Information updated June 2014.
By Charles K. Green
What automotive engineering technicians earn.
Automotive engineering technicians work with engineers, examining proposed vehicle designs and changes, and conducting tests. Such tests are performed to gauge an automotive component or system, to measure its performance, efficiency and durability. These professionals are part of the broader mechanical engineering technician field as categorized by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, with slower than average job growth anticipated through 2020.
By performing manual and automated tests of automotive systems and components, automotive engineering technicians can make improvements based on observation and accumulated data. Technicians must document their findings; determine the causes of malfunctions or defects; install, maintain and test equipment; and follow oral and written instructions.
Technicians are responsible for calibrating test equipment, documenting results and making use of tools such as multimeters, oscilloscopes, signal generators and welding machinery to do their work. These professionals must be comfortable in working with spreadsheet, CAD and scientific software.
A STEM background — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — is essential for the automotive engineering technician job candidate. While a two-year degree may offer sufficient experience for some jobs, a four-year degree may be required for some positions.
The BLS notes that such students may start out at a vocational-technical school or a community college, taking algebra, trigonometry and science courses including core liberal arts courses. Classroom and laboratory components are part of the training curriculum, which will look at various parts of a car including its electrical system, brake and suspension systems, electronics and telecommunications, engines and transmissions, safety systems, the manufacturing process and quality control.
Average Salary of Automotive Engineering Technicians
As of 2013, the average hourly wage for an automotive engineering technician was $25.19. Annually, these technicians earn $52,390, for a higher rate than what drafters, environmental engineering technicians, industrial engineering technicians and machinists make.
Technicians in the 10th percentile earned $33,700 or less per year while those in the 25th percentile averaged $41,600 per year. The median salary was $52,400 per year. Those in the 75th percentile earned $65,600 per year and technicians in the top 10 percent averaged $77,200 or more per year.
Salaries for automotive engineering technicians varied across the country. The highest average salaries were found in Alaska where the median wage was $65,500 per year as 2013. New Mexico at $62,500, Maine at $60,600, New Jersey at $59,400 and Colorado at $59,000 per year followed.
On the other end of the pay spectrum salaries were lowest in South Dakota, averaging $38,400 per year. Other states with below average salaries included Oregon at $43,300, Arkansas at $44,200, West Virginia at $45,000 and Oklahoma coming in at $45,100.
Most automotive engineering technicians work in the manufacturing sector. These professionals may find themselves employed by an automotive parts supply company or a car manufacturer such as the Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Toyota, Hyundai or Mercedes-Benz. Others may find themselves employed in the professional, scientific and technical services sector.
The BLS is forecasting slow growth for automotive engineering technicians through 2022. For those professionals seeking improved job security, further training and certification as an automotive engineer may prove advantageous.
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Photo courtesy of André Karwath.