Precision Instrument and Equipment Repairer
Precision Instrument and Equipment Repairer
Education and Training: High school plus two years of training
Salary: $13.47 to $21.25 per hour
Employment Outlook: Fair to good
Definition and Nature of the Work
Precision instrument and equipment repairers, sometimes called instrumentation technicians, help install, repair, and maintain complex instruments. These instruments are varied and include watches and clocks, musical instruments, photographic equipment, and medical equipment. Other kinds of precision instruments and equipment include those used in communications systems, scientific research, environmental protection, and many industrial processes. Precision instruments are used to measure heat, temperature, pressure, and other factors. They are used to control such things as the speed, thickness, and flow of liquids, gases, or electricity. Some instruments store information that guides automated processes.
Precision instrument and equipment repairers are employed in a variety of industries. Many work for companies that do chemical and medical research. In the chemical industry, for example, some technicians install special instruments that measure and regulate the temperature, pressure, acidity, or flow of chemical processes needed to make products ranging from nylon fibers to house paint. Other precision instrument and equipment repairers fix the complex heart-lung and kidney dialysis machines used in medical care. Precision instrument and equipment repairers may be employed by firms that make precision instruments, colleges and universities, or government agencies. They need wide knowledge in the physical sciences, as well as in electrical and mechanical engineering technology. Their special field is known as instrumentation technology.
Some precision instrument and equipment repairers work under the direction of scientists and engineers. They assist them in the design and development of sensitive instruments. Precision instrument and equipment repairers help nuclear engineers test and perfect instruments. Some instruments in nuclear reactors, for example, measure radiation, heat, pressure, and rates of change. These instruments are designed to make automatic adjustments to keep the reactor running safely and smoothly. Other technicians help metallurgical, biomedical, and other kinds of engineers to develop instruments for their special fields.
Precision instrument and equipment repairers often handle troubleshooting, which is the diagnosis of problems with one instrument or an entire system of related instruments. For example, they might be asked to find out what is wrong with an instrument used in modern cryosurgery, which is surgery done at extremely low temperatures. Precision instrument and equipment repairers use special tools and electronic equipment in their work. Sometimes technicians travel from one job site to another to service complex instruments. Some precision instrument and equipment repairers teach in technical schools or sell instruments to manufacturers, hospitals, and other customers. Others help to write technical manuals for the users of complex instruments.
Education and Training Requirements
Most precision instrument and equipment repairers receive their training from colleges or technical institutes. Some of these schools have programs in instrumentation technology. Programs vary in length from one to four years. Most are two-year programs, however. Students can also get their training in a related field, such as electronics, electrical, or mechanical technology. Most employers give some on-the-job training to help employees meet the needs of their particular industries.
Getting the Job
Your instructors or the placement office at your college or technical school can help you find a job in the instrumentation field. State employment services, newspaper classifieds, and job banks on the Internet are other good sources for job leads. You can also apply directly to companies that hire precision instrument and equipment repairers.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Precision instrument and equipment repairers often begin by making simple adjustments to instruments. As they gain skill and experience, they advance to more difficult tasks, such as troubleshooting. Some become supervisors. Others advance by moving into jobs in sales, teaching, or technical writing. Repairers who further their education can become engineers.
Overall employment growth is projected to be about as fast as average for all occupations through 2014. In some job specialties, such as repairers of watches, clocks, and cameras, opportunities will decline because people often replace these items with newer technology rather than repair them.
Working conditions vary greatly because of the wide variety of industries that employ precision instrument and equipment repairers. For example, precision instrument and equipment repairers working in a nuclear power plant face conditions that are very different from those experienced by technicians who are part of a team searching for new sources of petroleum. Technicians sometimes work in laboratories or on production lines. Their work is usually varied. Although their basic workweek is thirty-five to forty hours long, they may sometimes have to put in some overtime or shift work. Some precision instrument and equipment repairers belong to unions.
Because very precise work is needed in the instrumentation field, workers should be patient, careful, and able to work well with tools. They should be good at science and mathematics. In addition, they should be able to work as part of an engineering team.
Where to Go for More Information
National Association of Professional Band Instrument Repair Technicians
P.O. Box 51
2026 Eagle Rd.
Normal, IL 61761
Instrument Society of America
67 Alexander Dr., Box 12277
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709
Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation
1110 North Glebe Rd., Ste. 220
Arlington, VA 22201-4795
Earnings and Benefits
Earnings vary with the education and experience of the instrumentation technician and with the location and type of job. In 2004 median hourly earnings for precision instrument and equipment repairers ranged from $13.47 per hour to $21.25 per hour. Benefits usually include paid holidays and vacations, health insurance, and pension plans.