Two VIU Engineering students work on computer equipment in a lab.

Your top questions about VIU's Engineering Technologist program, answered

November 25, 2021
Author: Rachel Stern

What an engineering technologist does, career options and what makes VIU’s program unique

What is engineering? Engineering is about solving problems. It applies the principles of science and mathematics to design and build things.

“Everything around you has been engineered, including your desk, stapler, window, the building you are in and the road you travel on. Some of this was engineered a long time ago, but someone did it at some point,” says David Moss, a VIU Engineering Technician. “We build things. Basically everything around you that is human-made has been engineered, whether it was designed or constructed through engineering.”

The discipline of engineering encompasses a broad range of specialties ranging from civil, mechanical and structural to chemical, environmental, software engineering and biomedical.

What is the difference between an engineer and an engineering technologist?

The first difference between the two engineering professions is the learning pathway. Engineers enroll in a Bachelor of Applied Science Degree or a Bachelor of Engineering Degree, typically a four-year program. Engineering technologists complete a diploma program, which is usually between two and two-and-a-half years of study. Engineering technologists’ work is more hands-on, using their technical skills in the office and in the field, so the math and theoretical science coursework requirements aren’t as heavy.

Engineers and engineering technologists often work together on jobs and while some of their areas of expertise overlap, they often have different responsibilities and roles on projects. Engineers work more on the high-level designs for projects and are responsible for signing off on plans. For example, an engineer may specify the size of beams and posts needed for a structure to ensure it can handle the loads and forces the structure will encounter. An engineering technologist will specify the connections and bolting requirement for the beams and posts, draw the structure and do a hands-on inspection once the structure is built. 

What makes VIU’s Integrated Engineering Technologist Diploma unique?

VIU’s program was created in consultation with industry engineers and technologists to fit the growing needs of British Columbia. It is specially designed to equip graduates with skills and knowledge desired by engineering companies. You can graduate after two-and-a-half-years in the diploma program and enter the workforce faster than if you pursued a bachelor’s degree. 

The main focus of VIU’s program is civil engineering with a secondary focus on mechanical engineering. Students are also taught some electrical engineering to highlight the importance of electrical components that support civil and mechanical systems to ensure that graduates are well-versed in all aspects of a project.

There are unique networking opportunities because local engineering professionals teach some of the courses, and field trips to different engineering facilities and projects under construction to demonstrate the principles taught in class and to learn about local industry. Students will also gain connections through the co-operative education component of the program, where they can get real-world, hands-on training during a four-month paid work experience.

Students also have access to VIU’s fully equipped engineering shop, which features equipment such as flumes, sieve shakers, concrete testing equipment, 3D printers, laser cutters and a CNC machine (takes raw material and cuts, grinds, drills, turns, mills and/or shapes it into parts that meet exact specifications).

What kind of job can you get with an engineering technologist diploma?

Graduates from VIU’s Integrated Engineering Technologist Diploma find employment in a wide range of jobs including engineering consulting firms, fabrication facilities, heavy industry and municipal engineering departments. According to WorkBC, Engineering Technologists are a growing industry with more than 3,500 expected new jobs in BC over the next 10 years. 

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