Science, Engineering, Surveying and Mapping Technicians, and Drafters

Updated December 2014

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Science, engineering, and surveying and mapping technicians, as well as drafters, provide essential support services to engineers, scientists, surveyors, and other professionals. Technicians use principles of science and engineering to assist in the development and production of infrastructure, computers, pharmaceuticals, and many other products. This overview explores the employment, working conditions, earnings, job outlook, and unionization of workers in these occupations.

Employment Data                                                                      

Engineering technicians is a broad category and workers in this field specialize in any of a number of engineering areas, including aerospace, electro-mechanical, electrical and electronics, mechanical, industrial, civil, or environmental. In 2013, there were approximately 365,000 people employed as engineering technicians in the U.S.[1]

Science technicians are also often specialized workers and are found in sciences such as, environmental, agricultural and food, chemical, geological, petroleum, biological, conservation, nuclear, and forensic. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported there were approximately 300,000 people employed in a variety of science technician occupations in September 2014.[2]

Surveying and mapping technicians assist surveyors, typically at construction sites to keep boundary lines clear. The smallest of the three broad categories, there were an estimated 54,000 surveying and mapping technicians in the U.S. in 2013.[3]

Drafters, who turn the designs of architects and engineers into technical documents, usually through the utilization of specialty software, generally fall into one of three categories: architectural and civil, electrical and electronics, and mechanical. The BLS differentiates the work of drafters from that of commercial and industrial designers.[4] While this occupational overview will focus on the work of drafters, the two occupations share a number of similarities. In 2013, there were an estimated 125,000 drafters in the U.S.[5]

In general, men make up a majority of these occupations. In 2013, 21.2 percent of drafters, 17.6 percent of engineering technicians, and 10.8 percent of surveying and mapping technicians were women. The BLS disaggregates the various kinds of science technician, and most occupations have too few employees to report demographics, however, data are available for two occupational categories. Amongst chemical science technicians, women represented 41.3 percent of the workforce, and were 49.3 percent of miscellaneous life, physical, and social science technicians.[6]

In terms of race and ethnicity in 2013:

  • In the chemical and miscellaneous sciences, Black or African American technicians were 16.3 and four percent of the workforce, respectively. Asians represented 6.3 percent of chemical science technicians, and 11.1 percent of those in the miscellaneous science technician jobs. Hispanic or Latino workers represented 9.7 percent of chemical science technicians and 10 percent of workers in miscellaneous life, physical, and social science technician occupations.
  • In engineering technician occupations, 8.3 percent of workers were Black, 6.7 percent were Asian, and 13 percent were Hispanic or Latino.
  • Black or African American workers represented 4.1 percent of surveying and mapping technicians, while Asians represented 4.3 percent, and those of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity were 3.4 percent.
  • Drafters were 2.1 percent Black or African American, 8.7 percent Asian, and 7.1 percent Hispanic or Latino ethnicity.[7]

Working Conditions

Most engineering and science technicians work in a comfortable environment, some, however, must contend with night and weekend work and with work-related hazards, including contact with hazardous chemicals and other toxic materials. Science technicians may risk exposure to disease-causing organisms, toxic chemicals, radiation, or radioactive isotopes.

While the majority of workers in these occupations are able to maintain a standard 40-hour workweek, 26.2 percent of drafters, 27 percent of engineering technicians, 38.6 percent of surveying and mapping technicians, and 18.2 percent of science technicians reported their workweek was usually longer than 40 hours in 2014. Among draft

changes in employment 2014

ers, surveying and mapping technicians, and science technicians, more than half of those reporting working longer than standard weeks, reported usually working 50 hours or more per week.[8]

Education and Training

Engineering and science technicians have a wide distribution of educational attainment. Many technicians have at least an associate’s degree. This varies by occupation, ranging from more than one in four surveying and mapping technicians holding at least one postsecondary degree to over 85 percent of drafters holding an associate’s degree or higher. Large percentages of workers in all engineering and science technician occupations report completion of some college credits.[9]

Earnings

In 2013, aerospace engineering and operations technicians reported median annual earnings of $62,680, the highest amongst engineering technicians. Environmental engineering technicians reported the lowest annual wage in the category, with a median salary of $46,160.[10]education attainment 2014

Wages for nuclear technicians in 2013 far out-paced other science technicians. Median annual earnings for nuclear technicians were $72,610 compared to $34,790 for agricultural and food science technicians.[11]

In drafting, electrical and electronics drafters reported the highest median annual wages in the field, $57,250, while architectural and civil drafters reported the lowest, $48,800.[12] Surveying and mapping technicians reported median annual earnings of $40,670 in 2013.[13]

With only a few exceptions, real wages for engineering and science technicians have remained stagnant or decreased over the last decade. Even for those occupations that have experienced growth, when controlling for inflation the wage increases were modest. Electrical and electronics drafters experienced the largest wage growth in the last decade; however, even it amounts to a less than one percent increase annually.[14]

A number of factors can influence an individual technician’s earnings, including training, experience, industry, and region. However, the field continues to experience a persistent gender wage gap as well. Because of the relatively small number of women in the field, not all occupation specific data are available; however, in 2013 the median weekly earnings for women working as engineering technicians was $934 while their male counterparts earned $1,027.[15]

