September 5, 2017
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Mechanic or Technician: Is There a Difference?

Is there a difference between a mechanic and technician? The purpose of this blog post is to explore that question in the context of the heavy equipment industry.  What do you think?


Typical Interpretation

When someone says the word “mechanic” we picture a hard-working laborer with stained hands holding a wrench and working on machinery. The term “technician” usually makes us think of an individual in a clean uniform using electronic equipment to diagnose or troubleshoot machinery.  Are these interpretations accurate?

Mechanic and Technician According to the Dictionary

mechanic-technician-final-drives-2The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a mechanic as “a person who repairs machines (such as car engines) and keeps them running properly.”  The definition it provides for a technician is “a person whose job relates to the practical use of machines or science in industry, medicine, etc.”  As you can see, both words have quite similar meanings that focus on the repair, installation, and maintenance of machines. We can’t find a good answer for our question by depending on the dictionary alone.

Different Viewpoints

An article on DifferenceBetween.com provides an interesting explanation. A mechanic can take a machine apart and put it back together; a technician diagnoses problems and performs simple repairs and tweaks In short, technicians may use more advanced technical tools, but mechanics can still get the job done without them
Others will say that the difference lies in the job someone is doing at any given moment.  Let’s look at an example.  Technicians identify problems using specialized knowledge to interpret test results and error codes. A mechanic will fix the problem that was discovered by the technician. When someone is testing the performance of your final drive on a hydraulic test bench, they are acting as a technician.  When they are making repairs on that hydraulic motor, they are a mechanic. 
technician-mechanic-final-driveMany say that “mechanic” should be replaced with “technician.”  The argument is that the complexity of equipment and regular interaction with advanced systems are both things that fall under the definition of technician.  The mechanic of today uses a laptop or tablet as part of their daily routine. They are very well versed in error codes, system diagnostics, and repair techniques. This sounds more like the definition of a technician.
Some also feel that the term technician” sounds much more professional than mechanic.” It commands more respect and may command more pay. The ASE (National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence) has opted for the term “technician” in place of “mechanic”: instead of being a Certified Master Mechanic you would now be a Certified Master Technician.
However, there is a valid argument for keeping the word “mechanic”.  The term is very well known and rarely confused.  For example, you know that a mechanic will fix what is wrong with your bulldozer. But when you hear that a technician is working on it – well, it could be that an oil change technician is working on it.  To some individuals, the term “mechanic” inspires more confidence than “technician.”

What’s in a Word?

To some people, a technician sounds more highly trained than a mechanic. To others, a technician represents someone at the very bottom of the pay scale.  The meaning of words go far beyond their dictionary definition, which is why it’s important to be careful which words we use. What do you think – mechanic or technician? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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