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Electronic equipment repairers, also called service technicians or field service representatives, install, maintain, and repair electronic equipment used in offices, factories, homes, hospitals, aircraft, and other places. Equipment includes televisions, radar, industrial equipment controls, computers, telephone systems, and medical diagnosing equipment. Repairers have numerous job titles, which often refer to the kind of equipment they work with. (Electronics technicians, who use the principles and theories of science, engineering, and mathematics in their work, but may also do some repairs, are discussed in the statement on engineering technicians elsewhere in the Handbook. For information on workers who operate and maintain electronic equipment used to record and transmit radio and television programs, see the statement on broadcast technicians. Additional information about electronic equipment repairers is given in the separate statements in this section.)
Electronic repairers install, test, repair, and calibrate equipment to ensure that it functions properly. They keep detailed records on each piece of equipment to provide a history of tests, performance problems, and repairs.
When equipment breaks down, repairers first examine work orders, which indicate problems, or talk to equipment operators. Then they check for common causes of trouble such as loose connections or obviously defective components. If routine checks do not locate the trouble, repairers may refer to schematics and manufacturers' specifications that show connections and provide instruction on how to locate problems. They use voltmeters, ohmmeters, signal generators, ammeters, and oscilloscopes and run diagnostic programs to pinpoint malfunctions. It may take several hours to locate a problem but only a few minutes to fix it. However, more equipment now has self-diagnosing features, which greatly simplifies the work. To fix equipment, repairers may replace defective components, circuit boards, or wiring, or adjust and calibrate equipment, using test equipment, small handtools such as pliers, screwdrivers, and soldering irons.
Field repairers visit worksites in their assigned area on a regular basis to do preventive maintenance according to manufacturers' recommended schedules, and whenever emergencies arise. During these calls, repairers may also advise customers on how to use equipment more efficiently and how to spot problems in their early stages. They also listen to customers' complaints and answer questions, promoting customer satisfaction and good will. Some field repairers work full time at installations of clients with a lot of equipment.
Bench repairers work at repair facilities, in stores, factories, or service centers. They repair portable equipmentsuch as televisions and personal computers brought in by customersor defective components and machines requiring extensive repairs that have been sent in by field repairers. They determine the source of a problem in the equipment, and may estimate whether it is wiser to buy a new part or machine or to fix the broken one.
Some electronic equipment repairers work shifts, including weekends and holidays, to service equipment in computer centers, manufacturing plants, hospitals, and telephone companies which operate round the clock. Shifts are generally assigned on the basis of seniority. Repairers may also be on call at any time to handle equipment failure.
Repairers generally work in clean, well-lighted, air-conditioned surroundingsan electronic repair shop or service center, hospital, military installation, or a telephone company's central office. However, some, such as commercial and industrial electronic equipment repairers, may be exposed to heat, grease, and noise on factory floors. Some may have to work in cramped spaces. Telephone installers and repairers may work on rooftops, ladders, and telephone poles.
The work of most repairers involves lifting, reaching, stooping, crouching, and crawling. Adherence to safety precautions is essential to guard against work hazards such as minor burns and electrical shock.
Electronic equipment repairers held about 389,000 jobs in 1994. Many worked for telephone companies. Others worked for electronic and transportation equipment manufacturers, machinery and equipment wholesalers, hospitals, electronic repair shops, and firms that provide maintenance under contract (called third-party maintenance firms). The distribution of employment in each occupation is presented in the following tabulation:
Computer and office machine repairers 134,000 Communications equipment mechanics 118,000 Commercial and industrial electronic equipment repairers 66,000 Telephone installers and repairers 37,000 Electronic home entertainment equipment repairers 34,000
Most employers prefer applicants with formal training in electronics. Electronic training is offered by public post secondary vocational-technical schools, private vocational schools and technical institutes, junior and community colleges, and some high schools and correspondence schools. Programs take 1 to 2 years. The military services also offer formal training and work experience.
Training includes general courses in mathematics, physics, electricity, electronics, schematic reading, and troubleshooting. Students also choose courses which prepare them for a specialty, such as computers, commercial and industrial equipment, or home entertainment equipment. A few repairers complete formal apprenticeship programs sponsored jointly by employers and locals of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
Applicants for entry-level jobs may have to pass tests that measure mechanical aptitude, knowledge of electricity or electronics, manual dexterity, and general intelligence. Newly hired repairers, even those with formal training, usually receive some training from their employer. They may study electronics and circuit theory and math. They also get hands-on experience with equipment, doing basic maintenance, and using diagnostic programs to locate malfunctions. Training may be in a classroom or it may be self-instruction, consisting of videotapes, programmed computer software, or workbooks that allow trainees to learn at their own pace.
