• Fraser Harper

Technicians, Technologists and Engineers: what are the differences?

These days, there is a distinct role called “technologist”.  While technologists are clearly recognised in the USA and Canada, in the UK the role is much less well articulated and is not recognised in the UK Standard Occupational Classification (SOC). But we find the job title “technologist” is widely across a range of industries, describing vital roles in development, innovation and productivity.

Given the uncertainty over how the UK and EU-27 labour markets will operate in the coming years, it is vital that key occupations which drive innovation and productivity are recognised, so the education and training system (at all levels) can respond and support their development. On technology absorption see the work of Geoff Mason and colleagues[1]

There is also the relatability to the current Occupational Maps[2] which form a key role in the work of the Institute of Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE). Having both the occupational standards’ titles and options linked to the UK SOC ones would be a significant benefit. It is also important that the emerging T-levels[3] are also recognised by UK SOC as a relevant entry qualification.


Technicians are most often employed in service jobs. The work typically involves equipment installation, troubleshooting and repair, testing and measuring, maintenance and adjustment, manufacturing or operation. Technicians in these positions are sometimes called field service technicians, field service technicians, or customer representative. Technicians also work as engineering technicians, laboratory technicians, engineering assistant, or associate engineer.


An engineering technologist, for example, is a specialist devoted to the implementation of existing technology within a field of engineering. Technologists often work with engineers in a wide variety of projects by applying basic engineering principles and technical skills. The work of technologists is usually focused on a portion of the technological spectrum closest to product improvement, manufacturing, construction, and engineering operational functions.

Technologists are employed in a large and wide array of industries, including manufacturing, construction, industrial, maintenance, and management. They may be hired as managers of technology, depending on the technologist’s educational emphasis on management preparation. Entry level positions such as product design, testing, development, systems development, field engineering, technical operations, and quality control are all common positions for engineering technology graduates.

In general, engineering technologists focus on the applied and practical application of engineering principles, whereas the work of engineers emphasises the theoretical aspects of mathematical, scientific and engineering principles.


Engineers design equipment and systems. Engineers have developed a range of conceptual skills and have mastered engineering fundamentals and design built on a foundation of complex mathematics and science. They have a breadth and depth of knowledge that allows them to function as designers.TechnicianTechnologistProfilesA professional, who through academic training and experience in the application of engineering or scientific principles, is capable of assuming responsibility and of exercising independent judgement in a specialised practice within a field of engineering or applied science technology.A professional, who through academic training and experience in the application of engineering or scientific principles, is capable of assuming responsibility and exercising independent judgement in the practice of engineering or applied science technology. Works under general supervision.Carries out a wide range of complex work, either independently or under general direction.Typical activities include testing, trouble shooting, inspection, calibration, design drafting, quality control, maintenance, modelling, data compilation, estimating, sales, surveying, field supervision, technical sales and teaching.Typical activities include design, production, marketing, testing, quality control, estimating, surveying, inspection, diagnostic evaluation, supervision, management, technical sales and teaching. Such activities may be carried out in association with other professionals.Uses a practical approach based on a detailed understanding of standard methods and techniques in solving technical problems.Uses an applied approach based on a comprehensive understanding of a specific technology discipline.Examines assignments, objectives and instructions to select procedures and actions to resolve the assigned problem.Evaluates assignments, determines procedures and implements solutions, schedules work to meet objectives, participates in short- and long- range planning, and may become involved in developing and promoting conceptual change. May assume managerial or administrative responsibility for a wide range of technical endeavours. May supervise and co-ordinate a diverse working group and train less experienced technical and professional staff.Certification RequirementsSuccessful completion of a provincially recognised technician programme in an engineering or applied science technology discipline or equivalent demonstration of competency as determined by the Association.Successful completion of a provincially recognised technologist programme in an engineering or applied science technology discipline or equivalent demonstration of competency as determined by the Association.Technology report/thesis is not required.Technology report/thesis is required.Minimum of 2 years of Level of Practice at the technician level supported by professional references.Minimum of 2 years Level of Practice at the technologist level supported by professional references.Professional Practice Examination (law, professional ethics and commitment to public safety)Professional Practice Examination (law, professional ethics and commitment to public safety)DesignationCertified Technician (C. Tech)Certified Engineering Technologist (C.E.T.)

Source: OACETT, The Technology Professionals in Ontario

Using O*NET to explore the technologist occupation you find:

  1. 16 occupations listed as technologist ones only

  2. 4 occupations listed also with technician in the title

  3. 3 occupations listed also with scientist in the title

In the same search which also includes 39 technician occupations and 241 others.

