An engineering technologist (eTechnologist) is a professional trained in certain aspects of development and implementation of a respective area of technology. Engineering technology education is even more applied and less theoretical than engineering education, though in a broad sense both have a focus on practical application. Engineering technologists often assist engineers but after years of experience, they can also become engineers. Like engineers, areas where engineering technologists can work include product design (including improvement), fabrication and testing. Also as with engineers, engineering technologists sometimes rise to senior management positions in industry or become entrepreneurs.
Engineering technology field often overlaps with many of the same general areas (e.g. design/development, testing) but the focus is even more on application than in engineering field (which is, in a somewhat different sense, also about application of science). Engineering technologists are more likely than engineers to focus on (post-development) implementation or operation of a technology but this is not a strict rule as they often do design original concepts. The National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) in the USA summarizes the distinction as being that engineers are trained more with conceptual skills to "function as designers," while engineering technologists "apply others' designs." The mathematics and sciences, as well as other technical courses, in technology programs, tend to be taught with more application-based examples, whereas engineering coursework provides a more theoretical foundation in math and science (because those are the very subjects that engineers apply directly). Moreover, engineering coursework tends to require higher-level mathematics, including calculus and beyond, as well as more extensive knowledge of the natural sciences applied in design, which also serve to prepare students for research (whether in graduate studies or industrial R&D). Engineering technology courses generally have more labs associated with their undergraduate courses that require hands-on application of the studied topics.
Nature of work
Engineering technologists are employed in a wide array of industries and areas – including product development, manufacturing, technology operation and maintenance. They may be managers, depending on the experience and educational emphasis on management. Entry-level positions relating in various ways to product design, Product testing, product development, systems development, field engineering, technical operations and quality control are common for engineering technology graduates.
In general, the work of engineering technologists focuses more often on practical application of engineered products and processes for a range of purposes, whereas the work of engineers emphasizes application of math and science for design/development purposes (in ways that tend to require a more extensive theoretical foundation of mathematics and the natural sciences). The National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) describes the difference between engineering and engineering technology as follows:
- "The distinction between engineering and engineering technology emanates primarily from differences in their educational programs. Engineering programs are geared toward development of conceptual skills and consist of a sequence of engineering fundamentals and design courses, built on a foundation of complex mathematics and science courses. Engineering technology programs are oriented toward application and provide their students introductory mathematics and science courses and only a qualitative introduction to engineering fundamentals. Thus, engineering programs provide their graduates a breadth and depth of knowledge that allows them to function as designers. Engineering technology programs prepare their graduates to apply others' designs."
The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) summarizes engineering technology as "the application of scientific and engineering knowledge and methods combined with technical skills in support of engineering activities; it lies in the occupational spectrum between the craftsman and the engineer at the end of the spectrum closest to the engineer."
In addition, ABET has stated: "Engineering and technology are separate, but intimately related professions. Here are some of the ways they differ:
- Engineering undergraduate programs include more mathematics work and higher-level mathematics than technology programs.
- Engineering undergraduate programs often focus on theory, while technology programs usually focus on application.
- Once they enter the workforce, engineering graduates typically spend their time planning, while engineering technology graduates spend their time making plans work.
- At ABET, engineering and engineering technology programs are evaluated and accredited by two separate accreditation commissions using two separate sets of accreditation criteria.
- Graduates from engineering programs are called "engineers", while graduates of engineering technology programs are called "engineering technologists".
- Some U.S. state boards of professional engineering licensure will allow only graduates of engineering programs—not engineering technology programs—to become licensed engineers."
Engineers generally focus more on conceptual design and product development, while engineering technologists are more likely to work in testing, fabrication/construction or field work. Of course, those areas overlap considerably (e.g., testing and fabrication are often integral to the overall product development process and can involve engineers as well as engineering technologists). In 2012, The Journal of Engineering Technology, published results that show "that a very broad range of engineering companies operating across the full spectrum of engineering services and products, baccalaureate engineering technology graduates are operating as engineers. Moreover, these graduates function in many engineering roles equally as well as their contemporaries from engineering."
Education and accreditation
Beginning in the 1950s and 1960s, some post-secondary institutions in the U.S.and Canada began offering degrees in engineering technology, focusing on applied study rather than the more theoretical engineering degrees. The focus on applied study addressed a need within the scientific, manufacturing and engineering communities, as well as other industries, for professionals with hands-on and applications-based engineering knowledge. Depending on the institution, associate's and/or bachelor's degrees are offered, with some institutions also offering advanced degrees in technology.
