Electronics Engineering Technology distance learning courses are flourishing, making use of the low entry-level requirement of a 2-year Associate Degree to become an Engineering Technician, and the further career advancement to an Engineering Technologist (or Applied Engineer) possible in the field by pursuing a 4-year Bachelors Degree. Among all Technicians and Technologists working in USA, Electrical and Electronics Engineering professionals make up more than one-third, which is a clear indication for their demand. And this demand is nowadays driven more by the high-tech industry's need for Electronics Engineering Technicians, rather than the conventional industries' need for Electrical Engineering Technicians.
Why Electronics Engineering Technology?
All of today's booming industrial sectors like telecommunications, medical equipment, control systems, automotive systems, navigational systems, and of course, the consumer appliances sector are bringing out everything from mobile phones to home theatres, and require expertise in Electronics Engineering more than anything else, which explains the demand for Electronics Engineering professionals.
However, to attempt the field through an Engineering Degree can be taxing to those students who are not interested in taking advanced level mathematics (calculus) courses that an Engineering Degree requires, or to endure its long 4-year time frame. For such students, Electronics Engineering Technology is a great option, with its stress on applied or hands-on Electronics Engineering rather than the mathematics-dense and research-oriented Electronics Engineering. The time frame also is much shorter, with an Electronics Engineering Technician requiring only a 2-year Associate Degree to enter the field.
The job opportunities too are tilted in favor of Electronics Engineering Technicians when compared with Electronics Engineers; there are 182,000 Electrical and Electronics Engineering Technicians working in USA, compared with only 143,000 Electronics Engineers. The only drawbacks - a lower level in the hierarchy and the lower starting salaries than Electronics Engineers - can be overcome in the long run, since interested Electronics Engineering Technicians can study further for a 4-year Bachelors Degree, thus qualifying for the senior position of Electronics Engineering Technologist, who enjoys a position and salary comparable to Electronics Engineers. Average salary for Electronics Engineering Senior Technicians / Technologists is US $46,000, very comparable to salaries for Electronics Engineers at US $52,000.
It is estimated that job opportunities for Electronics Engineering Technicians and Technologists would grow at up to 17% every year, for nearly the next 10 years. The requirement of an Associate Degree for entering the field is a relatively recent phenomenon, and a significant percentage of working Electronics Engineering Technicians doesn't have such a formal degree. The industry preference to degree holders is encouraging such working professionals to get an Associate Degree, and electronics engineering technology distance learning becomes the natural choice. Also, due to the boom in the sector, those already having an Associate Degree will go for a Bachelors Degree so that they can work as a Technologist. And, of course, the growth prospects in the sector are attracting working professionals from other fields to Electronics Engineering Technology. These three factors are driving the huge demand for electronics engineering technology distance learning courses.
Earlier, there were technological hindrances to deliver such a hands-on course through a distance or online model. However, with the development of state-of-the-art systems like National Instruments' LabVIEW/ELVIS (Educational Laboratory Virtual Instrumentation Suite), which can be used by remote students through a web browser, to virtually perform any electronics experiment, the demand for Electronics Engineering Distance Learning courses are at an all-time high.
Universities and Colleges Offering Electronics Engineering Technology Distance Learning
Electronics engineering technology distance learning courses offer both 2-year Associate and 4-year Bachelors Degrees. While Community Colleges and Institutes dominate the Associate Degree scene, Universities and Polytechnics are the primary sources for Bachelors Degrees. While searching for electronics engineering technology distance learning courses, it should be kept in mind that many US institutions still call the subject Electrical Engineering Technology.
Many Community Colleges and Institutes offer 2-year Associate Degrees for electronics engineering technology distance learning, but fully accredited courses are fewer. Whether for employment as an Electronics Engineering Technician or for further pursuance of a Bachelors Degree, it is always better to go for an accredited course. Cleveland Institute of Electronics (CIE), Penn Foster Career School, and Grantham University are three institutions that offer accredited Associate Degrees in the subject.
CIE's Associate in Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Electronics Engineering Technology boasts of many unique features. Designed from the ground up as a distance learning course, rather than an online adaptation of a regular course, the CIE A.A.S. provides everything that an electronics engineering technology distance learning student might require, in a packaged fashion - complete with printed courseware for over 250 self-paced lessons, videos, and detailed instructions for the over 300 hands-on lab experiments. The only thing missing will be access to an Oscilloscope, and the CIE Bookstore even sells Oscilloscopes at discounted prices to its students! One-to-one instructor support is always available for students. Even the exams can be taken online. A really unique feature of the course is that interested and capable students can complete the course in half or even quarter time, and need only pay for that!
Penn Foster Career School offers an Associate in Specialized Technology (AST) in Electronics Technology, that can be completed fully online, with access to an internet-connected computer being the only requirement. Tuition includes well-written and amply-illustrated printed courseware, tools and equipment for experiments, and unlimited instructor support through website, phone, email, and regular mail. Online open-book exams and end-of-semester proctored exams are other features of this course. The course is self-paced, with longer than 2-year durations allowed.
Grantham University offers an Associate of Science (AS) in Electronics Engineering Technology through the distance mode. The tuition package for the course includes textbooks, lesson guides, grading of all tests, mailing of materials and graded tests from the college, consultation with instructors, and required software. Proctored exams are conducted at the end of every semester, which lend more credibility to this course. Consultation with instructors is available through phone, fax, email, and regular mail. To better facilitate the distance mode of the course, Grantham University even provides a discounted option for its students to buy computers from Dell. However, the main advantage of this course is that full credit transfer is possible to Grantham's Bachelors Degree in the subject. Grantham is especially popular with military students.
When it comes to Bachelors Degrees for electronics engineering technology distance learning, even courses with accreditation from the Technology Accreditation Commission (TAC) of the Accreditation Board for Engineering Technology (ABET) are available.
Old Dominion University offers its Bachelor of Science (BS) in Engineering Technology, with Electrical Engineering Technology as Major, and Electrical Systems Technology as optional. The course name follows the earlier US convention of naming Electronics Engineering courses as Electrical Engineering courses. This B.S. indeed has significant stress on Electronics Engineering Technology. In-depth coverage of Electronics includes Linear Electronics, Digital Controls, Microprocessors, Communications, Control Systems etc. High-tech delivery methods like virtual laboratory, streaming video, and satellite broadcast for 1-way video and 2-way audio, are fully utilized. The course is accredited by TAC of ABET.
World College, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Cleveland Institute of Electronics (CIE), offers a Bachelor of Electronics Engineering Technology (BEET) through the distance mode. Features include over 300 lab experiments, online exams, and toll free phones and email for consultation with instructors. Subjects covered include Electronics, Computer Technology, Telecommunications, Electrical Power, and Control Systems. Access to a computer and an oscilloscope are necessary.
Grantham University (described above, under Associate Degrees) also offers a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Electronics Engineering Technology.
The only current limiting factor for electronics engineering technology distance learning seems to be the high costs for implementing virtual labs that can be simultaneously accessed by a large number of students, and once this is solved by better and economical hardware and software, electronics engineering technology distance learning will be provided by more and more Universities, Colleges, and Polytechnic Institutes.