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Computer and Office Machine Repairer

Computer and Office Machine Repairer

Education and Training: High school plus training

Salary: Median—$35,152 per year

Employment Outlook: Fair

Definition and Nature of the Work

Computer and office machine repairers install, maintain, and repair the hardware components of computer systems, copiers, faxes, and other office equipment. Hardware components are the physical components of a computer or office machine, such as the microprocessor, memory boards, monitors, and paper feeders. Software consists of computer programs and applications. Most office machines contain many of the same hardware components as computers. Copying machines, for instance, house microprocessors, memory chips, and small LCD display screens, which allow them to perform a wide array of functions.

If a problem with a computer or office machine occurs, repairers talk to the computer operators. They find out if the system is experiencing problems and look for the causes. They may run special diagnostic programs through the computer or office machine to check for hardware problems. These programs often discover where the problem lies. Repairers may also use testing devices, such as voltmeters, ohmmeters, and oscilloscopes. Computers and office machines have very complicated circuitry. Repairers may have difficulty in locating the cause of the problem. If the problem is software related, the repairer may have to contact a computer technical support specialist.

Making repairs to a computer or office machines' circuitry and subsystems usually takes very little time. Faulty circuit boards are simply taken out and replaced. The repairer uses ordinary tools such as small pliers, wire strippers, and soldering equipment. Printers and copiers may require mechanical repairs, lubrication, and toner. When a major breakdown develops, repairers must work long hours to repair it. A company can suffer heavy losses if its computer systems stop working.

Repairers sometimes install office machines and computers and hook up any peripherals or network devices to computers with network cables. Peripheral devices include printers and disk drives, and network devices include hubs or wireless routers. Setting up a computer system typically involves running cables between offices through walls and ceilings. For more complicated computer networks, repairers may be closely supervised by a network technician. After setting up, computer and office machine repairers then test the system to make sure that it works properly, and they put together a maintenance schedule.

Repairers often specialize in working on one type of machine or one model of computer. For example, at a large installation one repairer may specialize in maintaining and repairing high-speed printers. Repairers keep written records of all maintenance work and repairs. They also order new parts and keep a list of those parts that are immediately available. In addition, computer and office machine repairers sometimes modify the uses of a machine by adding parts. Sometimes they expand systems by installing new auxiliary machines.

Many repairers are employed by the manufacturers who make the equipment. Some repairers work for companies that provide maintenance services. In both cases the repairers work in the customers' offices. Government agencies and insurance and utility companies often employ their own repairers.

Computer and office machine repairers must like solving problems and be mechanically skillful. Good vision with no color blindness is necessary because the wires in a computer are color coded. Repairers must be interested in electronics and keep up with the latest technical manuals. They must also be skilled in talking to operators and answering their questions. Repairers must be able to work without supervision.

Education and Training Requirements

A high school education and some training in electronics are required to become a computer repairer. High school students should take mathematics and electronics courses. Most employers prefer applicants who have completed one to two years of electronics training at a technical school or college or while in the armed services. Courses in science are also helpful. Many computer manufacturing companies offer training programs for repairers. Trainees study for a number of months both in the classroom and in the field. Practical experience as well as courses in computer science and circuitry theory form the basis of the training program. Once training is completed, repairers spend a year working under the supervision of an experienced worker. Repairers must keep up with new developments in data processing.

Getting the Job

A school placement office can usually put a graduating student in touch with manufacturers and other businesses that employ computer repairers. Interested individuals can apply directly to companies that make or repair data processing equipment. They should also check the classified sections of newspapers for job openings.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Experienced repairers can become troubleshooters. They remain at the main office and help the repairers in the field to solve difficult problems. They may also develop maintenance procedures and instruct trainees. Repairers can be promoted to supervisors or service managers. They may transfer to other work, such as sales and production.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer and office machine repairer employment was expected to grow more slowly than the average for all occupations through the year 2014. Most computer and office equipment, such as faxes and printers, have become so inexpensive that replacing a broken machine is often more cost effective than repairing it. In addition, computer support technicians are taking over many of the responsibilities once held by computer and office machine repairers.

Working Conditions

The normal workweek for computer and office machine repairers is forty hours. However, working long hours of overtime on emergency repairs is common. Some employers rotate their repairers between day and night shifts. Repairers who work for manufacturers may have to travel to their clients. Repairers on emergency repairs may have to work under stress and deal with anxious customers. Their jobs may also require a lot of lifting and bending.

Where to Go for More Information

Computer Technology Industry Association
1815 S. Meyers Rd., Ste. 300
Oakbrook Terrace, IL 60181
(630) 678-8300
http://www.comptia.org

ETA International
5 Depot St.
Greencastle, IN 46135
(800) 288-3824
http://www.eta-i.org

International Society of Certified Electronics Technicians
3608 Pershing Ave.
Fort Worth, TX 76107
(800) 946-0201
http://www.iscet.org

Office and Professional Employees International Union
265 W. 14th St., 6th Fl.
New York, NY 10011
(800) 346-7348
http://www.opeiu.org

Earnings and Benefits

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for a computer, automated teller, and office machine repairer in 2004 was $35,152. Repairers working for equipment manufacturers made a median wage of $38,500 per year, and those working for electronics and appliance stores made a median wage of $29,203 per year. Benefits include paid vacations and holidays as well as health insurance and retirement plans.

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