Computer Operators

Do you know a lot about computers? Are you good at troubleshooting problems with both software and hardware? If so, you may want to find a job as a computer operator.

Becoming a computer operator can be a great stepping stone in your information technology career. But because the industry is rapidly declining due to technological advances, you should view a computer operator job as a short-term goal toward your overall career plans.

Businesses and organizations of all kinds currently employ computer operators to manage their computer systems and databases to make sure everything is running efficiently. This position requires a fair amount of technical knowledge and skill, and computer operators make about $35,000 a year, give or take depending on their level of experience and knowledge.

What is the daily routine of a computer operator?

  • Computers are essential to today’s workforce and computer operators keep a company’s computer systems running strong. It depends on the company, but most computer operators spend their time on these tasks: software upgrades, program maintenance, basic computer networking tasks, and virus protection. They might also control the mainframe and its scheduled tasks, maintain logbooks to track malfunctions, and run backup and system analyst tests.
  • Because computers are needed 24/7, you might be asked to work an evening, weekend, or night shift. You will need to keep a close eye on the central control panel (if the system has one) for error lights and other indicators of trouble, and then work to correct the problem if one occurs. You may also work with personal computers to make sure they are networked properly and with the current software. You will likely need to communicate with other technological support personnel—such as computer programmers and systems analysts—to resolve problems.

What kind of education will I need?

  • You should have a high school degree and an understanding of how computers work. Most companies provide on-the-job training suited to their specific needs, but if you don’t know the difference between software and hardware, then you should probably brush up on your computer skills before applying or consider another line of work.

What about the job outlook?

  • Unfortunately, technology is rapidly making the computer operator position outdated. Electronic processes are replacing what used to be done by computer operators; employment has been declining steadily over the past decade at a rate of 20 percent and is expected to continue in this fashion. Currently, there are still groups and businesses that use computer operators to some degree, including banks, manufacturers, insurance companies, governmental agencies, and educational institutions.

But if you are currently seeking a job as a computer operator, you should not plan to stay in that position for long. Your best bet is to pursue a certification or associate’s degree (or higher) in information technology and move up into a part of the field that is more stable.

How can I stay up to date in this tough market?

  • Because of technological advances, you should not consider computer operating to be a long-term position but rather a stepping stone within the computer industry. If you want to advance within the field, computer operator is a great entry-level job while you pursue higher education for information technology. You may want to consider focusing on information networks and other communications systems.

One of the best ways to stay relevant in this market is to keep in touch with other computer operators and alert each other to new jobs or career changes within your field. You should also keep an eye on trends—if you work as a computer operator in the health-care industry, for example, you may want to pay attention to changes in computer organization and tailor your resume and experience to fit that need.