R&D technicians, or research and development technicians, are engineering technicians who use their knowledge to assist engineers and scientists to design, create and then construct new equipment and products that will be then marketed and sold to the general public or industry.
After helping with the design and construction of a product, it is then the R&D technician's job to test and conduct experiments on the product, collate the data and record all the results to see if the product is operational and will be marketable to the general public. R&D technicians work in a range of industries including aerospace engineering, civil engineering, electrical and electronic engineering, electromechanical engineering, environmental engineering, industrial engineering and mechanical engineering.
The working environment of an R&D technician is mostly within the offices of manufacturing or industrial plants. They normally work a 40-hour week. Due to the nature of the work, they may be exposed to hazards such as machinery, toxic materials and chemicals. However, stringent health and safety standards are required in the U.S., so accidents and incidents at work are rare.
R&D technicians generally have to have, at minimum, an associate degree in engineering technology. This can be earned at community colleges, universities and vocational-technical schools. These associate degrees are normally accredited by the Technology Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) and include college algebra, trigonometry and basic science courses.
Throughout the U.S., there were 497,300 engineering technicians in 2008, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Not all of these will work in R&D, however; some will work in the manufacturing sector, construction, maintenance and sales. The largest number worked in the electrical and electronic engineering sector, followed by the civil engineering sector. The number of jobs for engineering technicians is set to grow by 5 per cent through 2018, which is slower than the national average for all jobs in the U.S. Increased efficiencies and automation are the reasons for the slower predicted growth in this sector.
The average salaries of engineering technicians, of which R&D technicians are a part, depends on the sector in which they work. In 2008, those working in the aerospace sector took home the most with an average annual salary of £35,776, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This was followed closely by those working for the electrical and electronic engineering sector, who took home £34,606 a year. The lowest salaries were those working as environmental engineering technicians, who took home an average of £26,715.