While workers in the engineering technology (ET) field play an important role in supporting U.S. technical infrastructure and the country’s capacity for innovation, there is little awareness of ET as a field of study or category of employment in the U.S., says a new report from the National Academy of Engineering.

There are numerous similarities between traditional engineering and engineering technology. Though, in comparison, if engineers are viewed as being responsible for designing the nation’s technological systems, engineering technicians and technologists are those who help build and keep those systems running. In 2014, there were nearly 94,000 four-year engineering degrees, nearly 18,000 four-year ET degrees, and more than 34,000 two-year ET degrees awarded in the U.S.

While federal employment data group the work of technicians and technologists together, the report separates those with four-year degrees in ET or other fields (technologists) from those with two-year degrees in ET or other fields (technicians). Of the roughly 400,000 people employed in ET in 2013, an estimated 80 percent were working as engineering technicians.

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