Defining Differences: Engineering and Engineering Technology

In the educational world, there is an ongoing conversation about engineering and engineering technology. The history is laid out in a recent focused issue of the Journal of Engineering Technology, Spring 2012 edition (http://www.engtech.org/docs/Jet_Article_re_Survey.pdf). You are encouraged to read the collection of articles which includes a reprint of one from a 1985 publication on the current state of the issue at that time. Typically, the distinctions include differences based on academic courses students take in a 4-year college program.
• Engineering programs demand a lot of calculus and math. Engineering technology programs do not.

• Engineering programs include a lot of theory.

• Engineering technology programs require a lot of hands-on.

• Both programs can be accredited by ABET (Accrediting Board for Engineering and Technology).

• B.S. Engineering program graduates can become licensed professional engineers. B.S. Engineering Technology grads cannot.

• “Engineering Technology” is and has been labeled, “engineering light”; applied engineering; “hands-on” engineering etc. in an effort to distinguish it from “Engineering” as academic disciplines.

However, from the survey results reported in the article referenced above, “7 out of 10 companies make no distinctions between graduates (of BS ET degree versus BS E degree) when hiring into engineering positions, nor do they make significant distinctions in assigning functions and responsibilities, nor do they note important differences in capabilities of either group while on the job.” The article goes on to analyze some specific questions that the captures information from over 200 company respondents that also provides additional statistics and anecdotal comments that strengthen the “no distinction” response I have reported here. (The whole of the survey instrument and tallied results can be found on the Engineering Technology Division National Forum website: http://www.engtech.org/organizations.php#NationalETForum).

Academic institutions continue to segregate the two disciplines, and during the last decades have housed them in different “departments” and/or “schools”. Students have to choose early in their secondary or post secondary education which path they will pursue, while companies that do not directly service the public sector hire baccalaureate graduates from these two discipline areas, make little distinction when hiring into “engineering” positions. This situation is very confusing to students wanting to enter an engineering profession and to parents who do not understand the options and opportunities. They need to know that in the current scheme, students can get many of the same good jobs, good pay and have great careers as “engineers” no matter which path they take. Although the survey provided additional information supporting the single statistic mentioned above, one point of distinction between graduates is the eligibility to become professionally licensed in engineering fields and positions which have that requirement.

Bringing the ”no distinction” home to Florida, FLATE, and our Engineering Technology Degree College Network, is Margi Lee, Mechanical Engineer, new Program Manager and Professor at Florida Gateway College in Lake City. She succinctly states “this poses a really crisp value proposition for earning an AS ET at a Florida State or Community college, then articulating it into the BS ET at Daytona State College.” These degrees provide opportunity for every hands-on oriented student willing to focus their time and talent to accomplish that goal. Look to your local state or community college to get a great start in an engineering career and feel free to contact me if you have additional questions or comments at barger@fl-ate.org.

Hard to believe that it’s November already and that the holidays and the end of the fall semester are just around the corner. Nonetheless, please take a few moments to catch up on our FLATE Industrial Advisory Committee, FAST Conference, Recruiting Girls Workshop, industry tours, Best Practice guide, and our infamous STEM Puzzle challenge.