Becoming a Guitar Technician: Salary Information & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of becoming a guitar technician? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary information to see if guitar technician is the right career for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Guitar Technician

Guitar technicians are responsible for making sure guitars function properly. Some might describe this job as amazing, but to know for sure that it's the right career for you, take a moment to explore the pros and cons of being a guitar technician.

PROS of a Guitar Technician Career
Good career for music lovers*
Can be your own boss (some technicians work on contractual basis)*
Can work in many geographic locations*
No degree required (advancement is often based on experience)*

CONS of a Guitar Technician Career
Hard to get a job without experience*
Hours can be long and irregular and may not include overtime pay*
Work can be repetitive*
Slower-than-average projected job growth for musical instrument repairers and tuners from 2012-2022*

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

Job Duties, Salary and Career Info

A guitar technician's job is to make sure a guitar is functioning properly and meets a musician's needs. This involves tuning, adjusting, rebuilding parts and sometimes completely disassembling an instrument and putting it back together. Almost all guitar technicians are musicians themselves, which means they usually have intimate knowledge about how guitars work.

The work environment for guitar technicians varies. They can work in music stores or factories or spend months on the road with bands, working backstage to make sure instruments are well cared for and working properly before each show. Technical and sound engineering knowledge can be required if working with electric guitars and amplifiers.

While many guitar technicians work for companies, others are self-employed. An experienced guitar technician can solicit contracts from musicians and companies and work on an as-needed basis. Though every guitar and musician is different, the work can be repetitive. The hours can often be long and irregular and the work environment noisy. Technicians who work for bands on the road may be expected to work in all types of weather conditions, and the environment in those positions can be frantic.

Job Prospects

Since guitar technicians occupy such a niche field, only a small number of jobs are available. For the decade 2012 to 2022, the BLS predicted 500 new positions nationwide for musical instrument repairers and tuners, which includes guitar technicians. This represented a growth rate of just six percent, which is below the average for all occupations. The number of jobs for guitar technicians is greatly dependent on the number of people who take up playing guitar each year.

Salaries

According to the BLS, the median annual salary for musical instrument repairers and tuners was about $33,000 as of 2014. The lowest-paid 10% of these workers made around $20,000 or less, while the highest-paid repairers and tuners earned around $59,000 per year or more.

What Are the Requirements?

There are no specific education requirements to work as a guitar technician. Many aspiring technicians begin by working on their own instruments before offering their services to local musicians and bands or neighborhood music stores.

Skills Needed

Guitar technicians are expected to have mastered certain skills and display specific qualities, among them:

  • A love of music and the ability to play guitar
  • An attention to detail
  • An ability to diagnose and fix problems
  • People skills
  • Creative thinking

Job Postings from Real Employers

A review of job openings for guitar technicians shows that many employers seek applicants who have formal training or equivalent experience. To give you an idea of the skills and experience employers are looking for, check out the following guitar technician job listings found online in May 2012.

  • A music distributor in Kansas City, Mo., sought a guitar technician who could repair and refurbish instruments. Candidates needed to be able to test, inspect and repair instruments and evaluate damaged guitars to determine whether fixing them was cost effective. A certificate from a technical school or one year of experience was required.
  • An employer in San Antonio wanted to hire a guitar technician to maintain, clean and set up guitars and amplifiers for shows and events. The technician would also be responsible for house chores and assisting other technicians, and he or she needed to be prepared to work outdoors in all types of conditions for long periods of time without food or sleep. A bachelor's degree or certificate, computer knowledge and the ability to play more than one instrument were required.
  • An instrument repair shop in New Jersey was seeking a technician to repair guitars, build parts, troubleshoot electronics and set up electric and acoustic guitars. Candidates would have to pass a test, be able to work in an established and structured system and work on Saturdays.
  • A guitar manufacturer in Nashville advertised for a technician capable of handling a multitude of guitar repair tasks, including sanding, spraying and color matching. Mandatory overtime was required and candidates had to be able to stand for 8 to 10 hours per day. Guitar repair experience was a must.

How to Stand Out

Get Formal Training

Some employers prefer job candidates who have formal education or training. A handful of schools offer intensive 1- to 2-year certificate programs in music repair and building. Working as an apprentice with other guitar technicians also can help you learn the specific skills required to work in this field.

Continue Your Education

If you're already a guitar technician, you can strengthen your marketability by pursuing continuing education or a certificate from a guitar repair school. Schools often post jobs, assist students with getting started in their careers and provide opportunities to network with technicians already working in the trade.

Join a Professional Organization

Joining a professional organization such as the National Association of Professional Band Instrument Repair Technicians or the Association of Stringed Instrument Artisans can also help you find success in the field. In addition to offering educational and networking opportunities, these organizations manage job boards and other programs designed to help technicians find jobs.

Other Career Paths

Musician

Since guitar technicians must love music and often play at least one instrument, pursuing a career as a musician can be a good alternative to a career as a guitar technician. Musicians perform in bands, as solo artists or as backup players for other musicians. They perform in a variety of musical styles, from classical to jazz to rock. No degree is required to work as a musician, but training in your particular area of music can be helpful. Musicians must work hard and be persistent to gain the experience and exposure necessary for success.

Job prospects in this career are better due to the public's expanding interest in music. However, competition in the field is extremely fierce. The BLS expects employment opportunities for musicians to grow 10 percent between 2010 and 2020, which is about as fast as average for all occupations. Pay varies widely and depends upon experience and your level of success, with the average hourly wage being $22.39 as of May 2011. That said, the BLS reported that the lowest-paid musicians earned about $8 an hour or less, while the highest-paid made $60 an hour or more.

Broadcast and Sound Engineering Technician

Another way to work in the music industry or a similar area is to become a broadcast or sound engineering technician. People in this field operate and monitor audio or video equipment, make recordings, set up equipment for performances or install equipment in studios or other buildings. They work in a variety of environments, from recording studios to concert venues to broadcast booths. No formal education is required, but most employers seek job candidates with at least an associate's degree and experience working in the field.

Salaries are better in this field than for guitar technicians. The BLS reported that the median salary for broadcast and sound engineering technicians in 2010 was more than $39,000 per year. The BLS expects average job growth of about 10% for these technicians during the 2010-2020 decade.

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