Job Outlook

One possible explanation for the stagnant wage growth in the last decade is the overall decrease in the number of jobs for engineering and science technicians. The number of jobs grew overall in only five of the fourteen occupations outlined from 2003-2013. Jobs for biological and geological and petroleum technicians grew between 40 and 50 percent each in the last decade; however, these were both relatively small occupations to start. [16]

Different occupations experienced varied growth and decline over the last decade. Some occupations, such as architectural achanges in employment for selected STEM 2014nd civil drafters, experienced rapid growth prior to the 2008 recession, but have since faced a steady decline. The number of jobs in industrial engineering however, has been somewhat mercurial, and shows signs of returning to pre-recession levels. Mechanical engineering did experience modest overall job loses, but the total number has remained relatively flat since 2003. Geological and petroleum science technician jobs grew steadily, but these occupations represent only a small percentage of total employment in the field.[17]

The BLS projects generally weak job growth for most engineering and science technician occupations. Slow growth or even decline is a function of a number of factors including, increased offshoring and automation of jobs, and contraction of budgets for research and development following the 2008 recession.[18]

Union Organization

In 2013, the percentage of engineering and science technicians who were union members varied by occupation with two out of the seven occupation categories having above average union density. Engineering technicians and agricultural and food science technicians boasted the highest rates of unionization with 16 and 12.1 percent, respectively. Chemical technicians and a catch-all category of other life, physical, and social science technicians had 7.6 and 8.5 percent density, respectively. Surveying and mapping technicians, biological technicians, and drafters had the lowest rates of unionization at six, 4.9, and 1.3 percent, respectively. These numbers represent only rough estimations, because relatively small sample sizes make precise numbers difficult to ascertain.[19]

A number of professional unions represent engineering and science technicians, including the American Federation of Government Employees, the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, the United Steelworkers of America, and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

 

To learn more about science and engineering professionals, click here.

To learn more about the professional and technical workforce, click here.

 

The Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO (DPE) comprises 22 AFL-CIO unions representing over four million people working in professional, technical and administrative support occupations. DPE-affiliated unions represent: teachers, college professors, and school administrators; library workers; nurses, doctors, and other health care professionals; engineers, scientists, and IT workers; journalists and writers, broadcast technicians and communications specialists; performing and visual artists; professional athletes; professional firefighters; psychologists, social workers, and many others. DPE was chartered by the AFL-CIO in 1977 in recognition of the rapidly growing professional and technical occupations.

 

Source:
DPE Research Department
815 16th Street, N.W., 7th Floor
Washington, DC   20006

 

Contact:
Jennifer Dorning                                                                                                                                                                               December 2014
(202) 683-0320, extension 114
jdorning@dpeaflcio.org

 

 

[1] “Table 11. Employed persons by detailed occupation, sex, race, and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity.” Current Population Survey, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, February 26, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat11.pdf
[2] U.S. Census Bureau, DataFerrett, American Community Survey, Public Use Microdata, 2014
[3] Ibid.
[4] “Drafters.” Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, January 8, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/drafters.htm
[5] “Table 11. Employed persons by detailed occupation, sex, race, and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity.” Current Population Survey, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, February 26, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat11.pdf
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid.
[8] U.S. Census Bureau, DataFerrett, American Community Survey, Public Use Microdata, 2014
[9] Ibid.
[10] “17-3021 Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technicians.” Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, April 1, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes173021.htm; “17-3025 Environmental Engineering Technicians.” Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, April 1, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes173025.htm
[11] “19-4051 Nuclear Technicians.” Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, April 1, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes194051.htm; “19-4011 Agricultural and Food Science Technicians.” Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, April1, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes194011.htm
[12] “17-3012 Electrical and Electronics Drafters.” Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, April 1, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes173012.htm; “17-3011 Architectural and Civil Drafters.” Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, April 1, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes173011.htm
[13] “17-3031 Surveying and Mapping Technicians.” Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, April 1, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes173031.htm
[14] “Occupational Employment Statistics.” Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, 2003 – 2013. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/oes/2003/may/oes_stru.htm#17-0000
[15] “Table 39. Median weekly earnings of full-time wage and salary workers by detailed occupation and sex.” Current Population Survey, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat39.pdf
[16] “Occupational Employment Statistics.” Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, 2003 – 2013. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/oes/2003/may/oes_stru.htm#17-0000
[17] Ibid.
[18] Babin, Janet. “Why more engineers are losing jobs.” Marketplace, June 17, 2009. Retrieved from http://www.marketplace.org/topics/business/fallout-financial-crisis/why-more-engineers-are-losing-jobs; Levine, Linda. “Offshoring (or Offshore Outsourcing) and Job Loss Among U.S. Workers.” Congressional Research Service, December 17, 2012. Retrieved from http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL32292.pdf
[19] Hirsch, Barry T. and Macpherson, David A. “2014 Union Membership and Earnings Data Book.” The Bureau of National Affairs Inc., 2014.

   Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO      
   815 16th Street, NW, 7th Floor, Washington DC 20006   |  Phone: 202-638-0320   |  info@dpeaflcio.org
   Copyright © 2001–2014 Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO. All rights reserved.

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