Electronic Systems Technician Careers: Job Description & Salary

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Get the truth about an electronic systems technician's salary, training requirements and career prospects. Read the job description and see the pros and cons of becoming an electronic systems technician.
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Pros and Cons of an Electronic Systems Technician Career

Electronic systems technicians install, update, and repair a variety of equipment, machinery and systems that have complex electrical components. Read on to learn the pros and cons of becoming an electronic systems technician in order to decide if it's the right job for you.

Pros of an Electronic Systems Technician Career
Relatively short education/training*
Potential to earn a higher-than-average salary (for techs working on telecom, industrial, transportation and powerhouse equipment)*
Multiple specializations available*
Variety of work settings available (factories, repair shops and commercial sites)*

Cons of an Electronic Systems Technician Career
Limited job growth (0% overall projected growth from 2012-2022, with the exception of telecom technicians)*
Working in certain specialties could result in lower-than-average mean annual wages (electric motor technicians earned $41,850 in 2014)*
Some employment settings may have uncomfortable working conditions (particularly factories)*
Potential for injuries and other work-related illnesses*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

These technicians work with a variety of electronic or electrical equipment, including those used in industry, telecommunications and transportation. Regardless of their area of focus, electronic systems techs spend their workdays installing and maintaining equipment in addition to troubleshooting problems. They use multiple methods - including both hands-on tools and computer software - to test and repair electronic systems. In addition to standard tools like pliers and wrenches, they use special testing equipment used to test signals or measure electrical voltage. Techs can be found repairing vehicles' electronics in a repair shop or testing new machinery in a factory. They may install communication or security systems in commercial buildings, homes, trains and other forms of transportation.

Salary and Career Outlook

Earnings in this field vary considerably based on specialty. While electrical and electronics engineering technicians earn an average of $60,330 annually, technicians who work in power plants or earned a mean annual wage of about $69,220 in 2014, according to BLS data. Those who install and repair telecom equipment had a mean annual wage of about $54,630 per year. On the lower end of the income spectrum are technicians specializing in electric motors, who earned mean annual wages of around $41,850.

Excluding telecom technicians, job growth for electronic/electrical systems techs is expected to be about 0% from 2012-2022. Technological advancements improve the capabilities and reliability of both electronic equipment and the equipment used to perform testing. This drives down the need for technicians; power station and electric motor techs face a declining growth of -8% percent, and telecommunications technicians can only expect an average job growth of 4% from 2012-2022.

What Are The Requirements?

Training and Additional Skills

Having a high school diploma and on-the-job training may be all that is needed to get started in this career. However, employers may prefer to hire a tech with formal education. Community and technical colleges offer certificates and associate degrees in electronic systems technology. Some schools give the option to concentrate in a certain specialty, such as communications or industrial equipment. Coursework typically centers on the principles related to electrical circuits, electronic devices and, depending on concentration, computer systems. Programs may include the option to complete a co-op experience in a real job setting as well. Finishing a formal education program can reduce the amount of on-the-job training needed for a position.

Electronic systems technicians have to be able to see in color due to the color-coded equipment used in the field. They should also be interested in how things work and should possess strong problem-solving skills. Techs must be willing to continue learning throughout the careers as technologies change. Other important skills include:

  • Communication and interpersonal skills
  • Technical skills
  • Math skills

What Real Employers Look For

Work experience in a relevant job setting is the central requirement that employers have when hiring techs. In addition to electrical/electronic knowledge and skills, the need for computer skills is to be expected as well. Jobs in industrial settings could involve overtime or shift work. To get some insight into what employers in this field could expect, take a look at these April 2012 job openings.

