Printed Circuit Board Assembler Careers: Salary & Job Description

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A printed circuit board assembler's annual median salary is about $30,000. Is it worth the training requirements? See real job descriptions and get the truth about career prospects to find out if becoming a printed circuit board assembler is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Printed Circuit Board Assembler Career

Printed circuit board assemblers solder electronic components on circuit boards for electronic systems in several industries. Evaluate the pros and cons of being a printed circuit board assembler to determine if this career path could work for you.

Pros of a Printed Circuit Board Assembler Career
Workers can learn assembly techniques on the job in many cases*
Clean work environment*
Advancement opportunities are available*
Manufacturing and team production techniques provide a variety of tasks*

Cons of a Printed Circuit Board Assembler Career
Slow job growth (4% from 2012-2022)*
May require the use of harmful chemicals*
Lower-than-average salary ($29,910 annual median earnings in May 2014)*
Some positions in the defense and aerospace industry may require certifications*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Info

Job Description and Duties

Printed circuit board assemblers create the circuit boards that are used in many industries, such as commercial, aerospace and the military. They place electronic components on a board and solder them in place. Assemblers use a variety of tools to connect components on the board including solder irons, pliers, screwdrivers and wire strippers. Prints or production drawings are used to identify the correct parts and their location on the board.

Job Growth and Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job opportunities for assemblers and fabricators, the field that encompasses printed circuit board assemblers, will increase four percent from 2012-2022 (www.bls.gov). The slow growth is due to increased automation of some jobs and other positions being outsourced. In May 2014, the BLS indicated that the median annual salary for electrical and electronic equipment assemblers was $29,910.

What Are the Requirements?

Most assembly positions require a high school diploma for a position, but some employers may also require experience and training in specialized areas. Certificate and associate's degree programs are available in high-tech manufacturing that can prepare the individual for a position working on complex printed circuit boards. These programs include courses in component identification, soldering, inspection techniques and loading the printed circuit board. Employers may require experience in soldering and the use of specific hand tools for a position with the company.

Skills

Manual dexterity and eye-hand coordination are essential skills for a career as a printed circuit board assembler. According to the BLS, manufacturers are using a team approach in many assembly processes, which requires workers to also have good communication and interpersonal skills.

What Are Employers Looking For?

Employers prefer individuals who are knowledgeable about assembly techniques and have some experience. Below are examples of printed circuit board assembler job listings that were posted in March 2012:

  • A California employer is looking for a printed circuit board assembler who can assemble and solder boards using production instructions, drawings and parts lists. Job candidates must have at least one year of experience in a similar position.
  • An employer in Florida is seeking an assembler to assemble electronic components, including printed circuit boards, from production drawings and guidelines. The job candidate must be knowledgeable of soldering and assembly techniques and tools.
  • A New York employer is searching for electronic assemblers to install and solder components, create molds and install wiring assemblies using blueprints and schematics. The employer requires applicants to have a minimum of one-year experience, a high school education, knowledge of soldering and assembly techniques and the ability to identify electronic components.

How to Get an Edge in the Field

While most employers only require a high school education for an entry-level position, completing a certificate or associate's degree program may provide a competitive edge in the job market. Certificate programs offer courses in soldering techniques, electronic component assembly and blueprint reading.

The IPC, formerly the Institute for Interconnecting and Packaging Electronic Circuits, certifies assemblers to standards in soldering and printed circuit board workmanship. The standards include criteria for materials, methods and verification to ensure the quality of solder connections and assembly workmanship. Individuals who are certified to IPC standards may stand out in the electronic assembly job market.

Alternative Career Paths

Quality Control Inspector

If you are looking for a position with greater responsibilities than a printed circuit board assembler, you may consider becoming a quality control inspector. Quality control inspectors evaluate the work of electronic assemblers to ensure printed circuit boards are assembled according to the assembly blueprint with the correct components and orientation. Inspectors visually inspect solder joints on the circuit board to ensure that they meet quality standards. Quality control inspectors also may work with a microscope or other magnification equipment, measuring devices and electronic test equipment to measure the quality of a board.

According to the BLS, quality control inspectors also engage in root cause analysis to determine the cause of defects. The data gathered from inspections and test results is used in reports and root-cause analysis. Employers may provide on-the-job training for quality control inspectors. The BLS stated that employment opportunities for these individuals were expected to increase eight percent from 2010-2020. In May 2011, the BLS reported that the median annual salary for inspectors was about $34,000.

Electro-Mechanical Technician

If you would like a career that pays more than a printed circuit board assembler, you may consider becoming an electro-mechanical technician. These technicians are knowledgeable about electrical circuits and mechanical technology. Technicians familiar with production and assembly techniques can assists engineers by providing input that helps bring a new product to production. An associate's degree in engineering technology is the minimum requirement for most engineering technician positions. In May 2011, the BLS indicated that electro-mechanical technicians earned a median annual wage of nearly $50,000 annually.

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