Engineering vs. Engineering Tech

So what's the difference?

Are you confused about the difference between Engineering Technology degrees and B.S. Engineering degrees? 

NKU offers a Pre-Engineering program leading to the completion of an ABET accredited Bachelor of Science degree in engineering offered at colleges of engineering,  including the University of Kentucky College of Engineering and the J.B. Speed School of Engineering at the University of Louisville.  NKU also offers ABET accredited degrees in Electronic Engineering Technology (EET) and Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering Technology (MMET).


Here is some information regarding the differences and similarities between engineering degrees/careers and engineering technology degrees/careers.  This is summarized from information provided by ABET, Inc., the accreditation organization for engineering and engineering technology degree programs in the U.S. (


Engineering and technology are separate but intimately related professions.  Here are some basics: 

  • Engineering undergraduate programs include more and higher level mathematics than technology programs; much of the science study uses calculus in engineering programs whereas science study in technology is more algebra based.
  • Engineering undergraduate programs often focus on theory, i.e., why something works, while technology programs usually focus on application, i.e., how it works.
  • Once graduates enter the workforce, engineering graduates typically spend their time developing new or better designs and planning, while engineering technology graduates spend their time making plans become reality and work, i.e., more “hands-on” activities.
  • At ABET, Inc., engineering and engineering technology programs are evaluated and accredited by two separate accreditation commissions using two separate sets of accreditation criteria.
  • Graduates from engineering programs are called engineers, while graduates of technology programs are often called engineering technologists.
  • Some U.S. state boards of professional engineering licensure will allow only graduates of engineering programs—not engineering technology programs—to become licensed engineers.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition,"  "Graduates of 4-year technology programs may get jobs similar to those obtained by graduates with a bachelor's degree in engineering." Mechanical engineering jobs were most common, followed by electronics engineering. Manufacturing industries employed more than half of the mechanical positions while the government, self employment, administrative and support services, management of companies and enterprises, and construction made up the rest. Similarly, for the electronics field manufacturing employed about a third, while professional, scientific and technical services, information, government, utilities, construction, wholesale trade, management of companies and enterprises, administrative and support services, and self employment made up most of the rest. 

NOTE: Not many of those that practice engineering become licensed Professional Engineers (PE).  A National Science Foundation Report indicates 25% of practicing mechanical engineers had a license, in comparison to 19% for those in electrical.  In many industries, such as automotive and aviation a PE license is not required.  Occupations where a PE license would most likely be required are consulting and construction.

A note regarding licensure as a Professional Engineer

Professional Engineers (PE) are engineers who are licensed by a state board.  The candidate must successfully pass both the Fundamentals of Engineering and the Professional Engineer examinations.  In order to take the Professional Engineer examination, the candidate must have worked for the jurisdiction’s specified time (usually up to five years) under the direct supervision of a licensed Professional Engineer and be able to establish that a clean criminal record is held and that evidence of good personal and professional character is given. The education and work experience required varies from state to state, while the exams are set and administered by the NCEES (National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying). 

Several states or jurisdictions (including Ohio) offer professional licensure to engineering technology graduates who have many years of work experience and have successfully passed both the Fundamentals of Engineering and the Professional Engineering examinations.  Engineering technology graduates that are offered licensure by a state where the ABET, Inc., accredited engineering degree is not required most likely will not be able to transfer their licensure to a state which requires the ABET, Inc., accredited engineering degree. Other agencies offer forms of “certification” to engineering technology graduates; this does not carry the same legal protection as professional licensure by a state of jurisdiction provides. 

Of the 48 state boards responding to a recent survey by the NCEES, all recognized ABET-accredited Engineering degrees as fulfilling the requirements, while 27 also recognized ABET-accredited Engineering Technology degrees.  An additional 6 states will recognize something other than the ABET-accredited Engineering degree, such as a related science degree (3 states), or an education which meets a checklist set by the board.  An overview of requirements by different states, compiled by NCEES, may be found at

OHIO requirements for professional licensure: 

See for details. Ohio has two paths to licensure as a professional engineer. One path requires an ABET accredited engineering degree, four years of practical experience, and passing the two exams mentioned above. The second path requires either an accredited engineering technology degree or a non-accredited engineering degree (approved upon review), eight years practical experience, and passing the same two exams.

KENTUCKY requirements for professional licensure: 

See for details.  Kentucky has the first path as described in the Ohio section above available. The second path via an engineering technology degree, is not available.

INDIANA requirements:

Indiana requirements are similar to those of Ohio, except that ABET-accredited Engineering Technology degree holders need only four years practical experience.

These have not been confirmed and different sources list different requirements; all are subject to change.  You will need to consider your final career goals, math abilities, and choice of domicile before deciding which path is best for you.  Our faculty is available to discuss this with you.

Opportunities at NKU in engineering

There are three options available to students wishing to pursue an engineering degree. Full descriptions of the possible options can be found here.  Students may transfer to an accredited engineering degree program at another school after a two year prep program at NKU.  Alternatively, these students may elect to pursue a dual degree program which offers the B.A. degree in physics from NKU and the B.S. in engineering from a school of engineering upon successful transfer from NKU. Further, a student may decide to get the B.S. degree in physics at NKU then move to an engineering degree at the graduate school level at a school of engineering.

Opportunities at NKU in engineering technology:

The engineering technology programs at NKU are four-year programs leading to the award of an ABET, Inc., accredited Bachelor Degree in one of two fields of Engineering Technology,  electronic engineering technology (EET) or mechanical and manufacturing engineering technology (MMET).  The complete program is described here.