  • A Texas-based manufacturing company needs a full-time electronic systems tech to maintain plant equipment, troubleshoot problems and install/update machinery as needed. Good communication and computer skills are necessary. The job requires the ability to work different shifts and overtime. A high school diploma or GED is required and the employer prefers a technician who has 3-5 years of experience in a manufacturing setting. Electronics certification is preferred as well.
  • A woven product manufacturer in South Carolina is seeking a full-time electronics technician to handle electrical/electronic maintenance and repairs in the plant. Maintaining inventory of parts is also required. Experience working with test equipment, such as multimeters used to measure voltage and currents, is expected. Techs need an associate degree in electronics or a combination of technical training with 2 years of experience. Working overtime may be necessary.
  • A communications provider in the Washington D.C./Maryland area is hiring a full-time telecom technician to install, troubleshoot, test and repair communications services at customer sites. In addition to computer skills, experience using relevant tools such as power meters and DS3/DS1 test sets is required. A background working with voice over IP (VoIP) and digital subscriber line (DSL) services is preferred. A clean driving record for traveling to work locations and 2-5 years of experience in the field are expected.

How to Stand Out

Formal Education

Making the choice to complete a formal education program at a local community or technical college can help you stand out. It shows employers you understand the specifics of working with electrical/electronic equipment. Completing an academic program can give you the opportunity to obtain some computer skills, which are often needed to use troubleshooting or testing software and develop reports. Along with electronic knowledge, the ability to work with computer technology is particularly important if you decide to enter the telecom specialty. The fact that some schools let students complete a co-op experience is yet another advantage to formal education as this gives you some specialized work experience to list on your resume.

Certification

Electronic systems techs can opt to get voluntary certification. According to the BLS, technicians who obtain certification and/or have an associate degree can increase job prospects. Organizations like ETA International and the International Society of Certified Electronics Technicians offer a variety of credentials. Both offer certifications for individuals just starting out in the field, as well as journeyman options. Industrial, communications, medical, computer and security system specializations are among the options that can be included in the journeyman credentials.

Alternate Careers

Electrician

If you're looking for a related career that offers better job growth, you may consider becoming an electrician. The BLS reports this occupation has a faster than average growth of 23% for 2010-2020. With earnings of around $53,000, their 2011 mean annual wage was on par with some of the higher-paying specialties for electronic systems techs. Electricians focus specifically on electrical systems that keep commercial, industrial and residential sites running. Like techs, installing, maintaining, troubleshooting and repairing are the major functions of the job. The risk of getting injured is higher in comparison to other fields due to the dangers of working with electricity.

Completing a 4-year apprenticeship is the typical entryway into this career. These programs are sponsored by occupational associations and unions. Apprenticeship includes both classroom training and a considerable amount of paid training on-the-job. The majority of states require electricians to obtain licensure.

HVACR Mechanic

Another occupation requiring some electrical knowledge is that of an HVACR mechanic. They work with heating, air conditioning, ventilation and refrigeration systems. They install, maintain and manage these systems in homes and other buildings. While these mechanics are trained to do it all, some may choose to specialize in working with just heating and air or only refrigeration.

Completing a formal program at a community or technical college is a typical pathway into the field. Apprenticeships, which last 3-5 years and offer paid on-the-job training, are also common. Employers prefer to hire mechanics that have completed one of the two. Some states require licensure as well, and individuals who handle refrigerants and federally regulated. Job growth for HVACR mechanics from 2010-2020 is 34%, which the BLS identifies as much faster than average compared to other occupations. In 2011, they earned a mean annual wage of about $46,000.

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Featured Schools

Lincoln Tech

  • Electrical/Electronics

What year did you graduate High School / Receive GED?

Purdue University Global

  • BS in Cloud Computing and Solutions
  • BSIT: Network Admin
  • AASIT: Network Admin

Which subject are you interested in?

Universal Technical Institute

  • Marine Technician Specialist
  • Diesel Technology
  • Motorcycle Technician Specialist

What is your education level?

Full Sail University

  • BS - Cloud Technologies (Campus)

What is your highest level of education?

Regent University

  • Bachelor of Applied Science in Information Systems Technology
  • Bachelor of Arts in Leadership Studies - Information Technology

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Colorado Technical University

  • Master: Computer Engineering

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Northcentral University

  • PhD-TIM - Engineering Management
  • PhD in Business Admin - Management of Engineering and Technology
  • MSTIM - Engineering Magagement
  • MBA - Management of Engineering and Technology

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Purdue University

  • Master of Science in Engineering Technology

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