Surprising and Helpful Information
Detailed info from people on the job
Scientific minds that enjoy hands-on work, solving problems, or fixing things may be interested in a career as a technician. With a goal of improving products and processes, technicians are found across many different industries working out in the field or in laboratories. Usually working under the guide of an engineer or scientist, technicians are highly skilled workers that handle much of the practical work that occurs during research and in the laboratory, such as collecting samples, operating laboratory instruments, formulating observations and monitoring experiments, recording results, and developing conclusions. Some examples of technician jobs include chemical technicians testing chemicals compounds in industrial plants, environmental technicians focusing on the effects of pollution on the environment, and forensic science technicians testing DNA evidence from a crime scene.
Although specific skills vary by occupation, technician careers tend to attract individuals who have a strong background in science and math, with a mechanical aptitude and an interest in laboratory work. Good organizational skills and attention to detail are important in order to conduct scientific experiments and interpret results. In addition, oral and written communication skills are valuable to possess since technicians are often responsible for reporting any findings. Finally, individuals should have solid computer skills as they are often used in laboratories.
Individuals interested in a career as a technician should be high school graduates or have a GED equivalent. While some technicians have no postsecondary education, employers generally prefer individuals who have completed a specialized certificate or degree program at a technical or community college, or have an associate?s degree in a science-related field. Some technician jobs require a bachelor?s degree in the sciences. Regardless of the level of education, there is usually a period of on-the-job training for most occupations.
A variety of career options exist working in laboratories or doing field work for contractors, manufacturers, factories, government agencies, non-profits, public institutions, and private businesses. The following are a few examples of job choices in these fields:
- Chemical technicians assist chemists and chemical engineers with the development, production, and use of chemical products and equipment. Most chemical technicians specialize in one particular industry, such as in pharmaceuticals or food processing. Technicians may work in experimental laboratories doing research and development, while others may focus on process control, working to develop new methods or products.
- Electrical technicians typically work under the supervision of electrical engineers, performing many different tasks related to the testing, development and manufacturing of electronic and electrical equipment. Some of the duties of electrical technicians may include product testing and evaluation, repairing equipment, and safety inspection, among others. Workers may be employed by government agencies, public institutions, or private companies.
- Environmental technicians work under the supervision of environmental engineers and scientists performing field and laboratory tests to evaluate and prevent pollution. Duties may include collecting and testing pollutant sources and levels of samples such as soil, water, and gases; recording and summarizing any test data; managing waste operations; and regulatory compliance, among others.
- Food science technicians assist food scientists with testing the physical or chemical properties of food and beverage product. One of the main goals of this field is to ensure compliance with the regulations of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concerning nutrients, color, and texture of food and beverages. Some areas that a food technician may work in include research and development, production technology, or quality control.
What People Love and Hate about Technician Careers
Here is a selection from Inside Career Info's Career Reports of what people love and hate about their technician jobs:
- "I do not have to sit at a desk all day. I do have to prepare reports and generate results, but that is a small part of my day. The biggest part of my day is spent in the lab preparing and testing the samples."
- "learning the latest technologies in the storage and computing industries. I receive frequent training and opportunities to work with different groups."
- "I pretty much make my own schedule. As long as I am where I am supposed to be when I am supposed to be my job works out. I love what I do and meet a lot of people."
- "when you finish one job, you don't know when or where the next one will be. I have worked on the roof of the Fleet Center (in Boston), which was awesome, and I have worked on a mechanical lift that went up to 180 feet. That was both scary and exciting."
- "working with industry experts in food research and development who manufacture the food products for the military."
- "having to check the results that are generated by other people's instrument. It is so easy to make a mistake when putting the results into the computer. So we have to check and make sure that what is put into the computer is correct. This can become time consuming and tedious, and patience is critical."
- "dealing with a customer who is having a problem whose cause you can't identify. At times like that I have to get engineering to investigate and that can sometimes take weeks. I am the liaison between engineering and the customer and that can be awkward because customers expect their systems to be working 100% of the time."
- "sometimes I have to get into some disgusting locations. There are also difficult chemicals in these plants."
- "installing pipe in a 110 degree steam tunnel crawling on your belly in dirt. But no matter how lousy or great the conditions are, they are always over soon, so you can always get through it."