In general, an engineering technologist receives a broad range of applied science and applied mathematics training, as well as the fundamentals of engineering in the student's area of focus. Engineering technology programs typically include instruction in various engineering support functions for research, production and operations and applications to specific engineering specialties. Information technology is primarily involved with the management, operation and maintenance of computer systems and networks, along with an application of technology in diverse fields such as architecture, engineering, graphic design, telecommunications, computer science and network security. An engineering technologist is also expected to have had some coursework in ethics.
International technology organizations from eight nations have signed a mutual recognition agreement called the Sydney Accord, which represents an understanding that the academic awards of engineering technologists can be recognized in all signatory states. The recognition of the Sydney Accord for engineering technologists can be compared to the Washington Accord for engineers and the Dublin Accord for engineering technicians. The Engineering Technologist Mobility Forum (ETMF) is an international forum held by signatories of the Sydney Accord to explore mutual recognition for experienced engineering technologists and to remove artificial barriers to the free movement and practice of engineering technologists amongst their countries.
Graduates acquiring an associate degree or lower typically find careers as engineering technicians. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics: "Many four-year colleges offer bachelor's degrees in engineering technology and graduates of these programs are hired to work as entry-level electrical or electronics engineers or applied engineers, but not technicians." Engineering technicians typically hold a two-year associate degree, while engineering technologists likewise hold a bachelor's degrees.
Internationally, the Sydney Accord is an agreement signed in 2001 acknowledging the academic equivalence of accredited engineering technology programs in the signatory nations. In some countries, only those individuals who have graduated from an accredited curriculum in engineering technology and have a significant amount of work experience in their field may become registered technologists. A technologist's recognition may be in the form of a certification or a professional registration.
In Canada, the new occupational category of "technologist" was established in the 1960s in conjunction with an emerging system of community colleges and technical institutes. It was designed to effectively bridge the gap between the increasingly theoretical nature of engineering degrees and the predominantly practical approach of technician and trades programs. Provincial associations may certify individuals as a Professional Technologist (P.Tech.), Certified Engineering Technologist (C.E.T.), Registered Engineering Technologist (R.E.T.), Applied Science Technologist (AScT) or Technologue Professionel [T.P.]. These provincial associations are constituent members of the Canadian Council of Technicians and Technologists (CCTT), which nationally accredits technology programs across Canada through its Canadian Technology Accreditation Board (CTAB). Nationally accredited engineering technology programs range from two to three years in length, depending on the province, often containing as many classroom hours as a 4-year degree program.
In the United States, the hierarchy of educational structure and acknowledgement start at the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). The U.S. Department of Education acknowledges regional and national accreditations and CHEA recognizes specialty accreditations. Two technology accreditations are currently recognized by CHEA: The Association of Technology, Management and Applied Engineering (ATMAE) and the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Specifically, CHEA recognizes ABET internationally and in the U.S. for accrediting engineering technology programs at the associate and baccalaureate level. CHEA also recognizes ATMAE for accrediting associate, baccalaureate and master's degree programs in technology, applied technology, engineering technology and technology-related disciplines delivered by national or regional accredited institutions in the United States. (2011).
ABET has been accrediting engineering technology programs in the United States since 1946, with a total of over 600 programs at more than 230 institutions. In response to heavy demand, ABET began accrediting engineering technology programs internationally in 2007. Depending on the institution, associate's and/or bachelor's degrees are offered, with a few institutions also offering advanced degrees. The type, length and quality of education offered can vary greatly depending on the educational institution and the specialty pursued within engineering technology. ATMAE-accredited engineering technology programs require a management core.
The Engineering Technology Accreditation Commission (ETAC) of Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology was admitted as a provisional member of International Technology Accords in 2007 and it signed the Sydney Accord in 2009.
Other U.S. Secretary of Education and CHEA-recognized accrediting agencies in the U.S.—(such as the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) Accrediting Council and the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS)—accredit colleges and universities with programs leading to bachelor's and master's degrees in engineering and engineering technologies.
The publication of the US Department of Education and the National Science Foundation known as Mapping The World of Education indicates that an engineering technologist degree is at the same academic level (60) as an ABET/EAC engineering degree.
Professional certification is the registration of engineering technologists to assure their qualification within their countries or territories. The Sydney Accord and the Engineering Technologist Mobility Forum (ETMF) are two international efforts to improve cross-border recognition for engineering technologists.
A certified engineering technologist is usually required to apprentice for a term before being able to apply for certification through a local governing body. In that time, the engineering technologist must have completed tasks which directly apply to his or her area of study.
