Electronics Systems Technician Degrees: Diploma, Associate & Online Class Info

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What will you learn in a postsecondary electronics system technician program? Read about program requirements, the pros and cons of diplomas and associate degrees and potential careers.
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Studying Electronics Technology: Diplomas and Associate Degrees at a Glance

Electronics systems technician programs can teach you how to install and repair electronic equipment in cars, computer systems and communications devices. Earning a diploma or degree in this field may prepare you for work as an electronics technician in a variety of industries. While many employers prefer technicians who hold associate degrees, some postsecondary training or relevant electronics experience may be adequate.

It's important to note that slower-than-average job growth is expected for this field from 2010-2020. Job outlook figures vary slightly by specialization, though. For example, the number of employed electronics installers and repairers who work on commercial or industrial equipment is projected to increase by 1% during this time; job opportunities for powerhouse and substation electronics technicians may grow by as much as 5%.

Diploma Associate
Who Is This Program for? People seeking basic skills in electronics or preparing for certification exams and employment Individuals who want to obtain certification and work as electronics technicians
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean salary) - Electronics repairer, commercial and industrial equipment ($52,000)*
- Electronics installer and repairer, transportation equipment ($52,000)*
- Electronic equipment installer and repairer, motor vehicle ($33,000)*
Options for the associate degree are the same as for the diploma
Time to Completion 2-4 semesters full-time 4-6 semesters full-time
Prerequisites High school diploma or GED High school diploma or GED
Online Availability Some courses may be available online Schools may offer some online coursework

Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011)

Electronics Technology Diplomas

Electronics technology diploma programs offer entry-level training in electronics analysis and repair. General education requirements are minimal, and most programs include both lecture and lab-based classes. Online learning options are available, but programs are primarily offered in on-campus formats. Depending on the school, you can usually earn your diploma in 9-18 months.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Program is relatively short in duration
  • Credits can be applied toward 2- or 4-year programs
  • Work is available in multiple industries

Cons

  • Employers may require associate degrees
  • Low job-growth field (3% from 2010-2020)*
  • Evening or weekend work is necessary for some positions

Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Courses and Requirements

Diploma-level classes typically focus on core electronics technology topics, like circuit theory, semiconductors and math applications in electronics. General education requirements may include basic computing and workplace communication. In some programs, you can specialize by taking courses in biomedical instruments, renewable energy systems or other sub-fields. You might take advantage of internship opportunities as well.

Online Class Info

A few schools offer electronics technology diploma programs in hybrid formats, but they aren't that common. Online classes in these programs usually cover general education or introductory electronics topics. Distance-learning options can give you some scheduling flexibility if needed.

Stand Out with This Diploma

If you're trying to get an edge in the job market, keep in mind that employers may prefer technicians with specialized skills. Consider enrolling in a diploma program that allows an area of emphasis.

After earning your diploma, it's a good idea to pursue national certification - professional credentials can improve your job prospects. The International Society of Certified Electronics Technicians (ISCET) and Electronics Technicians Association International (ETA) both offer entry-level designations. Completion of an exam is required, but most exam topics are covered in diploma programs.

Other Programs to Consider

If you're more interested in configuring and repairing communications equipment, consider pursuing a diploma in telecommunications technology. These programs include topics similar to those of electronics technology programs, like AC circuits and digital electronics. You can also learn how to test data cables and repair local area networks. Earning a diploma in this field may lead to work as a telecommunications technician.

According to the BLS, telecommunications technicians earned a median salary of about $55,000 as of May 2010, while electronics technicians earned a median of roughly $49,000 per year. In addition, the number of employed telecommunications equipment installers and repairers was expected to grow 15% from 2010-2020. Employment of electronics technicians was projected to increase only 3% during the same decade.

Electronics Technology Associate Degrees

Associate programs in electronics technology are comparable to diploma programs; they prepare you for entry-level work in the field. However, associate programs include general education requirements and usually take two years to complete. In addition to lecture-based classes, you learn how to work with oscillators, signal generators and other tools in electronics labs.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Employers prefer technicians who hold associate degrees
  • Above-average median salary (about $49,000 as of May 2010)*
  • Can prepare you for national certification

Cons

  • High risk of work-related injury
  • Some repair jobs are stressful due to time pressures
  • Earnings may be the same as for technicians with only certification or experience

Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Courses and Requirements

Like diploma programs, associate programs usually include optional specializations, like computer or home technology electronics. The core curriculum may cover microprocessors, linear circuitry, solid state technology and programmable controllers. Depending on the program, you could learn how to solder, install home security systems or repair biomedical devices. You can often pursue an internship as part of your curriculum.

Online Class Options

Hybrid programs at the associate level are available through some schools. These programs may allow you to complete general education or basic electronics courses online. Due to hands-on requirements, however, core classes are primarily offered on campus.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

Employers look for job candidates who have hands-on experience. If you don't have a lengthy resume, consider participating in an internship. You should also look for programs that offer concentrations, since some employers want technicians with certain skill sets. Outside of class time, you might hone your skills in school electronics labs to get an edge on the competition.

Obtaining professional certification is another way to stand out from the crowd. In fact, you can apply for ISCET's Associate Level Electronics designation as a student. If you're interested in specialty credentials, ETA offers journeyman certifications in a variety of sub-fields, including biomedical electronics and alarm security. You need to hold ETA's entry-level certification before applying for a journeyman designation.

Degree Alternatives

Maybe you enjoy installing and fixing electronic systems, but you're more interested in a career that involves electronics development or design. If so, consider pursuing a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering. Some topics in electronics technology programs, like circuit analysis and microprocessing, are also part of electrical engineering programs. However, bachelor's programs are more demanding than either diploma or associate programs - they usually take four years to complete and culminate in major design projects.

Earning a bachelor's degree could lead to work as an electrical or electronic engineer. As of May 2010, those professionals made a median salary of roughly $87,000 - significantly more than most electronics installers or repairers earned during the same time. It's important to note that sluggish job growth was expected for both fields from 2010-2020; finding a way to stand out is critical for aspiring electronic technicians and engineers.

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