Field of Study: Manufacturing Technology
Manufacturing technology programs prepare people to help engineers who work in manufacturing. Students learn to set up, run, and test machines. They also learn to use computers and automated systems.
A lot of the manufactured goods you buy are not made here in the U.S. So can American manufacturers compete with cheap labor overseas? Yes, by using high-tech manufacturing processes. Nowadays, when an engineer designs a new mold to stamp out a product, the "drawing board" often is a computer. And a computer controls the lathe or milling machine that carves out that mold. Somebody is needed to translate the design into the programming language that controls the machining process. And that may be part of your job as a manufacturing engineering technologist.
Other parts of the process may also be computer-controlled. Robots may assemble parts, spray on paint, and seal packages. A computer may control the conveyor belt and set the pace of production. Another may do a large part of the final inspection. Usually an engineer develops a concept of how these parts of the process are supposed to work together. As an engineering technologist, you are the person who works out the details of the concept. You work with a team to program the various parts. You do test runs, measure the results, and refine the process.
You learn these skills by studying manufacturing engineering technology for four years full time after high school. This earns you a bachelor's degree. Several colleges offer this degree. The program gives you a good foundation of science and math. You learn the scientific habits of thinking that you need to work in an engineering team. You learn how to set up an experiment and interpret the data. You also learn the principles that determine how steel, plastic, and other materials will behave when subjected to heat and stress. You study some of the computer-based applications that are used in manufacturing. And you learn how to analyze potential costs when you consider the merits of various engineering designs.
You can enter the work force sooner by getting an associate degree in this field. That represents two years of study beyond high school and is available at several colleges. It prepares you to work as a technician. Your role in the engineering team may be to gather data during experiments. You may also specialize in some part of the implementation process. For example, you may use computer-assisted drafting to work out the details of the engineer's initial design. You may specialize in programming machine tools to produce dies and molds. You may troubleshoot problems with existing manufacturing equipment. Your education also includes science and math, but not to the depth reached by the four-year program.