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Electrical Technician


Description

Stop for a moment and think about the electronic gadgets and machines found in many homes like DVD players, televisions or electric toothbrushs. It is easy to take these luxuries for granted yet hard to imagine life without them. Thank heavens for electrical engineers who create such great products. But what happens when the machines break or malfunction?

Electrical technicians assist engineers who create, develop and maintain electronic products, systems, and components. Applying the practical and theoretical principles of electronics to the development of electronic-based circuits, they operate and service electronic equipment and systems. Electrical technicians also repair household and business electronic equipment including radios, televisions and personal computer systems.

Although there are many electronics disciplines, technicians usually specialize in technical sales and product representation, systems management, the design and manufacture of electronic devices and systems, or the installation, maintenance and repair of electronic systems and equipment. They may also work with computers and electronic equipment used in the medical, manufacturing, industrial control, telecommunications, aeronautical and military fields.

Advances in electronics have had a dramatic impact on all industries. Communications and telecommunications instruments such as high-speed Internet modems, lap top computers, personal digital assistants and fiber optics are booming industries and there is room to accommodate many electrical technician job seekers. When a computer breaks down, most people do not have the know how to fix it.

Electrical technicians are required to constantly update their skills and knowledge in order to keep up with technological advancements in this quickly changing field. They need to understand electrical systems, which can be difficult seeing as computers change every month. They also must be able to work under pressure and know how to troubleshoot glitches in the matrix in emergency situations.
 
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  Average Earnings  
Lowest 10% of Earners:
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Median Salary:
$42,950
 
Highest 10% of Earners:
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  Interests and Skills  
Electrical technicians should have a natural curiosity and affinity for mechanics, mathematics and electronics. Since imprecise calculations could cause major disasters and expensive mistakes, they must be 100 percent accurate in their calculations. They must be good problem solvers and be able to come up with innovative and creative solutions to potential problems.

They must also be interpersonal and have strong communication skills. Electrical technicians constantly deal with people from both sides of the professional spectrum therefore they must be able to communicate ideas in a clear, concise fashion. Finally, determination, patience and observance are three important characteristics.
 

  Typical Tasks  
  • Conduct life tests (burn-ins) on assemblies and record and analyze results
  • Talk to customers and conduct routine checks to find the source of a malfunction
  • Inspect and test electronic equipment, components and assemblies using multi-meters, circuit testers, oscilloscopes, logic probes and other test equipment
  • Assist in building and testing prototypes to specifications
  • Carry out a limited range of technical functions in support of research in electrical and electronic engineering and physics
  • Diagnose and locate circuit, component and equipment faults
  • Install, operate and maintain electrical and electronic equipment and systems
  • Calibrate electrical or electronic equipment and instruments according to technical manuals and written instructions
  • Collect and compile operational or experimental data and assist in the preparation of estimates, schedules, budgets, specifications and reports
  • Access and distribute product information using electronic means such as email, databases and the Internet
  • Electrical technicians usually work in offices, shops, residences or production departments, but may occasionally work outdoors in unsheltered environments. Some short-distance traveling may be required when installing or servicing equipment or going to construction sites. They often put in longer hours to meet with clients and accommodate their schedules.
  • The intense concentration required and the pressure of deadlines can be stressful. Also, they must do a considerable amount of reading and research to keep up-to-date with new technological developments. In some circumstances, electrical technicians may be exposed to chemical gasses, or work in severe climate conditions.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Electrical technicians are employed by government departments and electrical utilities companies, construction companies, (tele) communications companies, hospitals, manufacturers of electrical and electronic equipment, engineering consulting firms and by a wide range of manufacturing, processing and transportation industries. They also work for companies using computers, biomedical equipment, integrated circuits, instrumentation and communications devices, energy, industrial automation industries, research and testing laboratories, and environmental monitoring companies.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Experienced electrical technicians may set up their own businesses or advance to supervisory and management positions. With additional training, electrical technicians can transfer their skills to related occupations such as computer service technician, electronics technologist, instrument technician or avionics technologist. There is also an increasing demand for technicians to work in technical sales and customer relations.
 

  Educational Paths  
Electrical technicians receive their training either through informal, on-the-job training or through an apprenticeship program. Trade certification can be obtained either through an apprenticeship program or after several years of work experience. While trade certification is not mandatory to become an electrical technician, it can be a requirement for many employers and can also help secure employment.

Apprenticeship programs involve a combination of on-the-job training with classroom instruction. A pre-apprenticeship course may also be available which takes about five to six months to complete at a community college and is designed to help you get connected with a good company to apprentice with. It is important to apprentice with a reputable company as that is your education. While some apprenticeship programs may not require a high school diploma, it is important to note that employers generally prefer to hire high school graduates.

Apprenticeships can vary, however a typical apprenticeship lasts four to five years. The apprenticeship is a paid position however wages are about 50% less than what an employer pays the journeyperson, with yearly increases. After successfully completing the apprenticeship requirements, their industry training and apprenticeship office awards the electrical technician a certificate of completion.
 

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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