When you look at a boiler’s steam gauge, your car’s fuel gauge or an electric meter, you’re watching the creation of an instrument technician. Instrument technicians create, repair and adjust precision instruments used to monitor the progress of a mechanical or electrical task, such as the flow of fluids, electricity or gases. Their job title varies; some call them electro-mechanical technicians or, in aviation, avionics technicians.
Instrument technicians may hold technical degrees in fields such as electronics, oceanographic engineering or mechanical engineering. They understand the processes of monitoring machinery through instruments. They know how to conduct quality control inspections relative to performance. They're skilled in troubleshooting machinery or systems and the tools for this work. They understand the link between new information problem solving and the installation of machinery and electronic and electrical systems, and the methods for controlling the activities of a machine.
Instrument technicians build monitoring systems -- gauges and indicators -- according to the blueprints furnished by their company or their customers. They verify the monitoring systems’ construction and test the systems’ performance as necessary to ensure continued proper performance. They develop and construct mounting systems and any mechanical, electronic or electrical linkages necessary for the monitoring system’s operation. Avionics technicians perform the same duties for aircraft instruments.
Although building or repairing a monitoring system is an instrument technician’s primary duty, secondary duties include creating documentation. This documentation includes technical information for subsequent technicians. It also includes instructions that allow end-users of the instrument to understand the operation, design, installation, maintenance and uses of the instrument. In addition, the instrument technician repairs damaged or broken instruments. Avionics technicians repair aircraft instruments. If an avionics technician holds a general radiotelephone license issued by the Federal Communications Commission, with a radar repair endorsement, the technician may also repair radar systems.
People drawn to this career field are detail-oriented. They work well in a cooperative, team-based organization. They enjoy a challenge and seek a certain level of independence. They are persistent in the face of challenges, and adapt readily to variety in their work. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, instrument technicians also display initiative and concern for others when it comes to being helpful on the job.
2016 Salary Information for Aircraft and Avionics Equipment Mechanics and Technicians
Aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians earned a median annual salary of $60,230 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians earned a 25th percentile salary of $48,370, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $73,680, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 149,500 people were employed in the U.S. as aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Electro-mechanical Technicians
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Aircraft and Avionics Equipment Mechanics and Technicians
- ONet Online: Electro-mechanical Technicians
- American Airman: FCC General Radiotelephone Operator License Preparation Course (GROL)
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Aircraft and Avionics Equipment Mechanics and Technicians
- Career Trend: Aircraft and Avionics Equipment Mechanics and Technicians
Will Charpentier is a writer who specializes in boating and maritime subjects. A retired ship captain, Charpentier holds a doctorate in applied ocean science and engineering. He is also a certified marine technician and the author of a popular text on writing local history.