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Electronics make the world go ‘round. We are now so dependent on this industry that we can't imagine life without it. Electronics uses power that comes from electrons, tiny (subatomic) particles that carry a negative electrical charge. Circuits are routes for these electrons to run, beginning and ending at the same point. When many circuits are put together on the same chip or wafer, they are called integrated circuits. This technology has eliminated the need for wiring and allowed for miniaturization, which means that the radio console that took up a corner of the living room fifty years ago can now fit in your pocket.
Switching and timing circuits, operated by microprocessors, opened the world to telecommunications. Electronic telecommunications now can connect us to everyone on the planet. Its equipment includes much more than just telephones. Radios, fax machines, scanners, garage door openers, alarms, computers, televisions, VCRs, CD players, DVDs, video cameras, surround-sound systems, and some high-tech weapons are classed as telecommunications because information is sent and received through them.
Electronics technicians install or repair such equipment. There are two methods of repairing. Bench technicians work in a lab or shop. The malfunctioning equipment is brought to them for repair. Field technicians, on the other hand, go to the site of the problem (office or factory) and bring their diagnostic equipment with them. Large machines, such as photocopiers, cannot easily be transported and must be fixed on site. Smaller ones, such as fax machines, are usually sent back to the manufacturer for repairs.
Diagnostic equipment includes multimeters, which measure the voltage and resistance of the power supply; color bar and dot generations, which provide on-screen test patterns; signal generators, which provide test signals; and oscilloscopes, which measure waveforms.
The trend for the last several years has been to replace failing equipment, rather than fix it, except in the case of expensive items still under warranty or a service contract. Because each year's models have been an improvement over the previous year's, it makes more sense to buy new than to repair old. Also, much electronic equipment is self-diagnosing, even self-repairing, making less need for repair people.
Telecommunications technicians also work within corporations to set up communications systems using cell phones, voice mail, auto response, call accounting, and interfacing with computer systems. Computer network technicians are specialists in installing and repairing local area networks (LANs) that connect all phases of a business with the corporate headquarters. These technicians may become certified netware engineers (CNEs) after a short course of study.
Electronics technicians may work in research and development (R&D) labs with scientists and engineers who design and test new equipment. There are hundreds of electronics firms in North America that maintain labs and hire technicians. With a background in repair, technicians can become excellent troubleshooters and, using sophisticated diagnostic equipment, find problems quickly. When they spot potential problems in new products, they can debug them and make the products trouble-free.
An avenue that some electronics technicians are now exploring is hybrid electronics. Instead of using standard boards imprinted with circuits, hybrid electronics uses printed ceramic microcircuits with a layer of film. There seem to be some advantages to this process, but so far the field is a small one.
Electronics technicians should understand the basic laws of electricity and electrical circuits and the principles of electronics. They also must be able to read schematics. They must be able to distinguish colors (wires are color-coded) and tones (as in a touch-tone phone), so it is not a field for the color-blind or tone-deaf.
The wages for electronics technicians vary widely. The starting rate for a repair shop job is about $10 per hour. An experienced electronics technician who works for a large company, whether in repair or installation, can expect to earn an annual salary of close to $50,000. For those technicians who join a union, the benefits can be considerable.
This field is expected to grow at an average rate through 2010, not as quickly as it did in the 1990s. It is almost guaranteed to change in the next ten years, which will probably spur growth in certain areas. The need for installers will increase, and the need for repairers will decline. Jobs for electronics technicians are mainly in private industries, especially the giants in the communications industry.
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