School Subjects: Math, Computer Sci., Chemistry, Physics
Personal Skills: Technical/scientific
Work Environment: Mostly indoors; Primarily one location
Minimum Education Level: High school diploma
Wage or Salary Range: $26,620 to $42,130 to 561,020+
Certification or Licensing: Voluntary
Future growth: About as fast as the average
O*NET: 17-3023.00, 17T303.0
Electronics engineering technicians work with electronics engineers to design, develop, & manufacture industrial & consumer electronic equipment, including sonar, radar, navigational equipment, computers, radios, televisions, DVD players, stereos, & calculators. They are involved in fabricating, operating, testing, troubleshooting, repairing, & maintaining equipment. Those involved in the development of new electronic equipment help make changes or modifications in circuitry or other design elements.
Other electronics technicians inspect newly installed equipment or instruct & supervise lower grade technicians’ installation, assembly, or repair activities.
As part of their normal duties, all electronics engineering technicians set up testing equipment, conduct tests, & analyze the results; they also prepare reports, sketches, graphs, & schematic drawings to describe electronics systems & their characteristics. Their work involves the use of a variety of hand & machine tools, including such equipment as bench lathes & drills.
Depending on their area of specialization, electronics technicians may be designated by such titles as computer laboratory technicians, development instrumentation technicians, electronic communications technicians, nuclear reactor electronics technicians, engineering development technicians, or systems testing laboratory technicians. There are approximately 244,570 electrical & electronics engineering technicians employed in the United States.
Strictly speaking, electronics technology deals with the behavior of electrons as they pass through gases, liquids, solids, & vacuums. This field was originally an outgrowth of electrical engineering, an area concerned with the movement of electrons along conductors. As the field of electronics has expanded in scope, however, so has its definition, & today the term encompasses all areas of technology concerned with the behavior of electrons in electronic devices & equipment, including electrical engineering.
Although the field of electronics had its most spectacular growth & development during the 20th century, it’s actually the product of more than 200 years of study & experiment. One of the important early experimenters in this field was Benjamin Franklin. His experiments with lightning & his theory that electrical charges are present in all matter influenced the thinking & established much of the vocabulary of the researchers who came after him.
The invention of the electric battery, or voltaic pile, by the Italian scientist Alessandro Volta in 1800 ushered in a century of significant discoveries in the field of electricity & magnetism. Researchers working throughout Europe & the United States made important breakthroughs in how to strengthen, control, & measure the flow of electrons moving through vacuums. In the late 19th & early 20th centuries, these experiments culminated in Sir Joseph John Thomson’s description & measurement of the particle now called the electron.
During the early years of the 20th century, further discoveries along these lines were made by experimenters such as Lee De Forest & Vladimir Zworykin. These discoveries led the way to developing equipment & techniques for long-distance broadcasting of radio & television signals. It was the outbreak of World War II, however, with its needs for long-distance communications equipment & , ultimately, missile-guidance systems, that brought about the rapid expansion of electronics technology & the creation of the electronics industry.
As the field of electronics technology turned to the creation of con sumer & industrial products following the end of the war, its growth was spurred by two new technological developments. The first was the completion in 1946 of the first all-purpose, all-electronic digital computer. This machine, crude as it was, could handle mathematical calculations a thousand times faster than the electromechanical calculating machines of its day. Since 1946, there has been a steady growth in the speed, sophistication, & versatility of computers.
The second important development was the invention of the transistor in 1948. The transistor provided an inexpensive & compact replacement for the vacuum tubes used in nearly all electronic equipment up until then. Transistors allowed for the miniaturization of electronic circuits & were especially crucial in the development of the computer & in opening new possibilities in industrial automation.
Discoveries during the 1960s in the fields of microcircuitry & integrated circuitry led to the development of microminiaturized & more sophisticated electronic equipment, from pocket calculators, digital watches, & microwave ovens to high-speed computers & the long-range guidance systems used in spaceflights.
