 2018, signifying little or no change. Despite rising demand for electronic goods—including communications equipment, defense-related equipment, medical electronics, and consumer products—foreign competition in design and manufacturing, together with increased efficiencies in the design process, will reduce demand for these workers.

The number of electro-mechanical technician jobs is expected to decline moderately by 5 percent between 2008 and 2018. As with the closely related electrical and electronic engineering technicians and mechanical engineering technicians, job losses will be caused by increased productivity in the design and manufacture of electro-mechanical products such as unmanned aircraft and robotic equipment.

Environmental engineering technicians are expected to have 30 percent employment growth between 2008 and 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations. More environmental engineering technicians will be needed to comply with environmental regulations and to develop methods of cleaning up existing hazards. A shift in emphasis toward preventing problems rather than controlling those which already exist, as well as increasing public health concerns resulting from population growth, also will spur demand.

Industrial engineering technicians are expected to have 7 percent employment growth between 2008 and 2018, about as fast as average. As firms continue to seek new means of reducing costs and increasing productivity, demand for industrial engineering technicians to analyze and improve production processes should increase. This should lead to some job growth even in manufacturing industries with slowly growing or declining employment.

Mechanical engineering technicians are expected to decline by 1 percent between 2008 and 2018, which represents little or no change. Increased foreign competition in both design services and manufacturing, together with improved efficiencies in design and testing, will reduce the need for mechanical engineering technicians.

Job prospects will vary by specialty and location, as employment is influenced by economic conditions similar to those which affect engineers. In general, opportunities will be best for individuals with an associate degree or other postsecondary training in engineering technology. As technology becomes more sophisticated, employers will continue to look for technicians who are skilled in new technology and who require little additional training. Even in specialties that are expected to experience job declines, there will still be job openings resulting from the need to replace technicians who retire or leave the labor force for any other reason.

Earnings
Median annual wages in May 2008 of engineering technicians by specialty are shown in the following tabulation:

Aerospace engineering and operations technicians $55,040
Electrical and electronic engineering technicians $53,240
Mechanical engineering technicians $48,130
Industrial engineering technicians $47,180
Electro-mechanical technicians $46,310
Civil engineering technicians $44,290
Environmental engineering technicians $41,100

Median annual wages of wage and salary electrical and electronic engineering technicians were $53,240 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $41,550 and $64,120. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $32,490, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $78,560.

In May 2008, median annual wages for aerospace engineering and operations technicians in the aerospace products and parts manufacturing industry were $52,150, and the median annual salary for environmental engineering technicians in the architectural, engineering, and related services industry was $39,510. Median annual wages for civil engineering technicians in the architectural, engineering, and related services industry were $43,880. The median annual wage for industrial engineering technicians in the semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing industry was $43,760. In the architectural, engineering, and related services industry, the median annual wage for mechanical engineering technicians was $47,130. Electro-mechanical technicians earned a median annual wage of $44,580 in the semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing industry.

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