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Who is a Technician, Technologist or Engineer?


In general, technicians have a two year degree such as A.A.S, or A.S.E.T. Technicians with an associate degree can transfer to a bachelor of technology program and complete the bachelor's degree in another two years. However, associate degree in engineering technology is not able to have smooth transfer into engineering degree program without losing many credits.

Technicians are most often employed in service jobs. The work typically involves equipment installation, troubleshooting and repair, testing and measuring, maintenance and adjustment, manufacturing, or operation. Technicians in these positions are sometimes called field service technicians, field service engineers, or customer representatives. Technicians also work as engineering technicians, lab technicians, engineering assistant, or associate engineer.

Engineering Technologist

An engineering technologist is a specialist devoted to the implementation of existing technology within a field of engineering. Technologists often work with engineers in a wide variety of projects by applying basic engineering principles and technical skills. The work of technologists is usually focused on the portion of the technological spectrum closest to product improvement, manufacturing, construction, and engineering operational functions.

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 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.

Technologists are employed in a large and wide-array of industries, including manufacturing, construction, industrial, maintenance, and management. They may be hired as managers of technology, depending on the technologist's educational emphasis on management preparation. Entry-level positions such as product design, testing, development, systems development, field engineering, technical operations, and quality control are all common positions for engineering technology graduates.

In general, the work of engineering technologists focuses on the applied and practical application of engineering principles, whereas the work of engineers emphasizes the theoretical aspects of mathematical, scientific and engineering principles. Candidates must have a minimum of a high school diploma or high school equivalent.


Engineers design equipment and systems. They have B.S., M.S., or Ph.D. in Electrical, Mechanical, Civil or other engineering fields. Many engineers also have degrees in engineering technology such as B.T, B.E.T, or B.S.E.T plus some engineering certification. The main difference between the B.T. graduate and the engineering graduate is that, the B.T. graduate usually takes courses that are more practical and hands-on than engineering courses. Holders of B.T. degrees can generally design equipment and systems but do not typically have the depth background in analytical mathematics required for complex design jobs. To overcome this deficiency, SUNY Canton B.T. programs have minor in mathematics for students who want to have strong mathematics background. Generally speaking, graduates with B.T. degrees are employed as engineers in manufacturing, quality control, design, and field service.

The National Society of Professional Engineers describes the difference between engineering and engineering technology:

"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 describes the difference between engineering and engineering technology as: "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 technology programs are often called technologists.
  • Graduates from engineering technology programs are often hired as engineers.

The engineering graduate typically requires a period of 'internship' since engineering programs stress fundamentals. The engineering technology graduate, however, is prepared to immediately begin technical assignments since technology programs stress current industrial practices and design procedures.

References: Louis E. Frenzel Jr., Electronic communications, ABET- www.abet.org


Electrical Engineering Technology
Stephen Frempong, Ph.D.
Department Chair