By the 1970s, electronics had become one of the largest industries & most important areas of technology in the industrialized world, which, in turn, has come to rely on instantaneous worldwide communications, computer-controlled or computer-assisted industrial operations, & the wide-ranging forms of electronic data processing made possible by electronics technology.
Throughout the growth & development of the electronics field, there has been a need for skilled assistants in the laboratory, on the factory floor, & in the wide variety of settings where electronic equipment is used. Electronics engineering technicians fill this important role, & will continue to do so as the electronics industry continues its rapid growth.
Did You Know?
• Electronics engineering technicians make up approximately 45 per cent of all engineering technicians employed in the United States.
• Major governmental employers of Electronics engineering technicians include the Departments of Defense, Transportation, Agriculture, & interior; the Tennessee Valley Authority; & the National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA).
• Over 46,000 electronics engineering technicians have received the Certified Electronics Technician designation from the International Society of Certified Electronics Technicians (ISCET).
Source: U.S. Department of Labor, ISCET
Most electronics technicians work in one of three broad areas of electronics: product development, manufacturing & production, or service & maintenance. Technicians involved with service & maintenance are known as electronics service technicians.
In the product-development area, electronics technicians, or electronics development technicians, work directly with engineers or as part of a research team. Engineers draw up blueprints for a new product, & technicians build a prototype according to specifications. Using hand tools & small machine tools, they construct complex parts, components, & subassemblies.
After the prototype is completed, technicians work with engineers to test the product & make necessary modifications. They conduct physical & electrical tests to gauge performance under various stressful conditions; For example, they test to see how a component will react in extreme heat & cold. Tests are run using complicated instruments & equipment, & detailed accurate records of the tests are kept.
Electronics technicians in the product-development field may make suggestions for improvements in the design of a device. They may also have to construct, install, modify, or repair laboratory test equipment.
Electronics drafting is a field of electronics technology closely related to product development. Electronics drafters, or computer-aided design drafters, convert rough sketches & written or verbal information provided by engineers & scientists into easily understandable schematic, layout, or wiring diagrams to be used in manufacturing the product. These drafters may also prepare a list of components & equipment needed for producing the final product, as well as bills for materials.
Another closely related field is cost estimating. Cost-estimating technicians review new product proposals in order to determine the approximate total cost to produce a product. They estimate the costs for all labor, equipment, & materials needed to manufacture the product. The sales department uses these figures to determine at what price a product can be sold & whether production is economically feasible.
In the manufacturing & production phase, the electronics technicians, who are also called electronics manufacturing & production technicians, work in a wide variety of capacities, generally with the day-to-day handling of production problems, schedules, & costs. These technicians deal with any problems arising from the production process. They install, maintain, & repair assembly- or test-line machinery. In quality control, they inspect & test products at various stages in the production process. When a problem is discovered, they are involved in determining the nature & extent of it & in suggesting remedies.
Those involved in quality control inspect & test the products at various stages of completion. They also maintain & calibrate test equipment used in all phases of manufacturing. They determine the causes for rejection of parts or equipment by assembly-line inspectors & then analyze field & manufacturing reports of product failures.
These technicians may make specific recommendations to their supervisors to eliminate the causes of rejects & may even suggest design, manufacturing, & process changes & establish quality- acceptance levels. They may interpret quality-control standards to the manufacturing supervisors. And they may establish & maintain quality limits on items purchased from other manufacturers, thus ensuring the quality of parts used in the equipment being assembled.
Another area of electronics technology is that of technical writing & editing. Technical writers & technical editors compile, write, & edit a wide variety of technical information. This includes instructional leaflets, operating manuals, books, & installation & service manuals having to do with the products of the company. To do this, they must confer with design & development engineers, production personnel, salespeople, drafters, & others to obtain the necessary information to prepare the text, drawings, diagrams, parts, lists, & illustrations. They must understand thoroughly how & why the equipment works in order to be able to tell the customer how to use it & the service technician how to install & service it.
At times, technical writers & editors may help prepare technical reports & proposals & write technical articles for engineering societies, management, & other associations. Their job is to produce the means (through printed words & pictures) by which the customer can get the most value out of the purchased equipment.
