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What does an Engineering Assistant do?

By T. Briseno
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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An engineering assistant (EA) provides support services within an engineering department or firm. Responsibilities of an individual in an EA position can vary depending on the needs of the project, company, or program. While some engineering assistants perform daily tasks as needed by more senior engineering staff, others may be assigned to a specific technical portion or component of a larger program. Some general tasks that may be assigned to an engineering assistant include creating project scheduling and tracking spreadsheets, providing engineering drawings, managing program files, writing and updating technical documentation, and designing databases.

Engineering disciplines can encompass architecture, landscape planning, urban infrastructure, aerospace, medical devices, security systems, manufacturing facilities and equipment, and other specialties. Within each of these areas, an engineering assistant typically will serve as a member of an engineering team. A team of engineers may be responsible for the design, implementation, upgrade, and documentation related to a specific client need and contract, and an EA can be assigned to support the demands of the product.

Other areas of responsibility for an EA include corresponding with clients, executing software or hardware testing, and attending and recording project meetings. An EA may report to a single engineering program manager who serves as a mentor. It is also possible for an engineering assistant to be partnered with many engineers and support staff as program priorities and deadlines shift.

Becoming an engineer requires years of education, but an engineering assistant may be hired while still completing courses toward a degree. Other EAs join firms in entry-level positions after graduation from a university or technical facility. They may be recruited for special skills acquired during schooling, or they may be brought on specifically for promotion to other roles as experience is gained. Others may serve as an assistant on a project without having an engineering background. A technical writer, computer support administrator, or an administrative assistant, for example, may acquire the experience needed to act as an EA.

Due to the wide variety of specializations, skills, and technical proficiencies required of engineers, performing research and asking questions can be important during job searches to help a candidate understand the expectations of the particular role being filled. An EA may work independently or under close supervision on a short-term or long-term project at a large or small company. It is generally understood that an engineering assistant role should be filled carefully to fit individual and team needs and goals.

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Discussion Comments

By anon296392 — On Oct 11, 2012

I have been an electronics technician for 25 years. I have worked my way through the ranks/career ladder (associate tech/tech/senior tech/specialist,) and am now an engineering assistant for one of the largest medical device companies on the globe.

I have as much, if not more, respect from non-technical management and young engineers and am treated as an equal to senior engineers including sign off/approvals. I have seen entry level engineering assistants come and go. Stick to it, it's worth it.

By nextcorrea — On Aug 31, 2011

My dad worked his entire career as an engineer and he had the same assistant, a man named Frank, for the entire time. He always had a ton of respect and gratitude for Frank. He would not hesitate to tell people that Frank was the secret to his success and there might be something to that.

My father was a brilliant man but he could be kind of scatter brained. Frank helped my dad to corral all of his ideas and gave focus to his projects. They made an incredible team and Frank was always happy to play the second fiddle. Much like a golfer who relies on a great caddie, my dad leaned on Frank to help him with the things he was not good at.

By truman12 — On Aug 30, 2011

I worked briefly as an engineering assistant but I left the job because I was really nothing more than a secretary. I was interested in engineering and took that job because I though I might want to go back to school and study it. But my responsibilities were so simple and boring that the dream died pretty quickly.

I spent most of my time filing, making coffee, greeting visitors to the office and running errands for the boss. I guess that someone has to do this kind of work but it was not at all what I expected. I didn't learn a thing about engineering while I was there. Be sure you know what you are getting in to before you accept one of these jobs.

By ZsaZsa56 — On Aug 29, 2011

I worked as an engineering assistant for a small engineering firm while I was working on my degree in school. For any budding engineers out there, working as an engineering assistant is a great way to get some practice and experience before you enter the field.

I learned a ton while I was working there. I got exposed to the reality of being an engineer which can be both thrilling and horribly boring. I got to see how the politics of an engineering office work and how much effort and input it takes to see a project through to completion.

Once I graduated I had a leg up compared to other graduates because I had had so much experience in the field. The company I worked for wrote me a glowing recommendation and once I found a job the initial learning curve was a lot shorter.

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