There are approximately 162,000 electrical and electronics installers and repairers working in the United States. Job growth over the next decade is expected to be somewhat slower than average, at about 5 percent.
Most employers prefer electrical and electronics installers and repairers who have an associate’s degree or professional certification. Most organizations are highly dependent upon electronics. Machines automatically control a wide range of manufacturing tasks, including packing, conveying, and preparing goods for shipping. Communications links, essential for many types of businesses, depend upon electronics. Even the government’s air traffic control and national defense systems could not operate without electronics.
Electrical and electronics installers and repairers are responsible for installing, maintaining, and repairing electronic machinery. Field technicians work on-site on large or hard to move equipment, while bench technicians work in repair shops that can be found in service centers or manufacturing plants.
Electrical and electronic components are not identical. Electrical components provide power, while electronics provide control. When electric or electronic equipment fails, the first line of defense is checking common causes, like faulty modules. Next, the repairer will review manufacturer specifications. While automated electronic control systems increase efficiency and reduce human labor costs and time, their ever growing complexity complicates the diagnostic process. Electronic systems are typically diagnosed with software programs in addition to standard testing equipment, including multimeters to measure voltage, current, resistance, capacitance, and inductance. Signal generators, oscilloscopes, and basic hand tools are also used to make adjustments.
Generally, rather than being repaired, a malfunctioning part is replaced to save time. These parts may be given to a bench technician who has been trained to refurbish defective elements, as well as to repair badly soldered connections, blown fuses, or faulty transistors. Both electrical and electronics installers may retrofit older equipment with programming logic controls (PLCs). A PLC must be connected to a variety of sensors and electrical devices, and a computer program must be created that will manage the PLC. Electrical and electronics installers and repairers also maintain and repair sonar, safety, navigation, and surveillance systems on trains, boats, and other forms of transportation. They also keep equipment found in generating stations in good repair.
Those who work with vehicles might install alarm or sound systems. This can be straightforward work or have multiple layers of complexity, depending upon the type of vehicle and quality of installed unit.
Electrical and electronics installers and repairers might complete tasks in a factory where heat, vibration, and noise can create unpleasant conditions. Bench technicians work in relatively pleasant surroundings, as their workshops must be well lit and organized. Some installation or repair work might involve heavy lifting and awkward positions that can strain muscles or ligaments. Goggles and hard hats are often required, as are harnesses for those who work on ladders. Before beginning, the power must be locked to avoid accidental electrocution.
Inexperienced new hires are usually paired with experienced technicians for on-the-job training. This work requires good vision because many of the elements are both complex and small. Because field technicians work with the public, they must have a neat appearance and be friendly.
The Electronics Technicians Association (ETA) has more than fifty certification programs in a variety of electronic specialties. The International Society of Certified Electronics Technicians certifies workers from basic to high levels of competency. Certification typically requires passing a written exam online or at a testing center.
Technicians can advance in their careers by specializing or becoming troubleshooters. Those with leadership qualities can be promoted to supervisory positions. Many open their own shops once they have become thoroughly familiar with all aspects of the business. Because electronics and electrical equipment are constantly being improved, it’s important for electrical and electronics installers and repairers to keep abreast of new developments with frequent continuing education and training.
The median hourly pay for electrical and electronics installers and repairers working with commercial and industrial equipment is around $25. Those at the bottom of the pay scale earn less than $15 per hour, and those at the top are paid nearly $35 per hour. Those employed by the federal government and building equipment contractors earn about the same. The median hourly pay for powerhouse, substation, and relay work is close to $30 per hour. Those at the bottom of the pay scale earn about $22 per hour, and those at the top can earn around $40 per hour.