Mechanical Engineering Technician Job Description, Career as a Mechanical Engineering Technician, Salary, Employment
Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job
Education and Training: High school plus two years of training
Salary: Median—$43,400 per year
Employment Outlook: Good
Definition and Nature of the Work
Mechanical engineering technicians assist mechanical engineers and sometimes scientists in all phases of the design, development, production, testing, operation, and maintenance of mechanical equipment, tools, and industrial machinery. Mechanical engineering technology is a broad field. Technicians work on products that range from automobile engines, air conditioners, and power saws, to nuclear reactors, elevators, and printing presses. They also work on the machines and tools needed to make such products. Sometimes they are concerned with tiny parts for delicate instruments. At other times they deal with huge gears for machines such as bulldozers.
Mechanical engineering technicians have a wide variety of titles. Sometimes they are just called mechanical technicians. If they specialize, they may be called automotive technicians or diesel technicians depending on their field. Others are known as tool designers, mechanical drafters, or production technicians depending on the job they do within their field. Mechanical engineering technicians work in plants and factories in all sections of the country. Most work for private companies that make tools and machinery. Others work for government agencies or consulting firms.
Many mechanical engineering technicians work in design and development. They usually work closely with the mechanical engineers who create or improve products ranging from mechanical pencils to complex spaceships. Many of these technicians spend much of their time at drawing boards. They prepare drawings, or layouts, of the product being developed—for example, an engine for an automobile. They have to make detailed drawings of each screw, nut, bolt, and gear to be used in the engine. They estimate how much it will cost to make the engine and how well it will work. They take into account the friction, stress, strain, and vibration that the various parts of the engine will have to endure. Mechanical engineering technicians often use complex instruments, testing equipment, and gauges in their work. They test models of the engine, write up reports, and suggest better ways to make the engine.
Other mechanical engineering technicians work in production. They help to make layouts of each step to be taken and each part to be made in the production of, for example, the automobile engine. Specialists in tool design make drawings of the tools, jigs, dies, and other devices needed to mass-produce each part for the engine. They often improve the design of existing tools. Other mechanical engineering technicians make estimates of the cost of labor and the best use of plant space. They help with any production problems that may arise. Sometimes they test machinery or the parts being made for the engine. They do studies of the manufacturing process to find out whether it could be done in a better or cheaper way. Many technicians supervise other workers.
Mechanical engineering technicians are also involved in the installation, operation, and maintenance of machinery used to manufacture other products. Some technicians work in technical sales. Others are employed as technical writers.
Education and Training Requirements
You can become a mechanical engineering technician in several ways. Some technicians receive their training from a vocational high school. Others attend a community college or technical institute. Most employers prefer to hire graduates of two-year programs in mechanical engineering technology. In some jobs in this field, such as tool design, there are formal apprenticeship programs that combine classroom instruction with on-the-job training. Apprenticeship programs generally take from two to four years to complete. Nearly all workers in the field of mechanical engineering technology need some on-the-job training to prepare them to meet the specific needs of their employers.
Getting the Job
Mechanical engineering technicians often get their first jobs with the help of their school placement office. Many companies list openings for mechanical engineering technicians in newspaper classifieds or job banks on the Internet. You can apply directly to companies that hire technicians. Your state employment service may also be able to help you find a job in mechanical engineering technology.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Advancement depends on ability, education, and experience. Most technicians are given more responsibility as they gain experience. Some become supervisors of other technicians. Mechanical engineering technicians who further their education can become mechanical engineers. Some technicians advance by moving into technical sales work or technical writing.
Overall employment of engineering technicians is expected to increase about as fast as average for all occupations through 2014. The continuing demand for improved industrial machinery and tools should cause demand for mechanical engineering technicians to grow. Many skilled technicians will be needed to help create complex new products. Technicians familiar with new technology and those having an associate's degree or extensive job training in engineering technology should have the best opportunities.
Because they are involved in all phases of manufacturing and design, mechanical engineering technicians work under a variety of conditions. Some spend most of their time in an office at a drawing board. Others do much of their work in a foundry, die-casting room, machine shop, or other manufacturing area. Although these technicians sometimes work near powerful, fast-moving machinery, they are seldom in danger. The safety record of manufacturing plants is good.
Mechanical engineering technicians who specialize in design usually work thirty-five to forty hours a week on day shifts. Technicians who specialize in production sometimes work night shifts. In some cases overtime work is required. Some mechanical engineering technicians belong to unions.
Technicians in this field should be able to get along well with others since they often work as part of a mechanical engineering team. They must be able to work with drawings and follow directions exactly. An interest in machines and in solving mechanical problems is an asset in this field.
Earnings and Benefits
Salaries vary depending on the education and experience of the technician, the location, and the kind of job. Mechanical engineering technicians earn salaries that are similar to those of other kinds of engineering technicians. In 2004 the median annual earnings of mechanical engineering technicians was $43,400 per year.
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