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Office Machine and Computer Industry Job Descriptions, Careers in the Office Machine and Computer Industry, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Modern business relies on the use of office machines, computers, and related equipment. From photocopy machines to disc drives, the office machine and computer industry produces the equipment that keeps business, government, and industry going.

Many workers in the industry are employed in plants that make computers and related equipment, including optical storage devices, high-speed printers, and wireless routers. Another large segment of the workforce is employed in plants that make conventional office machines, such as shredders, typewriters, cash registers, postage meters, scales, and a wide variety of other business machines.

The office machine and computer manufacturing industry employs a mixture of workers who have different skills. The industry also employs many scientists in a range of fields, including mathematicians, physicists, and several types of engineers. The largest proportion are electrical engineers, but there are also many mechanical and industrial engineers working in the industry. Systems analysts and computer programmers help design improved methods of processing data so that customers can make better use of their equipment. Electronics technicians, drafters, and other technical workers are often assistants to engineers and scientists. Other white-collar workers include executives, managers, sales representatives, and clerical workers.

Many workers in the office machine and computer industry have plant jobs. Most are assemblers who put together office machines and computers. Assemblers have different levels of skill. Some assemblers operate automatic wrapping machines that put writing on panels or plug-in boards. Other assemblers do handwork. Some do one simple operation, such as putting one part onto typewriters as they move past on an assembly line. Skilled assemblers do more complex operations, such as following diagrams to wire panels for use in computers. Electronics technicians handle more difficult hand assembly tasks. Assemblers often use screwdrivers, pliers, soldering irons, and other equipment in their work. Some use magnifying lenses and special precision welding equipment.

Other plant workers include machine tool operators who run the powerful machines that turn out plastic and metal parts for typewriters, computers, calculators, and other products. Machines that are programmed to operate automatically are run by numerical-control machine operators. Tool and die makers make equipment used to manufacture and assemble metal parts.

Many kinds of inspectors are also employed in this industry. Less-skilled inspectors, such as test set operators or testing machine operators, run automatic testing equipment. Highly skilled inspectors do more specialized work. Machined parts inspectors, for example, check machined parts with precision testing instruments. Type inspectors examine typewriter type with a magnifying glass. Electronic subassembly inspectors test complete systems such as computer memory systems. The final inspection of conventional office machines is fairly simple, while for computers it is more complex. The final testing or "debugging" of a computer is usually done by electronics technicians under the direction of an electrical engineer.

There are also many maintenance workers employed in the industry. Electricians are especially important for maintaining complex electrical equipment. Industrial machinery repairers and instrument repairers are also needed. Many plants employ air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics to ensure that the special assembly rooms are kept dust free and at the proper temperature and humidity levels.

Education and Training Requirements

Most employers in this industry prefer to hire high school graduates for plant jobs. Less-skilled inspection, machining, or assembly jobs can generally be learned in a few days. You may have to pass an aptitude test to get one of these jobs because good eyesight, manual dexterity, and coordination are needed. To learn a more skilled trade, you may need to spend three to four years in on-the-job training. Some workers enter formal apprenticeship programs that combine classroom instruction with on-the-job training. Technicians generally get their jobs after completing one to two years of college or technical school. Sometimes they are promoted from less-skilled plant jobs. Engineers, scientists, and systems analysts generally need a bachelor's degree in their field. Many companies have programs to train college graduates.

Getting the Job

To get a job, apply directly to companies in the industry. Your school placement office may be able to help you find a job. Sometimes companies place want ads in newspapers or list openings on a sign outside the plant. Your state employment office may also know if there are any plants looking for workers in your area.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

The computer industry is growing rapidly and offers workers many opportunities to advance. Experienced plant workers such as assemblers or machine tool operators can advance to jobs as skilled inspectors or machinists. Others move into technicians' jobs. Technicians, in turn, can advance into engineering positions if they get further training. Because the manufacture of computers requires a good deal of technical knowledge, scientists and engineers often advance into the executive ranks of a computer company. Advancement is more limited in plants that manufacture conventional office machines.

The demand for workers in office machine and computer manufacturing is expected to decline through 2014, despite expected rapid growth in demand for computer products. Jobs in the industry are anticipated to decline because of competition from imports, outsourcing of jobs to other countries, and automation of production processes, which should enable companies to produce more products with fewer workers. While most job openings in these companies are expected to replace workers who retire or leave their jobs for other reasons, the demand for new products should create employment opportunities. In both office machinery and computer companies, there is likely to be greater demand for skilled scientists, engineers, and technicians than for plant workers.

Working Conditions

Working conditions in plants that manufacture office machines and computers are generally good. Most employees enjoy clean, quiet, well-lit work areas. They usually work a forty-hour week. Because many plants operate around the clock, some workers have to work in shifts. Many plant workers belong to unions.

Where to Go for More Information

Information Technology Industry Council
1250 I St., NW, Ste. 200
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 737-8888

Earnings and Benefits

Earnings in the office machine and computer industry vary with the degree of specialization of the job. Benefits include paid holidays and vacations, health insurance, and retirement plans.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesManufacturing & Production