Career Guide for Technicians

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Questions:

  • Should I pursue a career in technology?
  • If I graduate from a community college or technical school, what can I expect to earn in the job market?

Questions like these are the primary focus of this web site.

Introduction

Technicians are specialists who work with scientists, engineers, & other professionals. They help these professionals in many activities, assist clients or customers, & supervise other skilled workers. Technicians work in many areas, such as factories, businesses, science labs, hospitals, & clinics. Some technicians are self-employed & work as consultants. Technicians comprise one of the fastest growing job categories in many U.S. industries.

When looking at the range of job classifications in the tradition al, hierarchical sense, the technician is the middleperson, falling between the scientist in the laboratory & the worker on the floor, between the engineer & the factory worker. The technician’s realm lies where scientific thought meets practical application, where theory meets product. Little by little, however, industries & businesses are starting to work in new ways. All workers, be they scientist, manager, technician, or line worker, are coming to be viewed as part of a team. Competency & knowledge are the new standards by which workers are valued, not rank alone. Thus technicians are seen by many as valuable employees in their own right, not simply junior scientists or engineers. Although the role of the technician is by nature supportive to their more prestigious or professional colleagues, those professionals could not do their work without the assistance of technicians. Would it make sense for an automotive engineer to spend hours fixing a car? Of course not. Assuming that the professional could even remember that far back in his or her training to perform the work, he or she does not know the technician’s specialty as well as the technician. Thus the engineer concentrates on designing more efficient cars, & the technician makes it possible for people to keep driving them.

Society’s growing reliance on technology has led to an increased need for technicians. As businesses switch to automated systems & as products become more technologically complex, technicians are needed to help design, implement, run, & repair systems or equipment, such as automobiles, airplanes, & computer networks. Even in non-technical areas, there exists a certain expectation of speed, efficiency, & quality that's frequently the domain of the technician.

Technicians have also become increasingly appealing to businesses because of their overall cost compared to that of highly paid professionals such as engineers & scientists. While technicians in some industries work alongside professionals as valued members of the team, contributing their unique knowledge & skills in areas professionals lack the time to develop fully, technicians in other industries are replacing professionals because they are less expensive to employ.

In most cases, our increasing reliance on technology has created more jobs for technicians. In a few areas, however, technological advances are actually replacing technicians. Meteorological technicians, for example, are being phased out from jobs with the National Weather Service. Their painstaking instrument readings & weather data collection work can now be done entirely with high-tech instruments. Prepress technicians, EKG technicians, & home electronic entertainment equipment repairers are other technician specialties that are in decline because of advances in technology.

Overall, however, the future for technicians looks excellent. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that technician careers will grow at a rate of 22.2 percent through 2008—faster than the average for all occupations. As noted in the article “The New Worker Elite” in Fortune magazine: “As the farm hand was to the agrarian economy of a century ago & the machine operator was to the electromechanical industrial era of recent decades, the technician is becoming the core employee of the digital Information Age.”

Technician careers are appealing for another, very practical reason:

They are good jobs that require only a short educational path. Most technician careers initially require two years or less of postsecondary training. A few require a bachelor’s degree to be competitive, & a very few don’t require a high school diploma. For the aspiring engineer more interested in the day-to-day, practical applications of engineering rather than the theoretical side of science, a career as an engineering technician may be a perfect alternative to a career in engineering. Technicians often work right alongside engineers & scientists, playing an important part in groundbreaking discoveries, long-awaited advances, & cutting-edge leaps. For a comparatively small investment in time & money, a person can emerge with a practical, highly marketable career.

Our articles have been updated & revised with the latest information from the U.S. Department of Labor, professional organizations, & other sources.

The Quick Facts section provides a brief summary of the career including recommended school subjects, personal skills, work environment, minimum educational requirements, salary ranges, certification or licensing requirements, & employment outlook. This section also provides acronyms & identification numbers for the following government classification indexes: the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT), the Guide to Occupational Exploration (GOE), the National Occupational Classification (NOC) Index, & the Occupational Information Network (O*NET) Occupational Classification System (SOC) index. The DOT, GOE, & O*NET indexes have been created by the U.S. government; the NOC index is Canada’s career classification system. Readers can use the identification numbers listed in the Quick Facts section to access further information about a career. Print editions of the DOT (Dictionary of Occupational Titles. Indianapolis, In.: JIST Works, 1991) & GOE (The Complete Guide for Occupational Exploration. Indianapolis, In.: JIST Works, 1993) are available at libraries. Electronic versions of the NOC (http://www23.hrdc-drhc.gc.ca) & O*NET (http://online.onetcenter.org) are available on the World Wide Web. When no DOT, GOE, NOC, or O*NET numbers are present, This means that the U.S. Department of Labor or Human Resources Development Canada have not created a numerical designation for this career. In this instance, you will see the acronym “N/A,” or not available.

The Overview section is a brief introductory description of the duties & responsibilities involved in this career. Oftentimes, a career may have a variety of job titles. When this is the case, alternative career titles are presented.

The History section describes the history of the particular job as it relates to the overall development of its industry or field.

The Job describes the primary & secondary duties of the job.

Requirements discusses high school & postsecondary education & training requirements, any certification or licensing that's necessary, & other personal requirements for success in the job.

Exploring offers suggestions on how to gain experience in or knowledge of the particular job before making a firm educational & financial commitment. The focus is on what can be done while still in high school (or in the early years of college) to gain a better under standing of the job.

The Employers section gives an overview of typical places of employment for the job.

Starting Out discusses the best ways to land that first job, be it through the college placement office, newspaper ads, or personal contact.

The Advancement section describes what kind of career path to expect from the job & how to get there.

Earnings lists salary ranges & describes the typical fringe benefits.

The Work Environment section describes the typical surroundings & conditions of employment—whether indoors or outdoors, noisy or quiet, social or independent. Also discussed are typical hours worked, any seasonal fluctuations, & the stresses & strains of the job.

The Outlook section summarizes the job in terms of the general economy & industry projections. For the most part, Outlook information is obtained from the Bureau of Labor Statistics & is supplemented by information taken from professional associations. Job growth terms follow those used in the Occupational Outlook Handbook. Growth described as “much faster than the average” means an increase of 36 percent or more. Growth described as “faster than the average” means an increase of 21 to 35 percent. Growth described as “about as fast as the average” means an increase of 10 to 20 percent. Growth described as “more slowly than the average” means an increase of 3 to 9 percent. Growth described as “little or no change” means an increase of 0 to 2 percent. “Decline” means a decrease of 1 percent or more.

Each article ends with For More Information, which lists organizations that provide career information on training, education, internships, scholarships, & job placement.

We also feature photos, informative sidebars, & interviews with professionals in the field.

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