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Instrument Mechanic


Each day there are millions of products being manufactured and processed. There are also many machines and appliances used to do all of this work. Now, as with everything in life eventually these machines start to wear down, they may become slower, off balance or they may just stop altogether. The workers, who are paid to understand, maintain and repair many different types of industrial equipment and instruments are called industrial instrument technicians or mechanics.

Instrument mechanics are interested in how things work, they are able to read manufacturers manuals to determine how to test and repair instruments. They repair, maintain, calibrate, adjust, and install industrial measuring and controlling instrumentation. Once the work is completed instrument mechanics must complete maintenance reports and any documentation required to state the work that has been done or must be completed.
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  Interests and Skills  
Instrument mechanics like to work with machines and they enjoy the challenge of solving problems related to machinery. As technological advances keep changing the way we work and the machines we work with instrument mechanics must maintain an active knowledge of the machinery they are working with. Instrument mechanics are also able to write fault reports and other required documentation.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Consult manufacturer's manuals to determine tests and maintenance procedures for instruments used for measuring and controlling flow, level, pressure, temperature and other variables in manufacturing and processing
  • Inspect and use testing devices to test operation of instruments and systems to diagnose faults
  • Repair and adjust system components and remove or replace defective parts
  • Calibrate components and instruments according to manufacturers' specifications
  • Perform scheduled preventive maintenance work and complete test and maintenance reports
  • Install new control instruments on plant equipment
  • Instrument mechanics typically work a 40-hour week. They may also be on call for emergency situations. Each day will be different as they will be working with different parts and machines as maintenance and testing requires.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Instrument mechanics are employed by power generating companies, industrial instrument companies, industrial instrument servicing establishments, manufacturing companies, mining companies, natural gas companies, nuclear power generating companies, petrochemical companies, and pulp and paper processing companies.

  Long Term Career Potential  
There is limited room for advancement in this field. With experience and/or additional education workers may advance to supervisory positions or move to different positions within the industry.

  Educational Paths  
Instrument mechanics 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 in all areas to become an instrument mechanic, it can be a requirement for many employers and can also help secure employment.

Apprenticeship programs involve a combination of on-the-job training and 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 percent of what an employer pays the journeyperson, with yearly increases. After successfully completing the apprenticeship requirements, their industry training and apprenticeship office awards the instrument mechanic a certificate of completion.

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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