In Canada, the regulated title for technologists is Certified Engineering Technologist. Technology program accreditation is administered through the Canadian Technology Accreditation Board (CTAB), often in conjunction with provincial associations affiliated with the Canadian Council of Technicians and Technologists. Graduated technologists are certified by their provincial bodies.
In the United States, engineering technologist certification requires a bachelor's degree in an engineering technology program accredited by the Engineering Technology Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ETAC/ABET). One may also obtain a degree from an institution accredited through The Association of Technology, Management and Applied Engineering (formerly known as the National Association of Industrial Technology). Engineering technologist registration in the United States is conducted by many independent societies and organizations. A government-sponsored registration is opposed by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) and NSPE. As a result, the profession is often not seen as an independent field separate from design engineering.
The National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET) awards certification at two levels depending on work experience: the Associate Engineering Technologist (AT) and the Certified Engineering Technologist (CT). The Association of Technology, Management and Applied Engineering (ATMAE) awards two levels of certification in technology management: Certified Technology Manager (CTM) and Certified Senior Technology Manager (CSTM). ATMAE also awards two levels of certification in manufacturing specialist: Certified Manufacturing Specialist (CMS) and Certified Senior Manufacturing Specialist (CSMS). While the CTM and CMS certification are obtained through examination, the CSTM and CSMS require industry experience and continuous improvement via the obtainment of professional development units (PDUs).
American Society of Certified Engineering Technicians (ASCET) is a membership organization that issues Certified Member certifications to engineering technicians and engineering technologists. Professional engineers are issued Registered Member certification.
The United Kingdom has a decades-long tradition of producing engineering technologists via the apprenticeship system of learning. UK engineering technologists have always been designated as "engineers". The term "engineer" in the UK is used to describe the entire range of skilled worker and professionals from trades people through to the highly educated Chartered Engineer. In fact up until the 1960s professional engineers in the UK were often referred to as "Technologists" to distinguish them from scientists, technicians and craftsmen. The modern term for an engineering technologist is "incorporated engineer" (IEng), although since 2000 the normal route to achieving IEng is with a Bachelors or Honours Degree in engineering. Modern technical apprenticeships would normally lead to the EngTech professional qualification and with further studies at higher apprenticeship level an IEng. Since 2015 the UK government (UCAS) has introduced engineering degree (Bachelors and Masters) apprenticeships. The title "incorporated engineer" is protected by civil law. Prior to the title "incorporated engineer", U.K. technologists were known as "technician engineers" a designation introduced in the 1960s.
In the United Kingdom, an incorporated engineer is accepted as a "professional engineer", registered by the Engineering Council, although the term "professional engineer" has no legal meaning in the U.K. and there are no restrictions on practice. In fact anyone in the U.K. can call themselves an "engineer" or "professional engineer" without any qualifications or proven competencies in engineering and most U.K. skilled trades are sometimes referred to as "professional" or "accredited" engineers. Examples are "Registered Gas Engineer" (gas installer) or "Professional Telephone Engineer" (phone line installer or fault diagnosis).
Incorporated engineers are recognized internationally through the Sydney Accord academic agreement as engineering technologists. One of the professional titles for engineers in the United Kingdom, recognized in the Washington Accord is the chartered engineer. The incorporated engineer is a professional engineer as declared by the Engineering Council of the United Kingdom and the European definition as demonstrated by the prescribed title under 2005/36/EC as an "engineer". The incorporated engineer operates autonomously and directs activities independently. They do not necessarily need the support of chartered engineers because they are often acknowledged as full engineers in the U.K. (but not in Canada or the U.S.). The United Kingdom incorporated engineer may also contribute to the design of new products and systems.
The chartered engineer and incorporated engineer are recognized as broadly comparable in stature, but with separate functions. As a result, the chartered and incorporated engineer are placed under the same directive, 2005/36/EC. The incorporated engineer can practice autonomously without the oversight of a chartered engineer.
Incorporated engineers currently require an IEng accredited bachelors or honours degree in engineering (prior to 1997 the B.Sc. and B.Eng. degrees satisfied the academic requirements for "chartered engineer" registration), a Higher National Certificate or diploma, City and Guilds higher diploma/Full Technological Cert Diploma or a Foundation Degree in engineering, plus appropriate further learning to degree level or an NVQ4 or SVQ4 approved for the purpose by a licensed engineering institution.