A high school diploma is necessary for anyone wishing to build a career as an electronics engineering technician. While in high school, you should take algebra, geometry, physics, chemistry, computer science, English, & communications classes. Courses in electronics & introductory electricity are also helpful as are shop courses & courses in mechanical drawing.
Most employers prefer to hire graduates of two-year postsecondary training programs. These programs provide a solid foundation in the basics of electronics & supply enough general background in science as well as other career-related fields such as business & economics to aid the student in advancing to positions of greater responsibility.
Two-year programs in electronics technology are available at community colleges & technical institutes. Completion of these programs results in an associate’s degree. Programs vary quite a bit, but in general, a typical first-year curriculum includes courses in physics for electronics, technical mathematics, communications, AC/DC circuit analysis, electronic amplifiers, transistors, & instruments & measurements.
Typical second-year courses include physics, applied electronics, computer information systems, electronic drafting, electronic instruments & measurements, communications circuits & systems, dig ital electronics, technical writing, & control circuits & systems.
Students unable to attend a technical institute or community college should not overlook opportunities provided by the military. The military provides extensive training in electronics & other related fields. In addition, some major companies, particularly utilities, hire people straight out of high school & train them through in-house programs. Other companies promote people to technicians’ positions from lower level positions, provided they attend educational workshops & classes sponsored by the company.
Certification or Licensing
Electronics engineering technicians may obtain voluntary certification from the International Society of Certified Electronics Technicians & the Electronics Technicians Association International. This certification is regarded as a demonstration of professional dedication, determination, & know-how.
You should have an interest in & an aptitude for mathematics & science & should enjoy using tools & scientific equipment. On the personal side, you should be patient, methodical, persistent, & able to get along with different kinds of people. Because technology changes so rapidly, you will need to pursue additional training throughout your career. To work in electronics engineering, you also need to have the ability & desire to learn quickly, an inquisitive mind, & the willingness to read & study materials to keep up to date.
If you are interested in a career as an electronics engineering technician, you can gain relevant experience by taking shop courses, joining electronics or radio clubs in school, & assembling electronic equipment with commercial kits.
You should take every opportunity to discuss the field with people working in it. Try to visit a variety of different kinds of electronics facilities—service shops, manufacturing plants, & research laboratories—either through individual visits or through field trips organized by teachers or guidance counselors. These visits will pro vide a realistic idea of the opportunities in the different areas of the electronics industry. You should also take an introductory course in basic electricity or electronics to test your aptitude, skills, & interest. If you enroll in a community college or technical school, you may be able to secure off quarter or part-time internships with local employers through your school’s job placement office. Internships are valuable ways to gain experience while still in school.
Electronics engineering technicians are employed by companies that design, develop, & manufacture industrial & consumer electron ic equipment. Such employers include service shops, manufacturing plants, & research laboratories.
You may be able to find your first full-time position through your school’s job placement office. These offices tend to develop very good working relationships with area employers & can offer you excel lent interviewing opportunities.
Another way to obtain employment is through direct contact with a particular company. It’s best to write to the personnel department & include a resume summarizing your education & experience. If the company has an appropriate opening, a company representative will schedule an interview with you. There are also many excellent public & commercial employment organizations that can help graduates obtain jobs appropriate to their training & experience. In addition, the classified ads in most metropolitan Sunday newspapers list a number of job openings with companies in the area.
Professional associations compile information on job openings & publish job lists. For example, the International Society of Certified Electronics Technicians offers lists of job openings around the country at its website. Information about job openings can also be found in trade magazines on electronics.
Advancement possibilities in the field of electronics are almost unlimited. Technicians usually begin work under the direct & constant supervision of an experienced technician, scientist, or engineer. As they gain experience or additional education, they are given more responsible assignments, often carrying out particular work pro grams under only very general supervision. From there, technicians may move into supervisory positions; those with exceptional ability can sometimes qualify for professional positions after receiving additional academic training.
