Every morning we start the day by interacting with our phones and computers and before the day the done, we have been in contact with more than 50 other electronic gadgets, like printers, iPods, microwaves and vending machines. We are surrounded by them and they have become an indispensable part of our lives.
So, what happens when one breaks down? In most cases, we just throw them out and get a new one. But what happens when a $20,000 3D printer stops making prototypes in a lab? Or when a multi-million dollar robotic arm building the Ford Mustang grinds to a halt? These high value devices need to be repaired by a professional who is familiar with the electronics driving them.
What does an Electronics Technician do?
Think about Apple’s factory churning out the latest iPhone to meet the ever increasing consumer demand. Imagine Apple encounters a problem – due to a faulty circuit on the phone or a low quality transistor, about 5% of the iPhones being produced, start overheating. Losing millions of dollars, the company directs its electronics technicians to diagnose the circuit and fix it before the company loses more revenue. Being central to the company’s production line, the electronics technician is required to have an intimate knowledge of the phone’s circuit and ensure that it is being produced with the highest quality.
No matter what device, be it the latest surgical robot that allows surgeries with millimeter precision or the magnetic levitation train that travels at over 500 miles/hour, the technician knows the product like the back of his hand. They keep the machines humming along by performing upgrades and maintenance and in case of a failure, diagnosing them and getting them back on track as soon as possible.
In a more defined manner, technicians oversee the entire life-cycle of the device:
As high end electronics are present in almost every industry, technicians are able to find jobs in:
- Medical devices
- Power generation
- Consumer Electronics
Many technicians after gaining experience move into higher paying managerial positions as well.
You may also join a company as a technical sales representative. These jobs require you to stay updated on all your competitors so you can provide potential customers information about why your product is better than others and convince them to buy your devices.
Some of these positions also require you to travel all over the country and you get a chance to visit new cities and experience the culture and food while getting paid for it.
Sounds complicated! Can I do this?
Many courses offered by community colleges are designed to help you gain the necessary math and writing expertise. The courses are structured to give you a lot of hands on knowledge rather than teach you theoretical concepts.
At Edmonds Community College, Mr.Monroe explains that “the first [math] classes are at an algebra level. They’re not at a calculus level. The 100 level math course is usually the math requirement for completing the degree”. “Students learn by doing. They get the basic concepts of the information and they have some sort of hands-on activity that really cements in the ideas – so they understand it, they see the value of it” he continues.
So, while it may sound overwhelming, your local community college will be able to assist you in overcoming those fears and setting you on a path to success.
How do I get started?
You need either a certification or an Associates degree to work in this field.
Working as an electronics technician, requires certifications like Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), the International Society of Certified Electronics Technicians (ISCET), or the Association of Communication and Electronics Schools International (ACES) and you can choose to specialize in an area of electronics, if you wish.
Most community colleges offer a 1-year course which provide a certification at the end.
Most community colleges also offer an Associate’s degree in electronics engineering, which is generally a 2-year course. The Associates degree is considered better by hiring managers says Mr.Monroe.
Not only does the Associate’s degree provide more credibility, it teaches you soft skills too, like learning how to make a presentation, which is more important than it seems. Illustrating with an example, imagine the scenario where you have to present your project to your company. “If you have never given presentations, you [may not know what to do and] panic, [but] if you have had a class in it, you will have the training on how to set up the presentation. So you can give a nice presentation and impress the boss” adds Mr.Monroe.
While a certification is an easier and faster way to go, the Associates degree prepares you better for the corporate world.
Ross Monroe is the Department Head for Engineering Technology at Edmonds Community College in Washington.