Electronic Part

Occupational Differences in the Electronics Industry

Occupational Differences in Electronics

Electronics technician, electrician, and electrical engineer may sound the same, but in fact they are very different jobs that require different training, knowledge and skill sets. However, there is some overlap in the three occupations. For example, all three occupations require knowledge of the basics of circuit design and the ability to read schematics. All three occupations are in demand and pay well.

Electricians work both indoors and outdoors to install and maintain electrical systems in homes, commercial buildings, and other facilities. Electricians tend to work with high voltages. Most electricians learn their trade via an apprenticeship, although some may attend a technical school for training first. Most states require electricians to be licensed.

Electrical engineers design, develop and test electrical equipment across many types of applications, from cell phones to advanced radars used by tactical fighter aircraft. Electrical engineers must have a bachelor's degree and are the highest paid of the three occupations.

Electronics technicians work closely with electrical engineers to help them design, develop and test electrical equipment. Electronics technicians are much more "hands-on" than electronics engineers, as the technicians build and troubleshoot equipment designed by the engineers. Most electronics technicians enter the field by first earning a two-year degree from a community college or vocational-technical school. Many electronics technicians later earn bachelor's degrees in electrical engineering, making them very valuable to employers due to their combination of theoretical and practical knowledge.

Electronics technology involves many skills sets, including:

  • Assembling, maintaining, calibrating and repairing electronic instruments

  • Troubleshooting circuits and making recommendations for repairs or modifications

  • Building prototypes of electronic systems from engineering drawings and specifications

  • Modifying prototypes and updating documentation based on changes

  • Writing reports based on the results of tests performed

In addition to being a rewarding career, electronics technology is the only one of the three occupations to also have a large interest and following by hobbyists. Because of the low voltages and inexpensive components involved with electronics technology, the field offers enthusiasts a safe and easy environment for learning about electrical circuits and components. Many textbooks designed for self-learning are available for both novices and advanced hobbyists. Many kits are also designed to help teach hobbyists and others both general skills and specific applications.

All that's needed for a hobbyist to start building electronic circuits is a little basic knowledge, a few electronics components, a solderless breadboard and an inexpensive voltmeter. With a little more knowledge, basic soldering skills and a few more components, hobbyists can build a wide variety of applications that are both fun and practical such as animated signs for a small business or circuit timers for lighting to improve home security. Many advanced hobbyists and technicians also design their own circuits and systems or improve on existing designs.

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