The following short paragraphs describe some of the positions to which electronics technicians can advance.
Electronics technician supervisors work on more complex projects than do electronics technicians. They supervise other technicians & may also have administrative duties, such as making the employee work schedule, assigning laboratory projects to various technicians, overseeing the training progress of new employees, & keeping the workplace clean, organized, & well stocked. In general, they tend to have more direct contact with project managers & project engineers.
Engineering technicians are senior technicians or engineering assistants who work as part of a team of engineers & technicians in research & development of new products. Additional education, resulting in a bachelor of science degree in engineering, is required for this position.
Production test supervisors make detailed analyses of production assembly lines in order to determine where production tests should be placed along the line & the nature & goal of the tests. They may be responsible for designing the equipment setup used in production testing.
Quality control supervisors determine the scope of a product sampling & the kinds of tests to be run on production units. They translate specifications into testing procedures.
Workers who want to advance to engineering positions can become electrical engineers or electronics engineers through additional education. A bachelor of science degree in engineering is required.
All electronics technicians will need to pursue additional training throughout their careers in order to keep up-to-date with new technologies & techniques. Many employers offer continuing education in the form of in-house workshops or outside seminars. Professional associations also offer seminars & classes on newer technologies & skill building.
The U.S. Department of Labor reports that in 2001, median annual earnings for electrical & electronics engineering technicians were $42,130. Salaries ranged from less than $26,620 to more than $61,020.
Electronics engineering technicians generally receive premium pay for overtime work on Sundays & holidays & for evening & night-shift work. Most employers offer benefits packages that include paid holidays, paid vacations, sick days, & health insurance. Companies may also offer pension & retirement plans, profit sharing, 401-K plans, tuition assistance programs, & release time for additional education.
Because electronic equipment usually must be manufactured in a dust-free, climate-controlled environment, electronics engineering technicians can expect to work in modern, comfortable, well-lighted surroundings. Many electronics plants have been built in industrial parks with ample parking & little traffic congestion. Technicians who work with cable, Master Antenna Television, satellites, & antennas work outside. Frequency of injuries in the electronics industry is far less than in most other industries, & injuries that do occur are usually not serious.
Most employees work a 40-hour workweek, although overtime is not unusual. Some technicians regularly average 50 - 60 hours a week.
There is good reason to believe that the electronics industry will remain one of the most important industries in the United States through the next decade. Consumer products such as large screen & high-definition televisions, videocassette recorders, DVD & CD players, personal computers, & home appliances with solid-state controls are constantly evolving & in high demand. Two areas showing high growth are computers & telecommunications products. Multimedia & interactive products are expanding rapidly, & many new products are expected in the coming years. In addition, increasing automation & computer-assisted manufacturing processes rely on advanced electronic technology.
All of these uses for electronics should continue to stimulate growth in the electronics industry. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that opportunities for electronics engineering technicians will increase as fast as the average. Foreign competition, general economic conditions, & levels of government spending may affect certain areas of the field to some degree. This is an industry, how ever, that's becoming so central to our lives & for which there is still such growth potential that it seems unlikely that any single fac tor could substantially curb its growth & its need for specially trained personnel.
Prospective electronics technicians should begin paying attention to certain factors that might affect the areas in which they are thinking of working. For example, workers planning to work for the military or for a military contractor or subcontractor in radar technology need to keep an eye on federal legislation concerning military spending cuts or increases.
In some areas, the demand for workers is higher than the number of trained workers available. For example, there is a need for highly skilled electronics technicians at companies that produce electronics products with related telecommunications or computer technology. Electro-medical & biomedical subfields dealing with technical hospital machines have also been identified as high-demand areas.
The electronics industry is undeniably indispensable to our lives, & although there will be fluctuations in growth for certain subfields, there will be a need for qualified personnel in others. The key to success for an electronics technician is to stay up to date with technology & to be professionally versatile. Building a career on a solid academic & hands-on foundation in basic electronics enables an electronics technician to remain competitive in the job market.
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