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Technician Versus Engineer

The title of this page may be a little misleading. Generally, technicians and engineers are not in competition unless it is on the ball field. They often work side-by-side on projects and their job functions commonly overlap. The difference is probably most pronounced right after graduating from school. Engineers tend to go to work applying the science and mathematics knowledge to solve problems and design processes and products. Technicians tend to start their careers performing tests, collecting data, and assisting engineers. As the technician becomes more knowledgeable about the work he or she is doing, they may take on new responsibilities that include things like designing tests, and they are often given an engineering title by their company. In the field of nondestructive evaluation (NDE), engineers with NDT backgrounds work on developing new inspection equipment and procedures. Technicians usually start their careers in NDT performing tests that follow an established procedure. As they progress in their work experience and knowledge, many NDT technicians find themselves also developing inspection procedures. Both NDT technicians and engineers with NDT backgrounds are in high demand by industry.

A Closer Look at Engineers

In the simplest of terms, an engineer is a problem solver. They take basic science information and use the rules of mathematics to solve problems and design new products. They generally have a desire to want to make our world a better place to live and work. Engineers invent new technologies that revolutionize the way we handle information. They design and develop tools, toys, furniture, computers, and almost every other manufactured product that we use. They improve our buildings, roads, and vehicles. They develop systems to clean our water, process our foods, make our fuels burn more efficiently, and recycle our waste.

More than 1.2 million engineers work in the United States today, making engineering the nation’s second largest profession. According to the US Department of Labor, the demand for qualified engineers will remain strong well into the next millennium. An engineering degree is also an excellent background for other careers. Because engineering courses enhance creativity, problem solving skills, and understanding of technology, they provide a strong foundation for further studies in medicine, law, business, dentistry, and almost any other field.

A Closer Look at Technicians

Technicians are the "doers." They are workers that are highly trained to perform specific tasks. They generally follow procedures developed by doctors or engineers. In the medical industry technicians use very sophisticated equipment and techniques to analyze body fluids and tissue at the request of the doctor. Mechanical and material testing technicians are often responsible for operating large test systems that pull, compress, or twist materials and products to learn about their performance characteristics. Automotive technicians are trained to diagnose and fix car problems. NDT technicians perform inspections on materials and critical components, looking for flaws that may have adverse affects.

According to the US Department of Labor, there were approximately 519,000 engineering support technicians working in the US in 2000. The demand for engineering support technicians is high and will continue to remain high. In the field on nondestructive testing specifically, some industries are projecting large needs for qualified technicians.