Becoming an Electrical Assembler: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of an electrical assembler's career? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if this could be the right field for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career As an Electrical Assembler

Electrical assemblers put together the electrical components that are used in a variety of products and the internal pieces that make up those products. Following are some pros and cons of the profession to help you decide if it is right for you.

Pros of Becoming an Electrical Assembler
Minimum training necessary (high school diploma, associate's degree preferred)*
Variety of job duties**
Job opportunities expected in certain industries (aerospace and electromedical products)*
Opportunity to work in varying departments, depending on experience (research and development, programming)***

Cons of Becoming an Electrical Engineer
Limited projected job growth of 1% for electrical and electrics installers and repairers from 2012-2022)*
Working hazards (exposure to fiberglass, potentially noisy work environment)*
Physically demanding (assemblers must lift heavy components and climb ladders often)*
Automated machines could replace manual workers***

Source: *The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*NET Online, ***U.S. Department of Labor

Essential Career Information

Job Descriptions and Duties

Electrical assemblers make electronic control devices, electric motors, computers, wire installations and circuits, often with automated machines since many electrical components are too small to assemble with human hands. They also perform repairs and adjustments, clean parts and read both blueprints and diagrams.

Additionally, electrical assemblers mark inventories for ease of tracking and product identification. They also work with both engineers and designers to assist with product development. Assemblers could be asked to surface mount components using a soldering iron or hand and power tools. Some job positions might require applying polyurethane and other coating agents or putting together harnesses and chassis modules.

Electrical assemblers can specialize in industries such as aircraft product manufacturing, where they install parts for airplanes, such as wings, landing gear and rigging. Individuals can also choose to work in the electromechanical industry, where they work with household appliances, vending machines and computer tomography scanners.

Salary Info

In May 2014, The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) stated that electrical assemblers and electronic equipment assemblers earned a median yearly salary of $29,910. The lowest 10 % earned $19,510 or less, while the top 10% were making $47,820 or more. The BLS also reported that wages can be dependent on such factors as level of education, location, industry, skill level and how difficult it is to operate certain kinds of machinery.

What Are the Requirements?

While some employers do accept individuals with a high school diploma, it's recommended that electrical assemblers have an associate's degree or receive training on the job if possible. An Associate of Science in Electronic Technology degree program could instruct students on mobile radio systems, electrical circuits, principles of electrical wiring, communications systems, fiber optics and telecommunications. Associate's degree programs usually last two years. Schools might also offer an electrical assembler certificate that allows students to learn about electronic assembly tools, analog circuit techniques, mathematics and magnetic properties. Aircraft electrical assembler certificate programs are also available.

Useful qualities for electrical assemblers include good hand-eye coordination and a steady hand. You will also benefit from having the ability to fully perceive colors and developing inductive reasoning, visualization skills and technical skills.

What Employers Are Looking For

Employers often want applicants who can lift a certain amount of weight; are experienced with a certain kind of product, such as PCBs; and can carry out repetitive tasks for a sustained amount of time. Attention to detail, comprehension of hand tools, math skills and being able to read assembly instructions are other qualities that employers may request. Following are examples of job postings open during April 2012:

  • A company in Massachusetts advertised for an electrical assembler to build electromechanical and mechanical assemblies according to applicable documentation and quality workmanship standards as well as assemble electromechanical and mechanical devices or components using a variety of hardware and tools. Assemblies included cables, harnesses and chassis modules.
  • An engineering services company in Texas advertised for an electrical assembler with experience hand soldering a variety of electronics components including Through Hole and SMT. Candidates should also have been able to assemble, disassemble, modify and rework PCBs; have knowledge of ESD protocols; adhere to IPC and J-STD-001 workmanship standards; and be able to rework to IPC-7711 standards. This employer also wanted experience with drawings, schematics, work instructions, and procedures to assemble, inspect, and test PCBs. Relevant soldering and workmanship certifications were a plus.
  • An aerospace corporation in Vermont advertised for an electrical assembler to perform a wide range of electronic assembly operations on components or subassemblies. Candidates would need to use blueprints, wiring diagrams and verbal and written work instructions to assemble or rework components. They should have been able to solder, install and remove surface mount components and have the dexterity to work with wire bundles, including stripping, tinning, soldering and crimping them. They also needed to be able to apply polyurethane and other coating material as well as perform encapsulation processes.

How to Stand Out in the Field

Get Certified

While not always a requirement, becoming a certified electrical assembler can aid individuals to advance in their career or to secure a higher job position. Being a certified electrical assembler can show employers that you possess professional knowledge in your field. A majority of employers in the aerospace and defense industries require that applicants be certified in soldering, which is offered by IPC Association Connecting Electronics Industries. In order to become certified, individuals must go through classroom training and pass an exam.

Additionally, individuals who have prior experience as an electrical assembler may be considered for certain types of jobs. Some employers request applicants who have knowledge of specific chemicals, epoxy resins and solvents.

Other Career Paths

The following careers could be better suited for those who enjoy the assembly process but might want to work on something other than electronics.

Metal & Plastic Machine Workers

Metal and plastic machine workers prepare machines, carry out test runs, place materials on machines, take note of production numbers and operate computer-controlled machines. Workers use dangerous, heavy equipment, so there is the possibility of being injured on the job. Most employers will hire individuals with a high school diploma, but it could also prove useful to have a precision sheet metal operator certificate. Machine workers must pass an exam in order to become certified. According to Payscale.com in 2012, metal and plastic workers earned an annual salary of $20,000-$46,000.

Millwrights

Millwrights perform repairs on machines and install factory and similar equipment. This often includes knowing how to dismantle and reassemble these machines. Since millwrights often work on a contract basis, they can be on a job for a few days or a few weeks and have variable down time between assignments and often suffer cuts, bruises and other shop injuries. Millwrights undergo apprenticeships that can last anywhere from 3-4 years. In order to qualify for an apprenticeship, individuals must be at least 17, have completed high school and be physically be able to perform the required work. Payscale.com reported in 2012 that millwrights earned $33,000-$87,000 a year.

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