Automotive Engineering Technicians

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QUICK FACTS about this job:

  • School Subjects: Mathematics, Physics, Computer Science
  • Personal Skills: Following instructions, Technical/scientific
  • Work Environment: Indoors and outdoors
  • Primarily multiple locations: Minimum Education Level: Associate’s degree
  • Salary Range: $30,530 to $44,540 to $77,080+
  • Certification or Licensing: Voluntary
  • Outlook: Decline
  • DOT: 003, 007, 012
  • GOE: 02.08.02, 02.08.04
  • NOC: 2132, 2233, 2241
  • O*NET-SOC: 17-3023.00, 17-3026.00, 17-3027.00, 17-3029.00

OVERVIEW

Automotive engineering technicians use their knowledge and skills in engineering, science, and mathematics to help automotive engineers and other professionals in the research and development, quality control, manufacturing, and design of automobiles or specific systems and components. They work for major automotive manufacturers and contractors worldwide. Approximately 15,000 engineering technicians are employed in the motor vehicle and parts manufacturing industry.

HISTORY

Automotive engineering technicians have been valuable members of auto motive engineering teams ever since the first automotive engine was designed and built in the l880s. Technicians assist automotive engineers, scientists, and other workers in a variety of tasks. They bridge the gap between the engineers and designers who design the automobile, and those who manufacture them.

THE JOB

Imagine driving a car that gets 41 mpg, with zero emissions, and fill-ups lasting about 400 miles It’s not a daydream, but rather a reality—Ford’s new Edge, the world’s first drivable fuel-cell hybrid electric plug- in vehicle. It was realized with the help of automotive engineering technicians working in the company’s research and development department. Their duties included recording data, making computations, plotting graphs, and analyzing efficiency results of the model’s HySeries Drive powertrain.

Another example of automotive engineering technicians in the automotive industry are those who work in the manufacturing department at Toyota to help test and implement needed modifications in the design of supplemental restraint systems. More commonly known as air bags, automotive engineering technicians use computer-aided design programs, set up and gather results from crash tests, and help draw designs of the machinery needed to make or install air bag systems, including innovative knee air bags.

Automotive engineers cannot implement important innovations and improvements in the industry without the help of automotive engineering technicians. Under the direction of engineers and designers, engineering technicians are instrumental in building, maintaining, and modifying many aspects of the automobile ranging from safer, well-constructed vehicles, more powerful and efficient systems, and durable components and materials. Automotive engineering technicians may specialize according to their assigned department or project. Opportunities are available in chemical, materials, mechanical, industrial, and many other engineering specialties.

Example: An engineering technician monitors a test in the wind tunnel at the ChryslerTechnicalCenter.

REQUIREMENTS

High School

Preparation for this career begins in high school. Although entrance requirements to associate degree programs vary somewhat from school to school, mathematics and physical science form the back bone of a good preparatory curriculum. Classes should include algebra, geometry, science, trigonometry, calculus, chemistry, mechanical drawing, shop, and physics. Because computers have become essential for automotive engineering technicians, computer courses are also important.

English and speech courses provide invaluable experience in improving verbal and written communication skills. Since some technicians go on to become technical writers or teachers, and since all of them need to be able to explain technical matter clearly and concisely, communication skills are important.

Postsecondary Training

Most employers are interested in hiring graduates with at least a two-year degree in automotive engineering technology or a related field. Technical institutes, community colleges, vocational schools, and universities all offer this course of study.

The Technology Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (http://www.abet.org) accredits engineering technology programs.

Some engineering technicians decide to pursue advancement in their field by becoming automotive engineering technologists. Others branch off into research and development or become engineers. These higher-level, higher-paid positions typically require the completion of a bachelor’s degree in engineering technology (for engineering technologists) or at least a bachelor’s degree in engineering (for technicians interested in becoming research and development engineers).

Certification or Licensing

Many automotive engineering technicians choose to become certified by the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies. To become certified, you must combine a specific amount of job-related experience with a written examination. Certifications are offered at several levels of expertise. Such certification is generally voluntary, although obtaining certification shows a high level of commitment and dedication that employers find highly desirable.

Electronics automotive engineering technicians may obtain voluntary certification from the International Society of Certified Electronics Technicians and the Electronics Technicians Association, International. Certification is regarded as a demonstration of professional dedication, determination, and know-how.

Automotive engineering technicians are encouraged to become affiliated with professional groups, such as the American Society of Certified Engineering Technicians, that offer continuing education sessions for members. Additionally, some engineering technicians may be required to belong to unions.

Other Requirements

Automotive engineering technicians are relied upon for solutions and must express their ideas clearly in speech and in writing. Good communication skills are important for a technician in the writing and presenting of reports and plans. These skills are also important for working alongside other technicians and professionals, people who are often from many different backgrounds and skilled in varying areas of engineering.

Automotive engineering technicians need mathematical and mechanical aptitude. They must understand abstract concepts and apply scientific principles to problems in the shop, laboratory, or work site.

Many tasks assigned to automotive engineering technicians require patience and methodical, persistent work. Good technicians work well with their hands, paying close attention to every detail of a project. Some technicians are bored by the repetitiveness of some tasks, while others enjoy the routine.

Individuals planning to advance beyond the technician’s level should be willing to and capable of pursuing some form of higher education.

EXPLORING

If you are interested in a career as an automotive engineering technician, you can gain relevant experience by taking shop courses, joining electronics or radio clubs in school, and assembling electronic equipment with commercial kits.

