What is an Automotive Engineering Technology Degree?

Automotive engineering technologists assist automotive engineers. They help determine the practicality of engineers’ proposed product designs by planning and conducting durability and efficiency tests on experimental components, devices, equipment, systems, and vehicles of the future. They record data, make computations, plot graphs, analyze results, write reports, and often make recommendations for improvements to meet safety, quality, and performance requirements.

The automotive engineering technology curriculum prepares students to take on this vital role in the growing automotive research, design, and development industry.

Program Options

It is important to select a program that is accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).

Associate Degree in Automotive Engineering Technology – Two Year Duration
The associate degree is the most common credential held by automotive engineering technologists.

Bachelor’s Degree in Automotive Engineering Technology – Four Year Duration
Very few schools in the US offer a distinct Bachelor’s Degree in Automotive Engineering or Automotive Engineering Technology. At this level, programs are typically offered as a specialty of mechanical engineering / mechanical engineering technology. The bachelor’s curriculum encompasses more advanced topics and is designed for students planning to go on to graduate school after earning their undergrad degree.

Both associate and bachelor’s programs explore the design, manufacturing, and operation of modern vehicles through coursework in automotive engineering technology, general engineering technology, and mathematics and science. Throughout their studies, students learn how to use engineering fundamentals and state-of-the-art software to identify and solve problems related to the machine components and assemblies used in the automotive industry.

Here are some sample undergraduate courses:

  • Design of Machine Elements – stress and strain, load analysis, failure prediction, impact, fatigue, lubrication and sliding bearings, rolling bearings, shafts and associated parts, gears, fasteners, brakes and clutches, disassembly and reassembly of vehicle systems
  • Computer-Aided Design (CAD) – two-dimensional drafting: drawing environment and commands, drafting settings, drawing editing, plotting output, dimensioning, orthographic projections (a means of representing three-dimensional objects in two dimensions) and views, sectional and auxiliary views; three-dimensional solid modeling: parts, assemblies, 2D drawings generation
  • Structure and Properties of Materials – physical properties including tension forces and impact of materials, fracture, testing, and applications and selection of ceramics, metals and alloys, polymers, and advanced materials used in automobiles and vehicles; metal casting for automotive applications
  • Engineering Statistics – an introductory statistics course covering the following topics with engineering applications: organization and description of data, probability and distributions, hypothesis testing, and data analysis
  • Thermodynamics and Heat Transfer – thermodynamic principles; heat engines; gas turbine cycles; air conditioning; conductive, convective, and radiative heat transfer; heat transfer coefficients; heat exchangers; vehicle thermal management components and systems
  • Engineering Economics – costing methods of engineering designs and processes, minimum attractive rate of return, return sensitivities, time value of money, internal rates of return, payback period, amortization of equipment, and capital cost allowance structures
  • Automotive Engineering Technology – spark ignition engines, diesel engines, ignition systems, emission control devices, computers and on-board diagnostics, clutches, manual and automatic transmissions and transaxles, driveline, steering systems, suspension systems, brakes, and tires and wheels
  • Control Theory – analysis and design of a closed loop control system (a set of mechanical or electronic devices that automatically regulates a process variable to a desired state or set point without human intervention); topics include control system characteristics and performance, stability analysis, system types and performance improvement, digital control systems, compensation, filtering, and motion control system analysis and tuning
  • Fluid Mechanics – understanding the behavior of fluid under various forces and at different atmospheric conditions; fluids perform three crucial operations in automobiles: generation of power, lubrication, and cooling of the engine; the purpose of fluid mechanics in automobiles is to make the vehicle more environmentally friendly
  • Conceptual Design of Electric and Hybrid Vehicles – groups of students research, discuss, and implement conceptual design aspects of electric or hybrid electric vehicles; the major aspects of vehicle design are analyzed from the vehicle specification to the environmental assessment and sustainability
  • Internal Combustion Engines – internal combustion engine operating characteristics, engine maps, engine cycles, engine configuration and design, air and fuel induction, fluid motion within combustion chamber, heat transfer in engines, friction and lubrication
  • Vehicle Dynamics – acceleration performance, braking performance, aerodynamics and rolling resistance, ride, tires, steady-state cornering, suspensions, steering systems, rollover

Other subjects addressed in the curriculum include:

  • Manufacturing Processes and Systems
  • Mechanical Vibrations
  • Quality Control and Assurance Methods
  • Electrical and Electronics Control Systems
  • Dynamic Modeling and Simulation
  • Robotics and Computer Integrated Manufacturing
  • Engine Performance, Diagnostics, and Emissions
  • Machine Health and Remote Monitoring
  • Technology Ethics and Sustainability

Degrees Similar to Automotive Engineering Technology

Aircraft Maintenance Technology
Aircraft mechanics and technicians keep airplanes in safe operating condition. Degree programs in aircraft maintenance technology teach students how to inspect, maintain, and repair aircraft. The typical curriculum covers both the airframe (structural) and power plant (engine) components of aircraft. Students learn about aircraft metal structures, fuel systems, electronics, hydraulics and propulsion systems, landing gear systems, and maintenance and inspection regulations.

Automotive Mechanics
Automotive mechanics training programs prepare students to work in the servicing and maintenance of cars. Coursework covers preventative maintenance, brake systems, suspension systems, steering systems, wheel alignment, drive lines and axles, and electrical fundamentals.

Industrial Design
Industrial designers design the way that we live our lives, by creating, innovating, and styling the common mass-produced items that we buy, use, and consume. They research, build, and test prototypes to maximize the functionality and desirability of products, from cars to food packaging to consumer electronics. Students of industrial design study the history of the field, design conceptualization, drawing, dimensional and computer-aided design, materials and processes, and model making.

Mechanical Engineering
Students of mechanical engineering learn how to research, design, develop, and test mechanical and thermal devices, including tools, sensors, engines, and machines. These devices serve many industries, including the aerospace, medical, energy, and manufacturing sectors. In addition to coursework in engineering and design, degree programs in the field include classes in mathematics, life sciences, and physical sciences.

Robotics Technology
Degree programs in robotics technology prepare students to work with engineers who design robots and robotic systems than can perform duties that humans are either unable or prefer not to perform.

Skills You'll Learn

  • Ability to work independently or as part of a team
  • Ability to work well under time and budget pressures
  • Active learning as technologies evolve
  • Adaptability
  • Attention to detail
  • Communication / Relationship-building
  • Complex problem solving / Design thinking
  • Computers and electronics / Technical savvy
  • Creativity / Imagination / Vision
  • Dependability
  • Drawing / Computer-aided design and drafting (CADD)
  • Initiative
  • Judgement and decision making
  • Mathematical skills
  • Mechanical skills
  • Operation monitoring
  • Planning and organization
  • Presentation
  • Project management
  • Quality control analysis
  • Spatial reasoning / Visualization
  • Systems analysis and evaluation
  • Troubleshooting

What Can You Do with an Automotive Engineering Technology Degree?

Students who graduate with an automotive engineering technology degree most often work in labs and on test courses, helping take new automobiles, trucks, agricultural equipment, construction equipment, and other vehicles from conception and design to the manufacturing and production stage.

Common job titles include:

  • Automotive Engineering Technician
  • Service Engineer
  • Performance Testing Engineer
  • Engineering Technician
  • Factory Technical Representative
  • Validation Engineer / Technician
  • Dynamometer Engineer / Technician
  • Research and Development Technician
  • Product Engineer
  • Quality Control Engineer

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