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Careers in Engineering

Engineering Career Options

The engineering field has so many opportunities for careers, from those who enjoy doing math computations, to those who excel at working with their hands, and everything in between. Read on to discover only some of the exciting options you might discover when researching career options.

Electrical Systems Engineering students in the classroom

A Traditional Engineer uses their mathematical and science skills to calculate the design specifications of a product. This can include loads, types of materials, size of fasteners, and cost.
For example: Let's look at an engineer that is tasked with designing the wheels for a new vehicle. This engineer might look at the power output, acceleration, carrying requirements, and price-point for the wheel design. They would then calculate the appropriate size of the wheel and the number and size of the fasteners needed to meet all of these goals.
Tools used: Graphing calculators, spreadsheet software, stress-analysis software.

An Engineering Technologist works as an assistant to the engineer to help design, test, and/or work with the manufacturer to make sure the design can be made. This includes designing the product in CAD (Computer-Aided Design) software and creating the detailed technical prints. They may also be involved in making prototypes and testing them.
For example: An engineer has calculated the specifications for a new wheel. These specifications are then handed to the Engineering Technologist who creates a 3D CAD model of what the wheel will look like. The Technologist may then run computer simulations of it and review the design with the manufacturer. The Manufacturer might say something like, "your design has six bolt holes. That will cost a lot of money for us to change our equipment. If you change it to five bolt holes, we can use our existing equipment." The Technologist will then discuss this change with the Engineer. The Engineer might say, "I recalculated the design with five holes, and we can do it, but we will have to increase their size." The Technologist will then make those changes and create the final technical drawings used by the manufacturer.
Tools used: 3D modeling CAD software, spreadsheet software, test equipment.

These areas can then specialize in a particular technical field, such as mechanical design, electrical design, manufacturing, aerospace, biomedical, and more.

Which area is right for you?
If you are interested in the field of engineering, you will want to explore whether you prefer hands-on tasks, or computational tasks. A traditional engineer typically works with mathematical and physics computations using graphing calculators and/or specialized computer programs. An engineering technologist will typically work with computer programs to create a virtual object and perform basic tests. Some technologists may work in a testing facility to conduct real-life tests on the object or product.

Chart: Hands-on vs. Theoretical
  Interest Skills Physics Math
Traditional Engineering Math problems
Pattern recognition
Stress analysis University Physics Differential Eq.
Calculus III
4yr Engineering Tech. Spreadsheets
Using computers
Designing products
Product analysis
3D modeling
College Physics Calculus I
Calculus II
2yr Technologist How things work
Making products
Technical drawings
Basic machining
Applied Physics Applied Math

Chart: Field-Mech, Electrical, Mechatronic, Bio, etc.
Mechanical Study and application of mechanical power, thermal energy, operation and design of mechanical systems.
Electrical Study and application of electrical power, electromagnetism, electronics, and design of electrical systems.
Civil Study and application of physical and naturally build environments from design, building, and maintaining.
Chemical Study and application of chemical, physical, and biological science, creating new materials and/or processes that can be beneficial to our world.

Engineering at ACC
Alpena Community College offers several programs of study related to engineering, such as
Pre-Engineering, Mechanical Design Technology, Electrical Systems Technology, and Industrial Technology

This program of study is designed to get you started on your pathway to a traditional four-year engineering degree. By starting at ACC, you will reduce your cost, experience more one-on-one instructional opportunities, and be able to complete most of your required math and science courses. This will be equivalent to about your first two years at a university. Once you've finished your requirements at ACC, you can then transfer to a four-year university to complete your engineering degree.

Mechanical Design Technology
oceaneering_rov - Copy
This associate degree program is designed for students who want to work in the field of engineering and design at the applied level in positions such as engineering technician, designer, and/or CAD operator. The program emphasizes a hands-on approach to design, from the use of hand tools, to the utilization of the latest software and computers recommended by the industry. Theoretical, scientific, and mathematical topics are utilized and serve as a basis for the research and development of new designs. A technical elective allows for the customization of the program with courses ranging from manufacturing to electronics. Graduates can then move on to complete a four-year degree in the field of Engineering Technology and
 should consult with an academic advisor.

Engineering Technology
ACC offers several opportunities to pursue Engineering Technology. The courses you take at ACC can then be transferred to a university for a four-year Engineering Technology degree. ACC has degrees that are designed to transfer to some of Ferris State University's Engineering Technology degrees, for example:

Mechanical Design Technology (ACC) Transfers to (FSU) Product Design Engineering Technology
Welding Technology (ACC) Transfers to (FSU) Welding Engineering Technology
Machine Tool Technology (ACC) Transfers to (FSU and LSSU) Manufacturing Engineering Technology

If you are interested in the electric field, ACC also offers a Bachelor's degree in Electrical Systems Technology. This degree is a four-year degree that is designed to train individuals to install, modify, maintain, troubleshoot, and perform functional tests on electrical grid systems equipment.

