Electrical and electronics technicians are called on to maintain and repair a wide variety of high tech equipment and systems in the modern infrastructure of our world. Both electrical and electronic components are usually incorporated into devices and machines that perform a vast array of functions ranging through telecommunications, systems control in manufacturing, and arts and entertainment. This job is attractive to individuals of a technical bent who enjoy working with electrical/electronic technology and doing moderately complex analysis and problem solving.
This is a fairly well paid field. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics gives the median hourly wage for electrical and electronics technicians as 23.29, with the median 50% earning between 18.40 and 28.73. The bureau gives the highest and lowest 10% percent of salaries for the field as 14.39 and 33.81. Jobs in the federal government and with building equipment contractors tend to pay fairly well and hire a lot of workers. So this field is quite lucrative especially if one approaches the higher skill levels.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Job Description and Outlook
One of the most prominent career positions in the electrical/electronics career area is the field technician. These individuals service electrical and electronic components for a wide variety of organizations such as industrial corporations, government departments, the military, nonprofit organizations, entertainment media, and so on. Indeed, just about any organization currently in existence uses some kind of electrical and electronic technology.
Field technicians often travel to the physical site of such an organization and install or repair equipment of an electrical/electronic nature. Thus the work is fairly mobile and takes place in a variety of environments. Sometimes this work is performed on a regular basis – technicians periodically visit various sites to perform routine maintenance and check for potential problems.
Another type of position is the bench technician. These individuals are less mobile – they work in electronics repair shops when more in depth repair is required than can be performed on site. Factories, service centers, or independent electronics repair outfits use these shops in an ongoing fashion to repair equipment so it is ready for reinstallation at specific sites.
The outlook for these types of jobs is fairly good, though as electronic technology advances it becomes increasingly complex. This tends to mean that technicians will have to have more extensive educational backgrounds in order to maintain a standing at the top of their profession.*
The job demand for the profession is indeed expected to grow in coming years, though at a slower rate than the national average. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics expects an overall growth of 5% by the year 2018. There are, however, such a wide variety of specializations in the field that this is only a round figure.*
Various specialties may grow at different rates. For instance, the demand for electrical and electronics equipment installers for industrial and commercial applications is expected to grow at a rate of only 4%. Partially this is due to the trend of robotics and automation in industrial and manufacturing systems. For instance, factories may install sophisticated and self diagnosis control systems on the factory floor that will create less of a demand for technician based problem solving and diagnoses. The flipside to this however is that these systems themselves will need to be maintained and serviced. These are complex systems and thus competent professionals will be required to repair them effectively.*
Demand for installers and repairers of electric motors and power tools, automotive electronics installation and repair, and for work in transportation are all expected to grow at these slower rates – i.e. 4 to 5%. On the other hand, demand for repairers and installers for power stations, relays, and substations is expected to grow at 12%, far in excess of the demand growth in other areas of the field. So it is clear from this that the specialty one chooses in electrical/electronic installation and repair field is a decisive factor in the job opportunity abundance one can expect.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Training and Education Requirements
The most competitive job applicants in the field are ones with at least an associate (i.e. 2 year) degree. There are institutions that are solely devoted to education in electronics and electrical engineering as well as programs at community and 4 year colleges that offer these educational programs.
It is possible to begin work in this field with only a high school diploma, assisting or apprenticing with an experienced technician. However as the field increases in sophistication and complexity, degrees are becoming more and more recommended for those starting out in the field.
Certification in the field is not legally required for employment but is definitely an asset to a technician. Most educational programs in electrical and electronics repair and installation are aimed at certification by one of several professional associations such as the Electronics Technicians Association (ETA) or the International Society of Certified Electronics Technicians (ISCET). These organizations offer certifications in a variety of specialties within the field and generally correspond to educational programs offered by a variety of schools with those specialty concentrations. These certifications increase the employ-ability of a technician as viewed by prospective employers and are thus recommended.
The Electronics Technicians Association (ETA) and The International Society of Certified Electronics Technicians (ISCET), as mentioned above, are two prominent professional associations related to the field. The ETA is an internationally recognized certification organization. A third organization called The Association of Communications & Electronics Schools International, Inc. (ACES Int’l) is also internationally recognized and handles certification and education in the profession.