Experienced technicians attend training sessions and read manuals to keep up with design changes and revised service procedures. Many technicians also take advanced training in a particular system or type of repair.
Good eyesight and color vision are needed to inspect and work on small, delicate parts and good hearing to detect malfunctions revealed by sound. Because field repairers usually handle jobs alone, they must be able to work without close supervision. For those who have frequent contact with customers, a pleasant personality, neat appearance, and good communications skills are important. Repairers must also be trustworthy because they may be exposed to money and other valuables in places like banks and securities offices, and some employers require that they be bonded. A security clearance may be required for technicians who repair equipment or service machines in areas where people are engaged in activities related to national security.
The International Societ of Certified Electronics Technicians and the Electronics Technicians Association each administer a voluntary certification program. In both, an electronics repairer with 4 years of experience may become a Certified Electronics Technician. Certification, which is by examination, is offered in computer, radio-TV, industrial and commercial equipment, audio, avionics, wireless communications, video distribution, satellite, and radar systems repair. An Associate Level Test, covering basic electronics, is offered for students or repairers with less than 4 years of experience. Those who test and repair radio transmitting equipment, other than business and land mobile radios, need a General Operators License from the Federal Communications Commission.
Experienced repairers with advanced training may become specialists or troubleshooters who help other repairers diagnose difficult problems, or work with engineers in designing equipment and developing maintenance procedures.
Because of their familiarity with equipment, repairers are particularly well qualified to become manufacturers' sales workers. Workers with leadership ability also may become maintenance supervisors or service managers. Some experienced workers open their own repair services or shops, or become wholesalers or retailers of electronic equipment.
Overall, employment of electronic equipment repairers is expected to decline through the year 2005. Although the amount of electronic equipment in use will grow very rapidly, improvements in product reliability and ease of service and lower equipment prices will cause a decline in the need for repairers. The following tabulation presents the expected job change in percent for the various electronic equipment repairer occupations:
Computer and office machine repairers 24 Commercial and industrial electronic equipment repairers 2 Electronic home entertainment equipment repairers -10 Communications equipment mechanics -35 Telephone installers and repairers -70Employment of computer equipment repairers will grow much faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2005 as the number of computers in service increases rapidly. Employment of industrial equipment repairers outside the Federal Government will increase faster than the average as the amount of equipment grows. Mainly because of cuts in the defense budget, employment of repairers in the Federal Government will decline. Employment of those who repair electronic home entertainment equipment will decline modestly as equipment becomes more reliable and easier to service. Employment of repairers who handle telephone industry equipmenttelephone installers and repairers and communication equipment mechanicsis expected to decline sharply because of improvements in equipment reliability, ease of maintenance, and low equipment replacement cost.
In 1994, median weekly earnings of full-time electronic equipment repairers were $592. The middle 50 percent earned between $434 and $765. The bottom 10 percent earned less than $317, while the top 10 percent earned more than $947. Earnings vary widely by occupation and the type of equipment repaired, as shown in the following tabulation:
Telephone installers and repairers $679 Data processing equipment repairers 589 Electronic repairers, communications and industrial equipment 542 Office machine repairers 458Central office installers, central office technicians, PBX installers, and telephone installers and repairers employed by AT&T and the Bell Operating Companies and represented by the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers earned between $469 and $1,063 a week in 1994.
According to a survey of workplaces in 160 metropolitan areas, beginning maintenance electronics technicians had median earnings of $10.75 an hour in 1993, with the middle half earning between $9.63 and $12.56 an hour. The most experienced repairers had median earnings of $18.40 an hour, with the middle half earning between $16.67 and $20.12 an hour.
Workers in other occupations who repair and maintain the circuits and mechanical parts of electronic equipment include appliance and power tool repairers, automotive electricians, broadcast technicians, electronic organ technicians, and vending machine repairers. Electronics engineering technicians may also repair electronic equipment as part of their duties.
For career, certification, and FCC licensing information, contact:
The International Society of Certified Electronics Technicians, 2708 West Berry St., Fort Worth, TX 76109.
For certification, career, placement, and FCC licensing information, contact:
Electronics Technicians Association, 604 North Jackson, Greencastle, IN 46135.
For a list of FCC licensing administrators, write to:
Federal Communications Commission, Consumer Assistance Office, 1270 Fairfield Rd., Gettysburg, Pa 17325-7245 or call 1-800-322-1117.
For information on the telephone industry and career opportunities contact:
United States Telephone Association, 1401 H St. NW., suite 600, Washington, DC 20005-2136.
For information on electronic equipment repairers in the telephone industry, write to:
Communications Workers of America, 501 3rd St. NW., Washington, DC 20001.
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