School Subjects: Computer science Technical/shop
Personal Skills Mechanical/manipulative Technical/scientific
Work Environment: Primarily indoors; Primarily multiple locations
Minimum Education Level: Associate’s degree
Salary Range; $20,240 to $32,890 up to to $90,000
Certification or Licensing: Recommended
Outlook: About as fast as the average
O*NET-SOC; 49-2011.00, 49-2011.02, 49-2011.03
Computer & office machine service technicians install, calibrate, maintain, troubleshoot, & repair equipment such as computers & their peripherals, office equipment, & specialized electronic equipment used in many factories, hospitals, airplanes, & numerous other businesses. Potential employers include computer companies & large corporations that need a staff devoted to repairing & maintaining their equipment. Many service technicians are employed by companies that contract their services to other businesses. Computer & office machine service technicians, including those who work on automated teller machines, hold approximately 172,000 jobs in the United States.
When computers were first introduced to the business world, businesses found their size to be cumbersome & their capabilities limited. Today, technological advances have made computers smaller yet more powerful in their speed & capabilities. As more businesses rely on computers & other office machines to help manage daily activities, access information, & link offices & resources, the need for experienced professionals to work & service these machines will increase. Service technicians are employed by many corporations, hospitals, & the government, as part of a permanent staff, or they may be contracted to work for other businesses.
L-3 Communications manufactures computer systems for a diverse group of clients such as Shell Oil, United Airlines, & the Chicago Board of Trade. Besides computer systems, they also offer services such as equipment maintenance contracts & customer training. Joey Area, a service technician for L-3 Communications, loves the challenge & diversity of his job. He & other members of the staff are responsible for the installation of computer mainframes & systems, as well as training employees on the equipment. A large part of their work is the maintenance, diagnosis, & repair of computer equipment. Since the clients are located throughout the United States, a tech must often travel to different cities in his assigned district. He also presents company products & services to potential clients & bids for maintenance contracts.
“I don’t always have to be at the office, which gives me a lot of freedom,” says Arca. “Sometimes I call in from my home & get my scheduled appointments for the day.” The freedom of not being deskbound does have its downfalls. “One of the most difficult parts of the job is not knowing when a computer will fail. I carry a pager 24/7, & if I get called, I’m bound to a two-hour response time.”
Many times work is scheduled before or after regular working hours or on the weekend, because it’s important to have the least amount of workday disruption. Arca is successful in his job because he keeps on top of technology that's constantly changing with continuing education classes & training seminars. He is also well versed in both hard ware & software, especially system software.
Traditional high school courses such as mathematics, physical sciences, & other laboratory-based sciences can provide a strong foundation for understanding basic mechanical & electronics principles. English & speech classes can help boost your written & verbal communications skills. Shop classes dealing with electricity, electronics, & blueprint reading are also beneficial.
You may be able to find work with a high school diploma if you have a lot of practical, hands-on experience in the field. Usually, however, employers require job candidates to have at least an associate’s degree in electronics. Joey Arca holds a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering. He credits specialized classes such as voice & data communications, microprocessor controls, & digital circuits as giving him a good base for his current work environment.
Certification or Licensing
Certification is required by most employers, though standards vary depending on the company. However, it’s considered by many as a measure of industry knowledge. Certification can also give you a competitive edge when interviewing for a new job or negotiating for a higher salary.
A variety of certification programs are available from the International Society of Certified Electronics Technicians & the Institute for Certification of Computing Professionals, among other organizations. After the successful completion of study & examination, you may be certified in fields such as computer, industrial, & electronic equipment. Continuing education credits are required for recertification, usually every two to four years. Arca is certified as a computer technician from the Association of Energy Engineers & the Electronics Technicians Association International.
A strong technical background & an aptitude for learning about new technologies, good communications skills, & superior manual dexterity will help you succeed in this industry. You’ll also need to be motivated to keep up with modern computer & office machine technology. Machines rapidly become obsolete, & so does the service technician’s training. When new equipment is installed, service technicians must demonstrate the intellectual agility to learn how to handle problems that might arise.