You should take every opportunity to discuss the field with people working in it. Try to visit a variety of different kinds of engineering facilities—service shops, automotive manufacturing plants, and research laboratories—either through individual visits or through field trips organized by teachers or guidance counselors. These visits will provide a realistic idea of the opportunities in the different areas of the industry. If you enroll in a community college or technical school, you may be able to secure off-quarter or part-time intern- ships with local employers through your school’s career services office. Internships are valuable ways to gain experience while still in school.

EMPLOYERS

Approximately 15,000 engineering technicians are employed in the motor vehicle and parts manufacturing industry. Employers include the Big Three U.S. automobile makers (General Motors, Ford Motor Company, and Chrysler LLC), major foreign automakers that have factories or divisions in the United States (Honda, Nissan, Toyota, Hyundai, Volkswagen, BMW, and Mercedes- Benz), as well as any of the thousands of private manufacturing companies.

STARTING OUT

Most technical schools, community colleges, and universities have career services offices. Automobile companies actively recruit employees while they are still in school or are nearing graduation. Because these job services are the primary source of entry-level jobs for automotive engineering technicians, you should check a school’s placement rate before making a final decision about which school you attend.

Another way to obtain employment is through direct contact with a particular automotive company such as Ford or Hyundai. It is best to write to the personnel department and include a resume summarizing your education and experience. If the company has an appropriate opening, a company representative will schedule an interview with you. Many excellent public and commercial employment organizations can also help graduates obtain jobs appropriate to their training and experience.

Newspaper want ads and employment services are other methods of getting jobs. Professional or trade magazines often have job listings and can be good sources for job seekers. Professional associations compile information on job openings and publish job lists. For example, the International Society of Certified Electronics Technicians offers lists of job openings around the country at its Web site. Information about job openings can also be found in trade magazines. Professional organizations are also good for networking with other technicians and are up-to-date on industry advancement, changes, and areas of employment.

ADVANCEMENT

As automotive engineering technicians remain with a company, they become more valuable to their employer. Opportunities for advancement are available for automotive engineering technicians who are willing to accept greater responsibilities either by specializing in a specific field, taking on more technically complex assignments, or by assuming supervisory duties. Some technicians advance by moving into technical sales or customer relations. Others pursue advanced education to become automotive engineering technologists or auto motive engineers.

EARNINGS

The earnings of automotive engineering technicians vary widely depending on skills and experience, specialty, type of work, geo graphical location, and other factors. According to the U.S. Department of Labor (USDL), industrial engineering technicians employed in motor vehicle parts manufacturing earned mean annual wages of $44,540 in 2006.

Salaries for all engineering technicians ranged from less than $30,530 to $77,080 or more annually, according to the USDL.

Automotive engineering technicians generally receive premium pay for overtime work on Sundays and holidays and for evening and night shift work. Most employers offer benefits packages that include paid holidays, paid vacations, sick days, and health insurance. Companies may also offer pension and retirement plans, profit sharing, 401(k) plans, tuition assistance programs, and release time for additional education.

WORK ENVIRONMENT

The work environment for automotive engineering technicians varies according to the project at hand. Technicians may meet in comfort able offices when brainstorming with other members of the research and development team. At times, they may travel to factories or manufacturing plants to test vehicles, or monitor the installation of certain systems. The environment at such places is often loud and busy. When working on site, technicians are required to wear protective clothing and safety goggles.

Technicians are often assigned to shift work, averaging 40 hours a week. They may be asked to work extra shifts or longer hours at times, especially when an important manufacturing deadline is approaching.

OUTLOOK

Employment for engineering technicians in motor vehicle and parts manufacturing is expected to decline through 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Computer-aided design has allowed individual technicians to increase productivity, thereby limiting job growth. Those with training in sophisticated technologies and those with bachelor’s degrees in technology-related fields will have the best employment opportunities.

According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, employment of all engineering technicians is expected to increase about as fast as the average for all occupations through 2016.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Visit the ASEE’s pre-college Web site for information on engineering and engineering technology careers.

American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE)

1818 N Street, NW, Suite 600

Washington, DC 20036-2479 Tel: 202-331-3500

http://www.asee.org

http://www.engineeringk12.org/students

Contact the society for information on training and certification.

American Society of Certified Engineering Technicians

P0 Box 1536

Brandon, MS 39043-1536

Tel: 601-824-8991

Email: general-manager@ascet.org

http://www.ascet.org

This organization offers information on certification and student membership.

Electronics Technicians Association, International

Five Depot Street

Greencastle, IN 46135-8024

Tel: 800-288-3824

Email: eta@eta-i.org

http://www.eta-sda.com

Contact the society for information on certification and student membership.

International Society of Certified Electronics Technicians

3608 Pershing Avenue

Fort Worth, TX 76107-4527

Tel: 817-921-9101

Email: info@iscet.org

http://www.iscet.org

For information on careers, educational programs, and student clubs, contact

Junior Engineering Technical Society

1420 King Street, Suite 405

Alexandria, VA 22314-2794

Tel: 703-548-5387

Email: info@jets.org

http://www.jets.org

For information on certification, contact

National Institute for Certification in Engineering

Technologies

1420 King Street

Alexandria, VA 22314-2794

Tel: 888-IS-NICET

http://www.nicet.org

For information on careers in automotive engineering, contact

SAE International

400 Commonwealth Drive

Warrendale, PA 15096-0001

Tel: 877-606-7323

http://automobile.sae.org

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