Pros and Cons of Becoming an Electronics Technologist Career
Electronics technologists, also known as electrical technicians, work with electronics systems or equipment, and they must have knowledge of computers, engineering and current technological parts. Read on to see if becoming an electronic technologist is the right path for you.
|Pros of Being an Electronic Technologist|
|Associate's degree may be enough to qualify for some jobs*|
|Degree of creativity, especially in design work*|
|May be advancement opportunities for some workers*|
|Some level of independence after a training period*|
|Cons of Being an Electronic Technologist|
|Employment is expected to decline at a slow rate (-2% from 2014-2024)*|
|Slight chance of hazards (toxic materials, chemicals and equipment)*|
|Jobs may be outsourced*|
|Some jobs needed a bachelor's degree as a requirement**|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **O*Net Online.
Job Description and Duties
Electronic technologists repair electric equipment, assist engineers and researchers in product development, and record important information. They may also help put together prototypes in order to analyze and improve them. You may work with electronic interfaces, controllers and data acquisition modules. Some electronic technologists train lower-level technicians and personnel.
If you are considering this career, you must be familiar with engineering equipment, since you would design and develop various products. Electronic technologists use principles behind advanced mathematics, science and engineering to identify and resolve technical problems. They maintain equipment like lab spectrum analyzers, synthesizers, measuring tools, automatic test systems and logical analyzers.
Career Prospects and Salary Info
Unfortunately, electronic technologists are not expected to enjoy good job prospects. According to the BLS, electrical and electronic engineering technicians are expected to see an employment decline of two percent for the 2014-2024 decade (www.bls.gov). The BLS cited slow or negative growth in manufacturing as a cause, as well as a decline in government jobs for electronic technologists.
In May 2014, the BLS reported that the median annual salary for electrical and electronics engineering technicians was about $59,820. During that same time, the highest paid workers made $87,840 or higher.
What Are the Requirements?
Typically, some postsecondary training or an associate's degree in engineering technology is the minimum education requirement for this career. In order to prepare for these programs, you may want to take several high school math and science classes.
Associate's degree programs in electronics engineering technology usually include an educational foundation in math, electronics, engineering and electricity. Examples of classes in this program include algebra and trigonometry, digital circuits, physics, digital communication, microprocessors and calculus. In addition to courses like these, some schools may also require you to get some hands-on research experience in areas like circuitry, control systems, and circuit simulation and design software. Some schools also may offer chances to get some real-world experience while working for school credit in energy and electronics companies and organizations on a part time basis.
The BLS stated that electronics technologists must have the dexterity to put together complicated electronic components and that they should have a keen interest in electronic designs. They also should be able to troubleshoot products and follow the instructions of engineers. Here are some other traits and skills you should possess:
- Good communication skills
- Ability to work on a team
- Like math and computers
- Critical thinking skills
Job Postings from Real Employers
Because of the variety of industries, the requirements for jobs can be very different from each other. Some of the more specialized, higher-level jobs needed applicants with a bachelor's degree. Here are some examples of job postings from Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com from March 2012:
- An oil refining company in Texas seeks a wireline technologist who can maintain and repair electronic systems, components and programs used in field operations. They required an applicant who finished some electronic technologist courses, though an associate's degree holder was preferred. An applicant with knowledge of spreadsheets and databases would also be considered an asset.
- An automotive electronics company in Florida was looking for an electronic technician/technologist for a management position. Applicants need managerial experience, knowledge of PCs and troubleshooting skills. Applicants must also know how digital, analog and microprocessor circuits work.
- A machinery company in Illinois needed an engineer/technologist with a bachelor's degree in electrical or mechanical engineering with work experience. The employee would resolve technical issues in application support for machines/engines, field problems, new product development and cost reduction programs.
How to Stand Out
Many of the employers from the job boards asked for applicants with experience in the field, so you can consider doing internships or training in the field you wish to work in. You can search for internships on job boards and find opportunities to apply your technical expertise to problems. As mentioned above, some associate's degree programs may offer opportunities like these.
Some advanced positions in this field may require applicants to hold a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering technology or electrical engineering. Earning a 4-year degree in one of these fields may allow you to stand out amongst applicants or advance in your current career. You may take courses in chemistry, calculus, circuits, electronics, computer engineering and electrical engineering in these programs. Some bachelor's degree programs provide specialization options, such as computers or electrical engineering.
Other Career Paths
If you're looking for alternative careers that are similar to an electronics technologist, here are some choices.
Electricians inspect, install, repair, replace and maintain electrical or power systems. They use a variety of tools like drills, conduit benders, saws, screwdrivers and more. You typically only need to have a high school diploma, or the equivalent, to start your apprenticeship period, which takes about four years. After appropriate training, you can be licensed to work.
This career has better job prospects than that of a electronic technician - the BLS expects that these workers' employment may grow 23% for the years 2010-2020, which is considered much faster than the average growth of all occupations. However, this occupation's employment fluctuates with the economy. In May 2011, the BLS stated that these workers made the average annual salary of about $53,000.
Electrical or Electronics Engineer
If you're looking for a job that has better wages than an electronics technologist, then you can consider becoming an electronics engineer. These workers are also involved with designing and testing electrical products or systems. The BLS stated that electrical engineers earned an average annual salary of about $89,000 as of May 2011. However, you should note that the BLS also predicted that electrical and electronics engineers would see a slower-than-average growth of six percent during the 2010-2020 decade. To work as an electrical or electronics engineer you typically need at least a bachelor's degree and earn your Professional Engineer licensed.