Training, Certifications, Skills, Advancement: Precision Instrument & Equipment Repairers

Most employers require at least a high school diploma for beginning precision instrument and equipment repairers. Many employers prefer applicants with some postsecondary education. Much training takes place on the job. The ability to read and understand technical manuals is important. Necessary physical qualities include good fine-motor skills and acute vision. Also, precision equipment repairers must be able to pay close attention to details, enjoy problem solving, and have the desire to disassemble machines to see how they work. Most precision equipment repairers must be able to work alone with minimal supervision.

The educational background required for camera and photographic equipment repairers varies, but some knowledge of electronics is necessary. A number of workers complete postsecondary training, such as an associate degree, in electronics. The job requires the ability to read electronic schematic diagrams and comprehend other technical information, in addition to manual dexterity. New employees are trained on the job in two stages over about a year. First, they learn to repair a single product over a couple of weeks. Then, they learn to repair other products and refine their skills for 6Ė12 months while working under the close supervision of an experienced repairer. Finally, repairers continually teach themselves through studying manuals and attending manufacturer-sponsored seminars on the specifics of new models.

Training also varies for watch and clock repairers. Several associations, including the American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute and the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, offer certifications. Some certifications can be completed in a few months; others require simply passing an examination; the most demanding certifications require 3,000 hours, taken over 2 years, of classroom time in technical institutes or colleges. Those who have earned the most demanding certifications are usually the most sought after by employers. Clock repairers generally require less training than do watch repairers, because watches have smaller components and require greater precision. Some repairers opt to learn through assisting a master watch repairer. Nevertheless, developing proficiency in watch or clock repair requires several years of education and experience.

For musical instrument repairers and tuners, employers prefer people with post-high school training in music repair technology. According to a Piano Technicians Guild membership survey, the overwhelming majority of respondents had completed at least some college work; most had a bachelorís or higher degree, although not always in music repair technology. Almost all repairers have a strong musical background; many are musicians themselves. Also, a basic ability to play the instruments being repaired is normally required. Courses in instrument repair are offered only at a few technical schools and colleges. Correspondence courses are common for piano tuners. Graduates of these programs normally receive additional training on the job, working with an experienced repairer. Many musical instrument repairers and tuners begin learning their trade on the job as assistants or apprentices. Trainees perform a variety of tasks around the shop. Full qualification usually requires 2 to 5 years of training and practice. Musical instrument repair and tuning requires good manual dexterity, an ďearĒ for pitch and tone, and good hand-eye coordination. While piano tuning requires good hearing, it can be performed by the blind.

Medical equipment repairersí training includes on-the-job training, manufacturer training classes, and associate degree programs. While an associate degree in electronics or medical technology is normally required, training varies by specialty. For those with a background in electronics, on-the-job training is more common for workers repairing less critical equipment, such as hospital beds or electric wheelchairs. An associate or even a bachelorís degree, often in medical technology or engineering, and a passing grade on a certification exam is likely to be required of persons repairing more critical equipment, such as CAT scanners and defibrillators. Some repairers are trained in the military. New repairers begin by observing and assisting an experienced worker over a period of 3 to 6 months, learning a single piece of equipment at a time. Gradually, they begin working independently, while still under close supervision. Biomedical equipment repairers are constantly learning new technologies and equipment through seminars, self-study, and certification exams.

Educational requirements for other precision instrument and equipment repair jobs also vary, but include a high school diploma, with a focus on mathematics and science courses. Because repairers need to understand blueprints, electrical schematic diagrams, and electrical, hydraulic, and electromechanical systems, most employers require an associate or sometimes a bachelorís degree in instrumentation and control, electronics, or a related engineering field. In addition to formal education, a year or two of on-the-job training is required before a repairer is considered fully qualified. Many instrument and equipment repairers begin by working in a factory in another capacity, such as repairing electrical equipment. As companies seek to improve efficiency, other types of repair workers are trained to repair precision measuring equipment. Some advancement opportunities exist, but many supervisory positions require a bachelorís degree.