If you are interested in a career as an electronics engineering technician, you can gain relevant experience by taking shop courses, joining electronics or radio clubs in school, and assembling electronic equipment with commercial kits.
You should take every opportunity to discuss the field with people working in it. Try to visit different kinds of electronics facilities—service shops, manufacturing plants, and research laboratories—either through individual visits or through field trips organized by teachers or school counselors. These visits will provide you with an idea of the opportunities in the different areas of the electronics industry. You should also take an introductory course in electricity or electronics to test your aptitude, skills, and interest. If you enroll in a community college or technical school, you may be able to secure off-quarter or part-time internships with local employers through your school's career services office. Internships are valuable ways to gain experience while still in school.
Most electronics technicians work in one of three broad areas of electronics: product development, manufacturing and production, or service and maintenance. Technicians involved with service and maintenance are known as electronics service technicians.
In the product-development area, electronics technicians, or electronics development technicians, work directly with engineers or as part of a research team. Engineers create blueprints for a new product, and technicians build a prototype according to specifications. Using hand tools and small machine tools, they construct complex parts, components, and subassemblies.
After the prototype is completed, technicians work with engineers to test the product and make necessary modifications. They conduct physical and electrical tests to test the product's performance in various stressful conditions; for example, they test to see how a component will react in extreme heat and cold. Tests are run using complicated instruments and equipment, and detailed, accurate records are kept of the tests performed.
Electronics technicians in the product-development field may make suggestions for improvements in the design of a device. They may construct, install, modify, or repair laboratory test equipment.
Electronics drafting is a field of electronics technology closely related to product development. Electronics drafters, or computer-aided design drafters, convert rough sketches and written or verbal information provided by engineers and scientists into easily understandable schematic, layout, or wiring diagrams to be used in manufacturing the product. These drafters may also prepare a list of components and equipment needed for producing the final product, as well as bills for materials.
Another closely related field is cost estimating. Cost-estimating technicians review new product proposals in order to determine the approximate total cost to produce a product. They estimate the costs for all labor, equipment, and materials needed to manufacture the product. The sales department uses these figures to determine at what price a product can be sold and whether production is economically feasible.
In the manufacturing and production phase, electronics technicians, who are also called electronics manufacturing and production technicians, work in a wide variety of capacities, generally with the day-to-day handling of production problems, schedules, and costs. These technicians deal with any problems arising from the production process. They install, maintain, and repair assembly- or test-line machinery. In quality control, they inspect and test products at various stages in the production process. When a problem is discovered, they are involved in determining the nature and extent of it and in suggesting remedies.
Those involved in quality control inspect and test the products at various stages of completion. They also maintain and calibrate test equipment used in all phases of manufacturing. They determine the causes for rejection of parts or equipment by assembly-line inspectors and then analyze field and manufacturing reports of product failures.
These technicians make specific recommendations to their supervisors to eliminate the causes of rejects and may even suggest design, manufacturing, and process changes and establish quality-acceptance levels. They interpret quality-control standards to the manufacturing supervisors. And they establish and maintain quality limits on items purchased from other manufacturers, thus ensuring the quality of parts used in the equipment being assembled.
Another area of electronics technology is that of technical writing and editing. Technical writers and technical editors compile, write, and edit a wide variety of technical information. This includes instructional leaflets, operating manuals, books, and installation and service manuals having to do with the products of the company. To do this, they confer with design and development engineers, production personnel, salespeople, drafters, and others to obtain the necessary information to prepare the text, drawings, diagrams, parts, lists, and illustrations. They must thoroughly understand how and why the equipment works in order to be able to tell the customer how to use it and the service technician how to install and service it.
At times, technical writers and editors help prepare technical reports and proposals and write technical articles for engineering societies, management, and other associations. Their job is to produce the means (through words and pictures) by which the customer can get the most value out of the purchased equipment.