What is a technologist?

Often in conversations with people I’m asked what I do for a living.  I reply that I am an engineering technologist.  Many times a puzzled look is given and the question “What is an engineering technologist?” follows.  Early in my work and studies I wasn’t sure either and I  usually stammered to explain that while I’m not quite an engineer I do engineering type work and near the end of it all I’m almost as puzzled as the person asking the question.  I really wanted to say I was an engineer because everybody knew what that meant, and knew the significance of it.

When I first started the program at McMaster to complete my degree, I was convinced that I wanted to be an engineer, and the Bachelor of Technology program was the quickest way to get my degree and pursue the required Professional Engineering challenge exams to get my designation.

Now that I’m almost finished the engineering technology program at McMaster University and preparing to take my Masters of Engineering, I’ve realized what being an engineering technologist is and the significant value an engineering technologist brings to the table.

Most traditional engineering programs have a significant focus on mathematics, and emphasizes the derivation of mathematical models to describe engineering phenomenon.  They focus on creating mathematical models.  The engineering technologist focuses on making known mathematical models work to solve a problem.  Engineering technologists sacrifice some of the higher mathematics to practical lab time.  This is to observe mathematical models in action.  Engineering technologists also have a greater emphasis placed on work experience as part of their academic training.  Nearly all engineering technologists are required (in Canada anyway) to complete some form of work placement as a graduating requirement.  Engineering technologists with a Bachelor’s degree (Bachelor in Technology) also are accepted into higher level academic programs, including masters programs and doctorate programs.

postbtech

(Source McMaster University http://mybtechdegree.ca/home/pathways.html)

Mark French, an associate professor at Purdue (http://web.ics.purdue.edu/~rmfrench/) gives an interesting look into engineering technology in The Engineering Commons Podcast episode 59.  It is well worth listening to.

(You can also download it here, and be sure to subscribe to a very interesting podcast!: http://theengineeringcommons.com/episode-59-engineering-technology/)

In the working world, the lines are very blended between the 2 professions.  It has been my experience that the broader approach to learning in a technology program leads many engineering technologists into management roles, especially interdisciplinary management such as Operations Management.  This is the reason McMaster’s Bachelor of Technology program puts a heavy emphasis on traditional business type courses.  Business courses make up almost 30% of their degree completion program.

Here is a graph that depicts the similarities, and some of the differences in the working world:

engtechchart

(Chart above from the American Society for Mechanical Engineers.)

An area where engineering and engineering technology differs significantly is the area of public liability.  Generally engineering technologists are not permitted to take public liability for their work, although this has slowly been changing.  If there is government legislation requiring public liability to be accounted for (use of the stamp), engineering technologists are required to have their work reviewed by a professional engineer.

I seriously enjoy engineering technology and I have been significantly blessed in my career – both in school and at work.  Engineering technology is a great mix of hands on and theoretical.   It is a field where you take something off the whiteboard and live it out on the shop floor.  As an engineering technologist I can design a part (sometimes I may have to ask an engineer to verify some of my work – but that’s a good practice anyway), apply the appropriate manufacturing process, actually do the process, and observe the end result.  It is a full understanding of an entire concept to completion process – a big picture approach.

So when somebody asks me what I do, I say I am an engineering technologist.  What is an engineering technologist?  Let’s go for a walk, and I’ll show you what I do.  It’s easier than trying to explain it.  I find the hands on approach emphasizing the end result easier for everyone to relate to.

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