For many individuals, an office job provides an anathematic working environment. These individuals are likely to want to work with their hands, to exert significant physical effort during their daily travails, and to use their minds and bodies to solve problems on the job. Prior to the collapse of American steel and auto manufacturing in the 1980s, individuals who desired careers outside of the office-job norm found success in various labor professions, many involving manufacturing. It is a common stereotype that all labor jobs are unstable and outsourcable. This still rings true of manufacturing work; however, careers in electro-mechanical technologies and mechanical maintenance engineering require skilled American workers to perform challenging and diverse maintenance, repair, design, and management tasks.
Individuals interested in mechanical and electrical careers have several training options available to them. These education and career training programs range in length from 10 weeks to four semesters (or, two academic years). The training course that is most appropriate for an individual will typically depend upon what he or she can afford, what his or her schedule permits, and what length of time the individual wishes to devote to training.
Shorter courses of study are more likely to concentrate specifically on electro-mechanical technologies, which is the study and application of various electrical and mechanical principles, sans a liberal arts or general education component. Courses of study are separated into classroom lecture, which covers theories and principles of electrical and mechanical work; and laboratory exercises, which allow students to apply lecture principles to real-life situations.
Because these shorter courses of study are more direct, and usually lack the liberal arts education component, they can typically be completed in one academic year or less. Many training institutions offer classes on staggered day schedules, weekend schedules, or evening-only schedules, enabling students who must work full time to attend sessions. Other institutions offer full-day, accelerated schedules, which permit students to study without taking significant time off from the workforce. Many shorter-study training courses offer career placement assistance for students finishing the program, as well.
The class work offered in short-duration electro-mechanical technologies education tracks will vary, but most programs offer foundation classes in basic mechanical and electrical principles. Students are likely to take more advanced classes in HVAC and air conditioning technologies and applications; wiring and electrical applications, and sometimes, classes in mechanical motor work as well. Lab practicums enable students to work through classroom theories and scenarios. Better training programs often place emphasis on trouble-shooting and maintenance techniques, which are assets in the workplace.
Mechanical maintenance engineering courses of study are typically longer, taking two years or more to complete. (Two-year courses of study are also offered in electro-mechanical technologies at some schools.) Upon completion of a longer training program, the student is often granted an associates degree in engineering or electrical/mechanical studies. Many institutions offer degrees that are transferable to four-year colleges and universities; students might continue working in the field while training for bachelor's degrees in electrical or electronics engineering, physics, or applied science.
The two-year programs cover electrical and mechanical concepts in greater depth than is possible during shorter courses of study. Some programs focus extensively on advanced electrical and mechanical concepts, while others incorporate mathematics and applied physics course work into the curriculum. Still other programs add information science or computer applications classes; English or technical composition classes, or psychology and business classes to the degree requirements.
Many of the core degree lecture classes are accompanied by labs or practicums where students can refine their skills and learn how to apply them to the workplace. Topics covered in classes can vary and might include: electronics concepts such as voltage and amperage; the science and design of pumps and mechanical motors; pneumatics and compressors; the heating and cooling cycles; and the properties of different metals, chemicals, and elastomers.
Graduates of shorter certification programs or longer degree programs that focus on engineering are eligible for numerous jobs in the HVAC, electrical, and mechanical maintenance fields. Some students begin careers in HVAC, refrigeration, or air conditioning maintenance and repair. Others begin careers in electrical work, and some advance to positions such as electrical journeyman. Some students might specialize in electronics maintenance and repair, including television, small appliance, and computer work. Others still might work as assistant engineers, air-quality controllers, or facilities managers. Students with entrepreneurial drive and talent might wind up as owners of their own businesses.
With the correct training program, intellectual curiosity, and a good work ethic, a graduate of an electro-mechanical technologies or mechanical maintenance engineering program often finds that he or she has many career options.