Online Technical Training Blog

Technician working on electronics components

Day in the Life - A Look at the Daily Tasks of Engineering Technicians and Engineers


If you come across the term, “engineering technician”, you may inadvertently make the incorrect assumption that it is just another term to describe an engineer. While there are some similarities between them, the average day of engineers can significantly differ from that of an engineering technician.  Though both are widely considered to be rewarding and challenging pursuits, a prospective student may favor one over the other based on their skills and aptitudes.

In this article, we’ll distinguish between the roles of the engineer and engineering technician and take you through a typical day that each may encounter.

The Differences Between an Engineer and Engineering Technician

“Technician” and “engineer” are pretty ambiguous terms, particularly to the layperson. To further add to the ambiguity, it seems as though most industries employ a combination of both types of professionals, to varying degrees. At the risk of oversimplifying, there are a few universal differences that we feel inclined to point out. 

Theoretical versus Practical Application

Engineers are brought on at the outset of a project, leveraging their years of education and experience to solve many of the complex problems or design requirements of a given build. For example, a project may rely on an engineer to facilitate the design of a bridge, aqueduct, etc. that will satisfy the project requirements without negatively impacting the environment or other nearby infrastructure. An engineer’s understanding of the theory and science of engineering is broad, and necessarily so. Engineers must be able to apply their scientific knowledge to design new machines, engines, railways, buildings, and a million other things. While engineers will often possess many of the same skills as a technician, their approach to design and problem resolution requires them to consider the larger impact to the project or system, rather than simply fix the issue at hand. 

Engineering technicians, for their part, are often engaged once the base project has already been completed. To some, the term “technician” may just seem like a fancier word for “repairer”. That view does a great disservice to the men and women who make up the ranks of engineering technicians; while much of their work-related responsibilities do involve repair and maintenance, engineering technicians, much like engineers themselves, are highly trained professionals whose skills are rooted in scientific and engineering principles. These individuals are often tasked with everything from solving complex mechanical or electrical issues alongside engineers, designing and performing functional testing, assembling equipment, installing new systems, and following engineering processes and protocols. 


Though we’ve already mentioned that both an engineer’s and technician’s skills are based on science and engineering principles, the education that the former receives compared to the latter is a solid area of distinction. For one, engineering technicians can complete their education by earning a diploma or certificate in their desired post-secondary course or training program. On average, students looking to become engineering technicians are looking at a time investment of about 2 years, though some programs allow students to complete the compulsory material at their own pace.  During that time, a prospective engineering technician will learn the basic skillset and practical knowledge that they will need to get hired. 

Engineers, as one might expect, require more education. An engineer must complete a bachelor’s degree and have between 3-4 years of work experience, supervised by a licensed engineer, before they receive their professional designation.   


Like education, the average remuneration between engineers and engineering technicians distinguishes the two roles. As discussed above, engineers require more education and experience than an engineering technician, and their compensation is a reflection of that. For example, in an area where the median salary for a civil engineer is say, $130,000, the compensation for a civil engineering technician would likely be around $80,000, at the high end. Again, the disparity in compensation is due to the additional academic requirements associated with an engineering degree. Compensation notwithstanding, it is important to remember that the right path, whether it be the path of the engineer or technician, is the one that best reflects the type of person you are, the interests you possess and the fulfillment you will receive.  

What Does an Engineering Technician’s Day Look Like?

Since there are many different types of engineering technicians and their daily duties may vary based on their specific discipline, we’ll rely on electrical engineering technicians to help illustrate the types of activities a technician can expect to perform. 

An electrical engineering technician may begin their day by calibrating or maintaining electrical instruments or the equipment they use for testing. Depending on the project they’re currently working on, an electrical engineer technician may be tasked with performing a quality assurance function by inspecting the electrical work that has been completed to date. Technicians will often collaborate with their engineer colleagues to discuss developmental problems and determine the best course of action to resolve them. Since engineering technicians develop excellent hands-on skills, they’ll often be engaged to build and test various electrical components required for all manner of devices and systems. Lastly, engineering technicians are adept at interpreting the results of system or QA testing to resolve problems. 

While that might sound like a lot of responsibility, it’s all in a day’s work. In addition to these typical daily duties, there are several weekly and monthly tasks that an electrical engineering technician can look forward to completing. These include:

  • Assist in the resolution of design problems involving electrical components that have been identified on site.  
  • Evaluate proposals, electrical drawings and schematics, or design comments to ensure adherence to design criteria and safety protocols. 
  • Plan the methodology that will be used to test experimental/prototype electrical equipment. 

What Does an Engineer’s Day Look Like?

Similarly, there are many different types of engineers, so we’ll look at what an electrical engineer may do during a typical day on the job. As with any number of projects that an electrical engineer can be involved in, the preparation of technical drawings is one of the most common tasks they’ll perform. These drawings must be completed, reviewed, and approved before any project work can begin on the ground. They contain device specs that ensure the project/product outcome will meet the customer’s requirements. Electrical engineers play an important role within the project team, which consists of designers, project managers, architects, and other stakeholders, all of whom meet regularly to discuss the project. Though the contents of these meetings largely reflect budgets, timelines, schedules, and goals, it is important for the engineer to communicate effectively the status of project so that any potential disruptions can be addressed or mitigated. 

Engineers work with technicians to ensure project production is completed as expected and in accordance to various production goals, including delivering the product on time and on budget. Like technicians, electrical engineers will also spend time testing their prototypes and performing quality control activities. In addition to ensure that the product functions as required and is error free, the engineer must also ensure that the item is safe to use. Lastly, engineers must keep upper management apprised of the progress of their projects, ensuring that stakeholders of all tiers are satisfied. They are expected to communicate any adjustments pertaining to design or functionality in a timely manner in order to minimize any impact to the delivery window. 

Engineer or Technician?

Regardless of your choice, both engineers and engineering technicians both experience challenging and rewarding careers. Both disciplines are stable, in-demand pursuits, so the real question becomes which, based on my skills, aptitudes, and other considerations, is the right fit for me?

Though the compensation may be different between the two, it is commensurate with the amount of academic time you’ll invest in your career. If you’d like to learn more about continuing your education and earning a certificate, reach out to George Brown College today.

Subscribe to Techbytes

Get free email delivery of our monthly Techbytes newsletter for a round up of the industry news, online education tips and update and information about out online Certificate programs.