The academic requirements must be accompanied by the appropriate peer reviewed experience in employment-typical 4 years post qualification. In addition to the experience and academic requirements, the engineering candidate must have three referees (themselves CEng or IEng) that vouch for the performance of the individual being considered for professional recognition. There are a number of alternative ways to achieve IEng status for those that do not have the necessary qualifications for applicants, that can clearly show they have achieved the same level as those with qualifications, including:
- writing a technical report, based upon their experience and demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of engineering principles;
- earning the City and Guilds of London Institute Graduate Diploma (Bachelors level) and Post Graduate Diploma (Masters level) accredited by IMechE, Institution of Engineering and Technology and Institution of Civil Engineers
- following a work-based learning program; or
- taking an academic program specified by the institution to which they are applying.
Germany – European Union
Engineering Technologist/State-certified Engineer
The title 'state-certified engineer BVT' is awarded to qualified engineering technologists (staatlich gepruefter Techniker) by the Bundesverband höherer Berufe der Technik, Wirtschaft und Gestaltung e.V. ("Association of Higher Professions for Technology and Design") or BVT, conditional on two years of professional experience, current BVT membership and payment of an administration fee.
The engineering technologist is a vocational, continuous professional development non-academic but equivalent qualification, awarded after successfully passing state examinations governed by German federal rules. To be eligible for the engineering technologist examination, candidates must fulfill the following requirements: completion of one of the school systems (Hauptschule, Realschule, Gymnasium), an apprenticeship of at least two years duration, one year of completed professional work experience and attendance of a taught program with a course load of 2400–3000 hours, usually completed within two years in full-time or 3.5 – 4 years part-time at vocational colleges.
As of January 2012, the state-certified engineer/engineering technologist was allocated to level 6 of the European Qualifications Framework, equivalent to undergraduate degrees (Bachelor's level). Furthermore, the engineering technologist constitutes an advanced entry qualification for German universities and in principal permits entry into any undergraduate academic degree program. The engineering technologist/state-certified engineer should not be confused with academically qualified engineers, which previously graduated from universities as Diplom-Ingenieur (Diploma in Engineering) and following the Bologna process with BEng + MEng degrees.
State-certified technicians/engineers in the EU directives
As of January 31, 2012, state certified engineers, state certified business managers and state certified designers are at level 6-Bachelor on the DQF and EQF. The qualifications more than a decade ago were entered into EU Directives as recognized regulated professions in Germany and the EU. Annexes C and D were added to Council Directive 92/51/EEC on a second general system for the recognition of professional education and training to supplement Directive 89/48/EEC.
Top institutions involved included the federal government (the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology), EU Standing Conference and Economic Ministerial Meeting of Countries, the German Confederation of Hand-plant, the Confederation of German Employers' Associations, German Chambers of Industry and Commerce, Confederation of German Trade Unions and Federal Institute for Vocational Application. These government institutions agreed on a common position on the implementation of the EQF and a German qualifications framework (DQR).
European Union law and other documents considered to be public include:
- Annexes C and D to Council Directive 92/51/EEC on a second general system for the recognition of professional education and training to supplement Directive 89/48/EEC
- EU Directive 2005L0036-EN 01.01.2007
- ANNEX III list of regulated education and training referred to in the third sub paragraph of Article 13(2)
The qualifications framework requires: "regulated courses for the professions of state-certified ('staatlich gepruefte(r)') technician/engineer ('Techniker(in)'), business economist (business manager), ('Betriebswirt(in)'), designer ('Gestalter(in)') and family assistant ('Familiepfleger(in)'), of a total duration not less than 16 years, a prerequisite of which is successful completion of compulsory schooling or equivalent education and training (of a duration of not less than nine years) and successful completion of a course at a trade school ('Berufsschule') of a duration of not less than three years and comprising, upon completion of at least two years of work experience, full-time education and training of a duration of not less than two years or part-time education and training of equivalent duration."
International engineering technologist (IntET)
The international engineering technologist (IntET) qualification was launched in late 2007 by the Engineering Technologists Mobility Forum (ETMF), which is part of the International Engineering Alliance (IEA). The qualification is awarded by each member jurisdiction followed by a jurisdictional identifier, such as IntET (UK) for the U.K.
In addition to the benefits gained through IEng professional qualification (an eligibility requirement), IntET (UK) offers additional benefits, including letters after name (such as "J. Smith IEng IntET (UK)") and easier admission to National Registers of IntET register member jurisdictions. The Engineering Council and its fellow ETMF members are pursuing the possibility of future mutual recognition of professional titles, which would further enhance the benefits of IntET qualification.
The IntET (UK) qualification is open to U.K.-registered incorporated engineers who have met the requirements: seven years post-graduate experience, two years responsibility of significant engineering work and maintaining continuing professional development. Incorporated engineers who do not hold an accredited degree recognised under the Sydney Accord or equivalent academic qualification, are currently not eligible to apply for IntET (UK) qualification.
References and notes
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