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The Million Rand Question:Can Technologists do the work of Civil Engineers?

The HardHat Professionals 19/07/2017 0The Hard Hat Professional Says

“Where do you work?” “What do you do?” These are the questions that are used as ice-breakers in social interactions. Unless you live alone on an island, you will probably have to answer at least one of these questions hundreds of times throughout your social life. This conversation is a bit more awkward for Technologists than it is for Engineers.

The dialogue often goes like this for me:


New Acquaintance: What work do you do?


Me: Civil Engineering. I design roads.


New Acquaintance: Oh you’re an Engineer?


Me: No, I’m a Technologist.


New Acquaintance: What’s that?


Me: Well, I do Civil Engineering work but I’ve studied at a University of Technology. My BTech degree makes me a Technologist.

This conversation can vary in many ways for different people depending on time constraints and the knowledge of the new acquaintance. I have friends that just answer, “I’m an Engineer.” This is often the easiest answer that can help the listener quickly understand what you do. I personally like to say that I’m a Technologist for a few reasons, viz.; I’m a proud Technologist and I hold that title with pride.

I think awareness should be created around this subject. My experience has shown me that Engineers sometimes take offence to Technologists calling themselves Engineers.



What is the difference between Engineers and Technologists?

The Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) has provided detailed descriptions of both Engineers and Technologists in their respective policy documents.

The Candidate Academy has provided more basic definitions in their Road to Registration guidelines:


Engineers should be ‘innovators’ responsible for complex tasks and should use engineering principles where necessary to develop unique solutions.”


Technologists solve broadly defined engineering problems by using proven techniques and are thus the ‘doers’ who implement broadly defined tasks or projects.”


Real Industry Experience – Experience is King

Within the Consulting Engineering Environment, I have found that experience is king in this industry. My real learning really began when I got my first job. I sometimes feel as though my qualifications were just a foot in the door.


I’ve seen first-hand that you can go as far as you want to go if you have the right attitude and never stop learning. I don’t feel limited by the fact that I’ve got a BTech degree. A Senior Engineer once said to me, “Some of the best engineers I’ve worked with have been technologists.”

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