Now taking the technologist ones, we have the following ones:

  1. Radiologic technologist

  2. Electrical engineering technologist

  3. Medical and clinical laboratory technologist

  4. Magnetic resonance imaging technologist

  5. Manufacturing engineering technologist

  6. Electronic engineering technologist

  7. Nuclear medicine technologist

  8. Electromechanical engineering technologist

  9. Mechanical engineering technologist

  10. Industrial engineering technologist

  11. Cytogenetic technologist

  12. Surgical technologist

  13. Neurodiagnostic technologist

  14. Ophthalmic medical technologist

  15. Nanotechnology engineering technologist

  16. Cyto technologist

With the joint occupations being:

  1. Cardiovascular technologist and technician

  2. Health technologist and technician

  3. Veterinary technologist and technician

  4. Histo-technologist and histologic technician

  5. Geospatial information scientist and technologist

  6. Remote sensing scientist and technologist

  7. Food scientist and technologist

While in the Canadian NOC (National Occupational Classification) system you find:SOC CodeOccupation2211Chemical Technologist and Technician2212Geological and Mineral Technologist and Technician2221Biological Technologist and Technician2231Civil Engineering Technologist and Technician2232Mechanical Engineering and Manufacturing Technologist and Technician2233Industrial Engineering and Manufacturing Technologist and Technician2234Construction Estimators2241Electrical and Electronics Engineering Technologist and Technician2243Industrial Instrument Technicians and Mechanics2244Aircraft Instrument, Electrical and Avionics Mechanics, Technicians and Inspectors2251Architectural Technologist and Technician2253Drafting Technologist and Technician2254Land Survey Technologist and Technician2255Technical Occupations in Geomatics and Meteorology2261Non-Destructive Testers and Inspectors2262Engineering Inspectors and Regulatory Officers2264Construction Inspectors2281Computer Network Technician2282User Support Technician2283Systems Testing Technician9232Petroleum, Gas and Chemical Process Operators

Source: Canada’s Engineering and Applied Science Technician and Technologists. Assessing Their Economic Contribution (2016) The Conference Board of Canada. Pages 5-6; Also see: Engineers Canada and Canadian Council of Technician and Technologist (2010) Changing Roles in Engineering and Technology. 32 pages

Search on the inter-active UK SOC site run by ONS for technologist job titles and these are allocated to a range of SOC categories:UK SOC CodeSearched Job/Occupation TitleUK SOC2129TechnologistEngineering Professional NEC2112Biomedical or genetic technologistBiological and Biochemical Scientist2129Food technologistEngineering Professional NEC2217Vascular technologistMedical radiographers2219Renal technologistHealth Professional NEC2435Architectural technologistChartered Architectural Technologist2461Clothing or garment technologistQuality Control and Planning Engineer3111Clinical or medical technologistLaboratory Technician3218Dental technologistMedical and dental technician3422Packaging technologistProduct, clothing and related designers

Then if you search for UK-based technologist job vacancies on the on-line job advertising sites, the top 100 vacancies can be covered by 27 roles:

  1. New Product Development Technologist

  2. Product Designer – Technologist

  3. Architectural Technologist

  4. Fabric Technologist

  5. Garment Technologist

  6. Specification Technologist

  7. Packaging Technologist

  8. Technologist – Ladieswear

  9. Development Technologist

  10. Mechanical Design Technologist

  11. Process Technologist

  12. Nuclear Medicine Technologist

  13. Head of Data Engineering – Technologist

  14. Learning Technologist

  15. Lingerie Technologist

  16. Product Technologist

  17. Chief Renal Technologist

  18. Medical Laboratory Technologist

  19. Creative Technologist

  20. Food Technologist

  21. Clinical Technologist

  22. Instrument Technologist

  23. Regulatory Technologist

  24. Manufacturing Technologist

  25. Chemical Engineering Technologist

  26. Quality and Process Technologist

  27. Footwear and Accessories Technologist

So, in the UK in the active labour market the job title technologist is recognised and valued. In fact, on the www.indeed.co.uk website, 2739 jobs are generated when searching for technologist jobs.

The evidence presented here would suggest that the occupation of technologist does exist in the UK even it is not formally captured in the UK Standard Occupational Classification system.


[1] Mason, G.; Rincon-Aznar, A. and Venturini, F. (2017) Which skills contribute most to absorptive capacity, innovation and productivity performance? Evidence from the US and Western Europe. LLAKES Research Paper No. 60. UCL Institute of Education. 63 pages

[2] Occupational Maps were developed initially by BMI for the Gatsby Foundation and the Department for Education and are now available on the Institute for Apprenticeship and Technical Education. See https://www.instituteforapprenticeships.org/about/occupational-maps/

[3] T- levels originated out the work of the panel chaired by David Sainsbury (Report of the Independent Panel on Technical Education. April 2016). For an up-to-date view of T-levels see: https://www.tlevels.gov.uk

#Engineers #Technicians #Technologists

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