Differences Between Bachelor Level Engineering and Engineering Technology Degrees
The lines of separation between bachelor’s level engineering and engineering technology positions in industry are blurring as the fields and responsibilities overlap more today than at any other time in history. It’s difficult to clearly define the two because both engineers and technologists can do design, they both solve problems and are involved in many of the same types of projects.
I’m going to try to define it clearly.
Engineering Technology is a field that focuses on the application of established science, math, engineering and technology principles. A technologist is an expert at applying engineering principles and technology to solve problems and connect the theory to all aspects of the problem. An engineering technologist looks at the big picture and practical application of a problem. Both engineers and engineering technologists may design a product to solve a problem, but the engineer would be the one to discover new technology (like microwaves) or develop any new engineering principles and practices. The technologist would normally be the one to develop a product that uses the new technology (like a microwave oven) as well as adapting, building, installing and maintaining a new product or process. An engineer may design a product to solve a problem, but the technologist may develop the process to create that product quickly, inexpensively, and with high quality. Therefore, the technologist may be responsible for solving the problems that may occur in implementation.
FYI – This is all covered in the fourth edition of Is There an Engineer Inside You?: A Comprehensive Guide to Career Decisions in Engineering.
While working on a secret project (this is supposed to be a surprise), I talked with several instructors, professors, and deans in engineering technology departments all over the country. I was confused between the 4-year and 2-year engineering technology degrees. I thought they were both about the same (they are both called engineering technology) but the 4-year degree made more money.
My eyes have been opened! After numerous conversations, I’m left wondering why the bachelor’s degree in engineering technology isn’t more aggressively marketed. If more students really understood this degree, they would be clamoring to begin this field of study. It provides an excellent balance between theory and practice. Although it is application based and not so theoretical as an engineering degree, it is not like a vocational hands-on degree either. The education is not as calculus intensive and there is time in the curriculum for students to take a class or two in business, art, or technical writing. Bachelor’s level technologists are usually hired as engineers (with job titles and responsibilities similar to engineers) and are also eligible to get their Professional Engineer (PE) license.
There is more to come on this subject in future posts.
With the new year upon us, it’s always good to let students know what’s ahead and help them understand how their choices may impact their life. If you have students thinking about going to engineering school, this list of pros and cons can help you better describe the road ahead.
Advantages of an engineering degree include:
- Engineers often escalate to management positions and earn excellent money over the life of their careers
- If a career in research is interesting, an engineering degree can pave the way to further study
- Great salary right out of school
- An engineering education can open many doors – with additional education, engineers can also become doctors, lawyers, writers, teachers, and business people
- An understanding of high level math gives a greater understanding of the world around you, and application of this to real problems can be very satisfying
- Abundant job opportunities worldwide
Disadvantages of an engineering degree include:
- The work can be stressful – especially when the equipment or structure has the potential to impact human life.
- More time in school than an associate’s degree (higher cost for college)
- Workload can be unpredictable and at times very high
- Competitive atmosphere for promotion (performance as perceived by superiors determines one’s ability to be promoted)
- Fewer practical skills upon graduation. Often, engineering students have very little opportunity to take business, manufacturing, art, or writing courses
- Very rigorous and abstract mathematics is required