Computer Engineering Technician Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

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The median salary for computer engineering technicians is $60,330. Is this worth the education and training required? Learn the truth about job duties and read real job postings to find out if becoming a computer engineering technician is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Computer Engineering Technician

Working as a computer engineering technician involves assisting with building and repair of computer and electronic hardware and software. The following is a list of pros and cons that can help you decide whether or not to pursue this occupation.

Pros of Becoming a Computer Engineering Technician
High earning potential*
Most jobs only require a 2-year degree*
Can obtain certification to stand out*
Usually work in comfortable office or lab*

Cons of Becoming a Computer Engineering Technician
Meager job growth (0% from 2012-2022)*
May be exposed to hazardous materials*
Need strong mechanical aptitude to build parts*
Usually requires significant technical expertise*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Info

A computer engineering technician falls under the broader job category of electrical and electronic engineering technician. Electrical engineering technicians are more involved with prototypes and parts, while electronic engineering technicians focus more on circuitry. Some specific functions you would have as an electrical engineering technician include building and repairing electrical systems, creating technical drawings and specifications, evaluating and testing computer hardware and inspecting design plans for quality-control purposes.

As an electronic engineering technician, you would configure and replace defective circuitry parts, design and test circuitry components, read and interpret blueprints, troubleshoot equipment malfunction, and build parts, such as coils, terminal boards and machine tools. Both electrical and electronic engineering technicians share common duties, such as calibrating and fixing testing equipment, resolving problems with design and parts, building prototypes from sketches and writing reports.

Job Outlook and Salary

According to the BLS, employment for electrical and electronic computer engineering technicians is projected to increase zero percent from 2012-2022. This percentage represents minimal or no change for this occupation. The slow growth is likely to be more prevalent in the manufacturing industry. However, you may find more favorable opportunities at engineering consulting firms. Because these companies are frequently looking to cut cost on salary expenses, they often hire engineering technicians as independent contractors. As of May 2014, electrical and electronic computer engineering technicians in the bottom ten percent earned a median wage of less than $35,880, while those in the top ten percent earned $87,840 or more.

What Are the Job Requirements?

According to the BLS, you need an associate's degree to work as a computer engineering technician. You can complete an electrical and electronic engineering technology program at most vocational schools. Common topics covered in this program include circuitry, microprocessors and C++ programming. You must also have strong working knowledge of computer applications, operating systems and servers. In addition, you must have good problem-solving, critical thinking, reasoning and math skills.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Actual job postings show that some opportunities in this field are on a short-term contract basis. This may hinder building a long-term relationship with a company, but some employers offer possible extensions. Most employers prefer candidates with at least 2-3 years of work experience. Also, many employers are looking for candidates with knowledge of Microsoft Office applications. The following is a list of job postings from March-April 2012:

  • A San Jose staffing agency sought an engineering technician with 3-5 years of experience to assist with platform engineering at a computer hardware lab. Qualifications requested included experience with Linux and Windows operating systems and Microsoft Office Suite. This employer was offering $22 per hour for a 3-6 month contract.
  • A manufacturing company in Danbury, CT, wanted to hire a candidate for a 6-month contract position to work as a lab technician. This candidate must have had an associate's or bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and 2-10 years of experience. Additional requirements included a strong knowledge of electrical and electronic testing, Microsoft Office Suite and blueprints and schematics. This employer was offering $18-$21 per hour.
  • A staffing agency in Irving, TX, sought a computer electrical technician with 2-8 years of work experience to perform tests and repair computers, printers, routers and other related devices. This employer requested that applicants have knowledge of Cisco Routers and preferred a candidate with an A+ certification.
  • An upstate New York staffing firm was looking for an entry-level engineering technician to assist its design engineering department with assembling and repairing personal computers (PCs) and motherboards, perform preventative maintenance and troubleshooting. This candidate must have had a 2-year degree and be familiar with Microsoft Office. The employer was offering $12-$15 hourly.

How to Stand Out

You can gain an edge over the competition for these jobs by earning a bachelor's degree in an area such as electrical and electronics engineering technology or computer engineering technology. You can also stand out by becoming certified with the Electronics Technician Association International (ETA International). Certifications include the Associate Certified Electronics Technician (CETa) and the Student Electronics Technician (SET).

If you have less than two years of work or academic experience, you can qualify for the CETa certification. This certification is only valid for two years and is not renewable. After two years, you would need to take the journeyman certification exam. If you're in high school or have limited experience, you can qualify for the SET certification. Some employers also prefer candidates who have an A+ certification. The A+ certification is provided by CompTIA and is the foundational certification used to measure one's competency in the area of information technology. You must have at least 500 hours of work experience to be eligible for the certification exam. To obtain this credential, you must pass the A+ essentials exam and the A+ practical exam.

Alternative Career Paths

Mechanical Engineering Technician

If working as a computer engineering technician doesn't appeal to you, you might consider an alternative career path. Industrial manufacturers depend on mechanical engineering technicians to assist with the design, development and testing phases of the manufacturing process. This job calls for strong analytical and technical skills to perform tasks such as evaluating design drawings, reading blueprints, assembling and inspecting machinery and interpreting tests results.

You'll find employment in this line of work mostly at manufacturing plants and research laboratories. A bachelor's degree is usually the minimum education you need to work in this field. Employment was expected to grow four percent from 2010-2020, according to the BLS, and the median salary was $51,000 as of May 2011.

Environmental Engineering Technician

You can do your part to protect the environment by working as an environmental engineering technician. In this role, you would conduct tests to clean up and prevent pollutants from contaminating the environment. To test for contaminants, you would collect samples of air particles and ground water. You might also coordinate the disposal of hazardous materials like asbestos and lead.

You would need at least a high school diploma for this job. However, most employers prefer an associate's degree. According to the BLS, employment for this profession is expected to grow at a faster-than-average rate of 24% from 2010-2020. The median salary was $45,000 in May 2011, according to the BLS.

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