Mechanical Design Technology Program - Erin McCourt and Tanner Hatch

Erin McCourt, the granddaughter of alumnus and legendary ACC basketball coach Frank McCourt ('62)
, is an Alpena High School Early Middle College student who is on track to graduate in May with both a high school diploma and a pre-engineering associate degree. A third-generation Lumberjack whose grandfather’s name is emblazoned on the basketball court at Park Arena, Erin discovered her career path at ACC.

“I was lost and didn't know what I wanted to do other than I liked the idea of being an engineer and, ideally, I'd like to do something that involved design,” Erin shared.

What that something was, however, was anyone’s guess.

Last spring, Erin went on a trip organized by the ACC art department to tour the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. There, she was introduced to product design, which combines science and art by using computer-aided design (CAD) software to create or improve product designs for consumer goods and manufacturing processes. There are only about 17,000 product designers in the United States. 

Erin started to research educational and career options and discovered the product design engineering technology program (PDET) at Ferris State University (FSU). Little did she know then that several graduates of ACC’s mechanical design technology program had transferred to the product design engineering program at FSU.

Tanner Hatch (’23) was one of those graduates. He made the leap from earning an Associate of Applied Science in Mechanical Design Technology from ACC to being accepted into FSU’s product design engineering program, where he is now working toward a bachelor’s degree.

Like Erin, Tanner enrolled at Alpena Community College as an Alpena High School Early Middle College student. He had dreams of being an engineer someday and began taking classes at the college to pursue that career path. One of those classes was Introduction to Computer-Aided Design (CAD), where David Cummins was his instructor. There, Tanner discovered he loved the hands-on engineering processes more than the traditional engineering work he was tackling.

“I…like the process of the design itself much more than coming up with all the calculations traditional engineering deals with,” Tanner explained.

Mr. Cummins told Tanner about ACC’s mechanical design technology program, which is geared toward students interested in the field of engineering and design at the applied level. Graduates of the program fill positions such as engineering technician, designer, and/or CAD operator. Students can also choose to transfer to a four-year college or university after graduating from ACC to pursue a bachelor’s degree in related fields. It turns out that was the path Tanner decided to travel.

Now a junior at FSU working toward his bachelor’s degree in PDET, Tanner has no regrets about changing his career path.

“I enjoy mechanical design, as you can watch your ideas and creations come to life through the manufacturing process. I am also able to have my physical hands on the product I came up with in the CAD classroom, also referred to as “Magic Computer Land”, which is just so cool for me to watch my ideas become reality and in use.”
Tanner got a chance to see how the skills he was learning in the classroom could be applied in the workforce when he secured an internship at Besser Company last summer. 

“Everyone here speaks very highly of him and we already have an offer out to him to secure him for a returning internship this summer,” Chief Operating Officer of Besser Company Candie Dombroski said.

Tanner learned a lot at Besser last summer, which strengthened his determination to continue following the path he discovered at ACC.

“I helped make a testing stand to simulate vibrations, which was very fun and interesting for me, as I was able to go through the entire concept and design of the stand and even help build it. Seeing what once was a computer model become a working product really got me hooked on the career choice.”

Tanner is enthusiastic about the versatility of the PDET program at FSU, which will allow him to choose from a wide array of industries when it comes to employment.

“Something very special about this program is it can really take you anywhere. You could work for a furniture brand designing couches, an appliance brand designing blenders, or even a car company designing new vehicles”, he said.

Erin, who also discovered product design during her time at ACC, is headed this fall to join Tanner at FSU, where she will learn to create products beautiful in both form and in function.

“My dream job would be to design products that would improve quality of life and innovate in general,” Erin shared. “I would ideally like to work on more everyday objects such as appliances.”
Tanner would like to work in the hunting and fishing industry designing outdoor gear.

”If I could land a job like that after college, I would definitely be ‘living the dream’,” he said.

One day we may all be designing our kitchens around a beautiful, superior-performing dishwasher or oven, thanks to Erin or using the latest and greatest bow as we hunt deer, thanks to Tanner. And thanks to ACC’s student-centered faculty in the art, CAD, and pre-engineering departments, Erin and Tanner both got the personalized guidance they needed to discover a career path they didn’t know existed.

For more information about ACC's Engineering Options, please contact the following personnel:

James Berles
ACC Faculty - Mathematics/Engineering/GIS
(989) 358-7256
David Cummins
ACC Faculty - Industrial Tech/CAD/Marine Technology
(989) 358-7224