When asked what kind of people are best suited for this line of work, Arca replies, “task oriented, quantitatively smart, organized, & personable. Also, they need the ability to convey technical terms in writing & orally.”
Though work opportunities for service technicians are available nationwide, many jobs are located in large cities where computer companies & larger corporations are based.
If your school offers placement services, take advantage of them. Many times, school placements & counseling centers are privy to job openings that are filled before being advertised in the newspaper. Make sure your counselors know of any important preferences, such as location, specialization, & other requirements, so they can best match you to an employer. Don’t forget to supply them with an updated resume.
There are also other avenues to take when searching for a job in this industry. Many jobs are advertised in the “Jobs” section of your local newspaper. Look under “Computers” or “Electronics.” Also, inquire directly with the personnel department of companies that appeal to you & fill out an application. Trade association websites are good sources of job leads; many will post employment opportunities as well as allow you to post your resume.
Due to the growth of computer products & their influence over the business world, this industry offers a variety of advancement opportunities. Service technicians usually start by working on relatively simple maintenance & repair tasks. Over time, they start working on more complicated projects.
Experienced service technicians may advance to positions of increased responsibility, such as a crew supervisor or a departmental manager. Another advancement route is to become a sales representative for a computer manufacturing company. Technicians develop hands-on knowledge of particular machines & are thus often in the best position to advise potential buyers about important purchasing decisions. Some entrepreneurial-minded servicers might open their own repair business, which can be risky but can also provide many rewards. Unless they fill a certain market niche, technicians usually find it necessary to service a wide range of computers & office machines.
The U.S. Department of Labor reports that the median hourly earnings for computer, automated teller, & office machine technicians were $15.81 (or $32,890 annually) in 2001. A technician earning this amount & working full-time would have a yearly income of approximately $31,300. The department also reports that the lowest paid 10 percent of all computer & office machine service technicians (regardless of employer) earned less than $9.73 per hour ($20,240 annually). At the other end of the pay scale, 10 percent earned more than $24.39 per hour (approximately $50,740 annually). Those with certification are typically paid more than those without.
Standard work benefits for full-time technicians include health & life insurance & paid vacation & sick time, as well as a retirement plan. Most technicians are given travel stipends; some receive company cars.
“I like the freedom of not working in a [ office environment & the short workweeks,” says Joey Arca. Most service technicians, however, have unpredictable work schedules. Some weeks are quiet & may require fewer work hours. However, during a major computer problem, or worse yet, a breakdown, technicians are required to work around the clock to fix the problem as quickly as possible. Technicians spend a considerable amount of time on call & must carry a pager in case of work emergencies.
Travel is an integral part of the job for many service technicians, many times amounting to 80 percent of the job time. Arca has even traveled to the Philippines, where he worked on the Tomahawk Missile project at Clark Air Force Base. Since he is originally from the Philippines, he was able to combine work with a visit with friends & family.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employment for service technicians working with computer & office equipment should grow about as fast as the average over the next several years. As corporations, the government, hospitals, & universities worldwide continue their reliance on computers to help manage their daily business, demand for qualified & skilled technicians will be strong. Opportunities are expected to be best for those with knowledge of electronics & working in computer repairs. Those working on office equipment, such as digital copiers, should find a demand for their services to repair & maintain increasingly technically sophisticated office machines.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
For information on internships, student membership, & the magazine, Crossroads, contact
Association for Computing Machinery
New York, NY 10036
For career & placement information, contact
Electronics Technicians Association International
S Depot Street
Greencastle, IN 46135
Tel: 800-288-3824 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
For industry & certification information, contact the following organizations:
Institute for Certification of Computing Professionals
2350 East Devon Avenue, Suite 115
Des Plaines, IL 60018-4610
International Society of Certified Electronics Technicians
3608 Pershing Avenue
Fort Worth, TX 76107-4527