Engineering vs. Engineering Technology

Posted by Matt Leese.

Other on team #73 from Edison Technical HS and Rochester Institute of Technology.

Posted on 10/16/2000 5:24 AM MST

Given that there are about 20 minutes before I have to go to class and this has been bugging me for awhile (a whole lot longer than 20 minutes…), can someome tell me what’s the difference between Engineering and Engineering Technology? I’ve heard different answers from different people and none of them seem to make very much sense. (For those who don’t know, I go to RIT which has an Engineering Technology program as well as Engineering and the people here don’t seem to know too well what the difference is).

Matt Leese

Posted by Adam Krajewski.

Student on team #68, Truck Town Terror, from Walled Lake Central High School and General Motors Truck Group.

Posted on 10/17/2000 10:25 PM MST

In Reply to: Engineering vs. Engineering Technology posted by Matt Leese on 10/16/2000 5:24 AM MST:

The way I understand it, engineering technology is a sort of a ‘middleman’ between ‘conventional’ engineers and those producing the products those engineers engineer such as machinists. It’s usually a two-year associates degree and is a balance between a skilled trade and the theory behind it. Sort of a ‘hands-on’ engineer. I know a former FIRST participant in the mechanical engineering technology program because she doesn’t want to sit at a desk all day long, she wants to actually ‘make stuff’. Seems to be an interesting program and something to look into.


Posted by Chris.   [PICTURE: SAME | NEW | HELP]

Coach on team #308, Walled Lake Monster, from Walled Lake Schools and TRW Automotive Electronics.

Posted on 10/18/2000 7:08 AM MST

In Reply to: Engineering vs. Engineering Technology posted by Matt Leese on 10/16/2000 5:24 AM MST:

As Adam mentioned below, Engineering Technology is typically a two year associates degree. When you graduate and get a job, your title will be ‘Technician’ as opposed to engineer. In terms of job responsibility (at a design facility such as TRW), the technicians generally take direction from the engineers and receive supplemental performance reviews from the engineers. Typically, the technicians build prototypes, trouble shoot malfunctioning parts, run tests, etc. In other jobs, technicians might install manufacturing equipment, fix problems, and stuff like that. Instead of designing the products, the technicians are more responsible for knowing how the product functions, how to build it, and how to fix it.

In general, the technician is much more hands-on, but also gets a lot less ‘say’ in the design and development.

In terms of compensation, technicians are typically paid hourly (plus 1.5 time for overtime and the like) and engineers get paid a salary (or a modified salary / hourly deal that is becoming standard in the automotive industry).

Another thing to consider is advancement opportunities. Generally speaking, technicians have very little chance of advancement into management (if that is your aspiration). Not to say that there is no chance, it’s just that it’s seriously reduced. Any more, a master’s degree is required for any position over a first-level manager so even a bachelor’s degree is becoming not enough.

However, since the technician position is hourly, the responsibility level is less (in terms of company obligations). I am friends with a number of technicians here and they say that they have no desire to become engineers since they will then be more obligated to cancel vacations, work late, etc. when the company needs them to. As of now, they are able to say ‘no’ and they like that freedom. As an engineer, when the company really needs you, you are pretty well obligated to them.

There is one big advantage of getting the Engineering Technology degree: most companies have tuition reimbursement programs. Therefore, if you aspire to get an engineering degree, you can become a technician and let your company pay for your bachelors. It will take longer this way and will be a lot of work, but if you don’t have a lot of money for school, this is a good way to go.

(Note: this version of Engineering Technology vs. Engineering is from my own experiences. It is most likely not the complete story.)

Posted by nuts4first.

Engineer on team #340, GRR - Greater Rochester Robotics, from Churchville-Chili and Nortel Networks.

Posted on 10/18/2000 9:23 AM MST

In Reply to: Engineering vs. Engineering Technology posted by Matt Leese on 10/16/2000 5:24 AM MST:


I hope you made it down the quarter mile in time for class after posting this one!

I myself have been in your shoes. First, let me say this, Engineering Technology is not just a 2 year
program! I came from the Telecommunications Engineering Technology program at RIT (which took 5 years, with co-ops). With ‘Engineering’ you receive a’ Bachelar of Engineering’, with ‘Engineering Technology’ you receive a ‘Bachelar of Science.’ This is pretty clear at RIT, since the Engineering Technology classes fall under CAST, not the College of Engineering.

Engineering classes are more math and science based, they crunch numbers alot, more theory. ET is more about how to apply what you have leaned to be resourseful and find the answers. As your time at RIT grows, you will see the clear difference, especially after the first year - this is when many people change majors. Sad to say this but I have seen many people start out in Computer Engineering, get too tired of the theory (or not know what they are getting into), try Computer Science, get tired of the programming, then try Information or Engineering Technology. I feel that you need a great deal of patience and time to study engineering, be prepared to give up weeeknd nights.

From my persective for the long term, it’s not which program you are in, it’s what you do with your skills and education. One of the toughest challenges I have seen is the narrowed minded attitude some job recruiters have by over looking a ET with a long list of skills and choosing a Engineer instead, just becuase of what is on a degree. It’s really being able to show off your skills in the work place that matters, years down the road the type of degree won’t matter to most employers, they will look at your skills and acheivments. I don’t regret my choice to that the ET path.

Good Luck,

Posted by Jim Meyer.

Engineer on team #67, HOT Team, from Huron Valley Schools and GM Milford Proving Ground.

Posted on 10/23/2000 7:33 AM MST

In Reply to: Engineering vs. Engineering Technology posted by Matt Leese on 10/16/2000 5:24 AM MST:

About 3 months ago I received a phone call. It was a friend of a friend and he was asking me for hiring info at GM. He informed me that he had a Bachelors degree in Engineering Technology (4 years) from one of the satelite campuses of the University of Nebraska located in Omaha. He seemed to be an incredibly bright guy with nearly a 4.0 GPA. He chose engineering technology over a classical engineering degree because he wanted to do more hands-on type of work. He was calling me because he had graduated a couple of months prior, and still could not find a job. He really wanted to get into the automotive industry because of his passion for cars. He informed me that he had all but gotten a position with Visteon (A large automotive supplier once owned by Ford) only to have his hire blocked by Human Resources because he did not have an ‘Engineering Degree’.

Just some information that I thought would help.

I myself got a Mechanical Engineering Degree from the University of Nebraska (main campus in Lincoln) an do a fair amount of hands-on work. Right now there is a transducer that I designed on my desk that is most likely a one-of-a-kind. I guess I’ll find out when I try to patent it.

I do want to emphasize that there are many jobs for classical engineers where you get your hands dirty. A co-worker of mine, who just started here, just finished designing and building a banding maching for Velcro. This banding machine is really no different from a robot competion. He was given limited resources; time, money and space, and the only requirement was it had to applying bands to Velcro rolls. I can name countless other friends of mine doing hands on work with classical engineering degrees.

The jobs you want are out there, you just have to find them!

Hope this helps,

Jim Meyer