Utilizing theories and mathematical solutions, staff engineers, also known as engineering technicians, are the backbone in engineering research and development and assist engineers in creating and designing a variety of systems in fields such as aerospace, civil and electrical. Quality control, testing, collecting results and data recording are essential. Staff engineers build or set up equipment, conduct experiments, assist in prototype development, and design work that utilizes computer-aided design and drafting equipment.
Staff engineers adhere to the same disciplines as engineers and work in specialized classifications that reflect their interest and educational degrees. For example, aerospace engineering technicians study the operation and maintenance of equipment that can take years of testing due to the safety factors involved. Civil engineering technicians assist in construction of buildings, bridges and other necessary public structures. Electrical engineering technicians put their skills to use in designing, testing, and manufacturing communication and medical devices. Electro-mechanical engineering technicians pair mechanical engineering with technology to design and build computer-controlled systems, such as robotics. Environmental engineering technicians develop methods to protect and control environmental hazards, including air pollution.
Employers prefer individuals with an associate degree in engineering technology that can be obtained through college, a technical institute, vocational-technical schools and the military. Associate degree programs accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) include college algebra and trigonometry plus basic science courses. A student’s engineering specialty denotes the educational courses that are needed. Technical institutes train primarily through application and practice using less of the theory and general education taught in colleges. Military training is highly coveted by employers; however, the training is narrow in scope because it’s geared more toward military standards then civilian, so additional instruction may be necessary.
Other Qualifications and Advancement
Patience, persistence, a good eye for design, and creativity are advantageous in this field. Excellent communication skills and working cohesively on a team coupled with achievement and experience can lead to more challenging assignments and possibly a supervisory position.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2008 33 percent of engineering technician jobs were in the electrical and electronic engineering fields. In addition, 34 percent held jobs in manufacturing with 25 percent in related fields of professional, scientific and companies that do engineering contract work for the government.
From 2008 through 2018, the projected openings for this field are approximately 18,500; however, this is considered a slow-growth industry with some staff engineering fields having more openings than others. The most lucrative employment prospects will be for those with an associate degree or post-secondary training in engineering technology.
According to O*Net, the median wages in 2009 for staff engineers averaged $27.66 hourly, $57,530 annually. Wages can depend on the field, with the aerospace and electrical staff engineer fields commanding the highest wage.