Electrical and electronics engineering technology programs prepare people to work in engineering teams. Students study how circuits work. They learn how to develop and test prototypes of systems. They learn how to calibrate instruments and prepare reports.
Electronic components are cropping up everywhere these days. Dogs are injected with a tiny chip that provides permanent identification. Greeting cards play tunes. Cameras store images on chips instead of on film. These amazing devices are all created by engineering teams. And as an electronic technologist or technician, you can be an important member of such a team.
To be an electrical or electronic engineering technologist, you usually need a bachelor's degree. You earn this after four years of full-time study beyond high school. Over 150 colleges offer this degree. Of these, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) recognizes about 100. In this program, you start with a lot of math and science. You need to study physics in order to understand how electrical circuits work, and you need to be familiar with the scientific method to understand how engineers work. You learn about how circuits can represent logical operations; this is at the heart of what chips do. You learn a computer language, probably C++. If your interests run toward larger-scale topics, you may study electric power. You may learn how motors, generators, and transformers work. Often the program ends with a project in which you play a role as part of an engineering team doing real design work.
As an engineering technologist, you help translate the engineer's concepts into reality. The concept may be only a computerized simulation or a crude prototype. You find ways to implement the concept by using real components in realistic situations. You not only prove that the concept can work; you find a way that is cost-effective, versatile, and durable.
Only two years of study are required to become a technician. You can earn this associate degree at a large number of two-year colleges. Not all of these are accredited by ABET, but at the technician level this is not so important. You study less math and science than in the four-year program and probably learn only a little programming. Your technical courses also do not go as deep. But you learn the important principles of physics and how they are manifested in circuits. You learn how to analyze circuits, and you learn how circuits can be represented in engineering graphics.
As an engineering technician, your role in the engineering team may be to run tests and help gather data to test a concept. You may use computer-aided drafting (CAD) software to represent a design concept in a graphic. You may work in other settings as well. For example, you might do quality control tests for a manufacturer. For an electric utility company you might diagnose problems with the power grid. You might use your knowledge to work in sales for an electronics manufacturer.