Electronics & Computer Technology Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of an electronics and computer technology career? Get real job descriptions, career outlook and salary information to see if a career in electronics and computer technology is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career in Electronics and Computer Technology

Electronics and computer technology jobs include building mechanical parts, troubleshooting electrical problems or working with computers. Three common careers in this field are computer support specialist, electrical technician and electrical engineer. Here's a quick glance at pros and cons of each of these potential professions within the electronics and computer technology industry:

Computer Support Specialist Electrical Technician Electrical Engineer
Career Overview Computer support specialists assist companies, individuals and organizations with computer hardware, software and various equipment. Electrical technicians help engineers with the development of electronic and computer equipment. Electrical engineers typically supervise the design and manufacture of various electronic and computer parts and components.
Education Requirements Usually a technical or an associate's degree Typically an associate's or bachelor's degree At least a bachelor's degree
Program Length 1-2 years for an associate's degree 1-2 years for an associate's, 3-5 years for a bachelor's degree 3-5 years for a bachelor's, 1-2 years more for a master's degree
Licensure N/A N/A Required for certain positions
Work Experience Varies, but sometimes none for entry-level positions Varies, but sometimes none for entry-level positions Varies, but sometimes none for entry-level positions
Job Outlook for 2012-2022 Faster than average growth (17%) compared to all occupations* Little to no growth (0%) compared to all occupations - figure includes electronic engineering technicians* Slower than average growth (4%) compared to all occupations*
Median Salary (2014) Roughly $47,610* Roughly $59,820 - figure includes electronic engineering technicians* Roughly $91,410*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Computer Support Specialist

As a computer support specialist, you'll typically help individuals, companies and organizations with their computer hardware and software issues. Often, you'll make sure that current computer systems are functioning properly and perform day-to-day maintenance tasks, such as installing programs and conducting computer tests. The three main areas of focus for this career are online systems, wide area networks and local area networks. It's not uncommon to be required to work with all three as a technical support technician. As a help-desk technician, you'll usually help customers with their computer inquiries, set-up and repair needs, as well as help train staff on new equipment.

Requirements

To become a computer support specialist at the entry-level, you may only need a high school diploma or GED, although at least an associate's or technical degree is usually required. The number of years of experience required depends on the employer, although entry-level positions sometimes require none. Three months is a typical amount of time for on-the-job training and advancement to higher level and more complex information technology (IT) positions is common. Some employers may have specific requirements for hardware and software skills.

Employers posted the following three jobs online in December of 2012:

  • A tech help company sought a full-time information technology technical support specialist with at least 1-2 years of experience in Florida.
  • In Wichita, KS, a manufacturing company was seeking a computer support specialist with a 2-year degree and at least a year of experience in the field.
  • An IT support specialist was needed in San Antonio, TX for a utility company. At least a year of experience was required, and applicants would need to know how to analyze computer systems, provide support to users and be creative.

Standing Out

Your level of computer literacy and technological prowess are usually the key to standing out from other computer support specialists. The more operating systems, hardware and software that you're able to work with can increase your job prospects. The BLS also notes that specialists who have a strong technical background and a 4-year degree may have the most job opportunities. You may consider pursuing a bachelor's degree and completing an internship in the field to gain experience while you study.

Electrical Technician

Electrical technicians usually help engineers with the design and implementation of electrical and computer systems and machinery. There is, however, a difference between an electrical engineering technician and an electronic engineering technician. Common job duties for an electrical engineering technician include repairing electrical tools and instruments, drawing diagrams, making quality control reports, troubleshooting issues related to design and running diagnostics. As an electronic engineering technician, you'll typically work under an engineer to work with electronic components, parts and circuitry.

Requirements

The number of years of experience that you'll need to become an electrical technician often depends largely on the employer and position. You'll probably need to take courses in physics, math, circuitry, C++ programming and microprocessing through a program accredited by the Technology Accreditation Commission of ABET (previously known as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology). Some employers prefer that you hold a technical degree, such as an Associate of Applied Science in Electrical Engineering Technology, and specific skills relating that particular position. On-the-job training is also common.

In December of 2012, the following several positions were posted on the Internet:

  • In Texas, an electrical technician was sought to be in charge of various machinery and electronic systems wit very little supervision. Five years of experience was required and although a high school diploma was accepted, a technical degree was preferred.
  • A printing company in Minnesota was looking for an electrical technician to work full-time, 12-hour shifts with balers, forklifts, printing presses, bindery machines and more. At least three years of experience and an understanding of electrical theory (110-480 volt) were necessary for the job.
  • In New York, an electrical engineering manager with AutoCAD software skills, an associate's degree in electrical technology and 2-5 years of experience was needed to work with electrical drawings.

Standing Out

In addition to obtaining the necessary education and experience, you may also consider obtaining voluntary professional certification. One organization that offers credentials related to this field is the National Institute for Certification Engineering Technologies (NICET). The available options in electrical power testing will require that you have at least one year of professional experience for the level I certification. Obtaining this certification, or something similar, can demonstrate to prospective employers your proficiency and dedication to the field.

Electrical Engineer

You'll typically be responsible for all or some aspects of electrical or computer design and the implementation of design as an electrical engineer. Electrical engineers typically design and/or direct electrical power products and services. Electronics engineers usually design, analyze, develop and inspect electronic product, product components and software. In either position, you'll often work with project managers to ensure customer satisfaction and product safety. In this engineering career, you may also focus on one type of technology, such as cell phones.

Requirements

A bachelor's or master's degree in electrical engineering, information technology or a similar discipline is typically needed for a job in this field. Again, it's often required that your chosen university, college or technical school is accredited by ABET. Some universities and colleges offer 5-year programs where you can earn both a bachelor's and master's degree. You may also need to gain licensure as a Professional Engineer (PE). The number of years of experience that you'll need to be hired depends on the individual employer.

Here are a few positions that were available online in December of 2012:

  • In Minnesota, a communications company was searching for an entry-level electrical engineer with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering, telecommunications, computer science or an equivalent field with at least a 3.0 GPA.
  • A bachelor's degree and at least ten years of experience were required for an electrical engineer position in Alabama.
  • A government energy department was seeking an electrical engineer for a job in South Dakota. Candidates would need to pass a physical examination and if hired, would serve a required 1-year period of probation.

Standing Out

One great way to get ahead in this field is to make sure you're familiar with any necessary licensure requirements for your state or position. This will help you complete the prerequisites before starting or during your job search. Another option is to obtain professional certification, such as those offered by the American Society for Quality, the InterNational Electrical Testing Association and the Association of Technology, Management, and Applied Engineering. Requirements for the credentials offered by these organizations can vary, but typically include meeting at least and educational or professional experience requirement.

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