Computer, automated teller, and office machine repairers install, fix, and maintain many of the machines that are used by businesses, households, and consumers. For large or stationary machines, repairers frequently perform the work on site. These workers—known as field technicians—often have assigned areas where they perform preventive maintenance on a regular basis. Bench technicians commonly repair smaller equipment and often work in repair shops located in stores, factories, or service centers. In small companies, repairers may work both in repair shops and at customer locations.
Computer repairers, also known as computer service technicians or data processing equipment repairers, service mainframe, server, and personal computers; printers; and auxiliary computer equipment. These workers primarily perform hands-on repair, maintenance, and installation of computers and related equipment. Workers who provide technical assistance, in person or by telephone, to computer system users are known as computer support specialists or computer support technicians.
Computer repairers typically replace subsystems instead of repairing them. Commonly replaced subsystems include video cards, which transmit signals from the computer to the monitor; hard drives, which store data; and network cards, which allow communication over the network. Replacement is common because subsystems are usually inexpensive and businesses are reluctant to shut down their computers for time-consuming repairs. Defective modules may be given to bench technicians, who use software programs to diagnose the problem and who may repair the modules, if possible.
Office machine and cash register servicers work on photocopiers, cash registers, and fax machines. Newer models of office machinery include computerized components that allow them to function more reliably than earlier models and, therefore, require less maintenance.
Office machine repairers usually work on machinery at the customer’s workplace. However, if the machines are small enough, customers may bring them to a repair shop for repair. Common malfunctions include paper jams caused by worn or dirty parts, and poor-quality copy resulting from problems with lamps, lenses, or mirrors. These malfunctions often can be resolved simply by cleaning the relevant components. Breakdowns also may result from the general wear and tear of commonly used parts. For example, heavy use of a photocopier may wear down the printhead, which applies ink to the final copy. In such cases, the repairer usually replaces the part instead of repairing it.
Automated teller machine servicers install and repair automated teller machines (ATMs) and, increasingly, electronic kiosks. In addition to performing bank transactions without the assistance of a teller, electric kiosks are being used for a variety of non-traditional services, including stamp, phone card, and ticket sales. A growing number of electronic kiosks also allow consumers to redeem movie tickets or airline and train boarding passes.
When ATMs malfunction, computer networks often recognize the problem and alert repairers. Common problems include worn magnetic heads on card readers, which prevent the equipment from recognizing customers’ bankcards, and “pick failures,” which prevent the equipment from dispensing the correct amount of cash. In such cases, field technicians travel to the locations of ATMs and repair equipment by removing and replacing defective components. Broken components may be taken to a repair shop, where bench technicians make the necessary repairs. Field technicians perform routine maintenance on a regular basis, replacing worn parts and running diagnostic tests to ensure that the equipment operates properly.
To install large equipment, such as mainframe computers and ATMs, repairers connect the equipment to power sources and communication lines that allow the transmission of information over computer networks. For example, when an ATM dispenses cash, it transmits the withdrawal information to the customer’s bank. Workers may also install operating software and peripheral equipment, checking that all components are configured to operate together correctly.
Computer, automated teller, and office machine repairers use a variety of tools for diagnostic tests and repair. To diagnose malfunctions, they use multimeters to measure voltage, current, resistance, and other electrical properties; signal generators to provide test signals; and oscilloscopes to monitor equipment signals. To diagnose computerized equipment, repairers use software programs. To repair or adjust equipment, workers use handtools, such as pliers, screwdrivers, and soldering irons.
Education and training. Knowledge of electronics is necessary for employment as a computer, automated teller, or office machine repairer. Employers prefer workers who are certified or who have training in electronics from an associate degree program, the military, a vocational school, or an equipment manufacturer. Employers generally provide some training to new repairers on specific equipment; however, workers are expected to arrive on the job with a basic understanding of equipment repair. Employers may send experienced workers to training sessions to keep up with changes in technology and service procedures.
Most office machine and ATM repairer positions require an associate degree in electronics. A basic understanding of mechanical equipment is also important because many of the parts that fail in office machines and ATMs, such as paper loaders, are mechanical. Entry-level employees at large companies normally receive on-the-job training lasting several months. Such training may include a week of classroom instruction, followed by a period of 2 weeks to several months assisting an experienced repairer.
Other qualifications. Field technicians work closely with customers and must have good communications skills and a neat appearance. Employers may require that field technicians have a driver’s license.
Certification and advancement. Various organizations offer certification. For instance, the Electronics Technicians Association (ETA) offers more than 50 certification programs in numerous electronics specialties for varying levels of competence. The International Society of Certified Electronics Technicians also offers certification for several levels of competence, focusing on a broad range of topics, including basic electronics, multimedia systems, electronic systems, and appliance service. To become certified, applicants must meet several prerequisites and pass a comprehensive written or online examination. Certification demonstrates a level of competency. It can make an applicant more attractive to employers or increase an employee’s opportunities for advancement.
Newly hired computer repairers may possibly work on personal computers or peripheral equipment. With experience, they can advance to positions maintaining more sophisticated systems, such as networking equipment and servers. Field repairers of ATMs may advance to bench technician positions responsible for more complex repairs. Experienced workers may become specialists who assist other repairers diagnose difficult problems or who work with engineers in designing equipment and developing maintenance procedures. Experienced workers may also move into management positions responsible for supervising other repairers.
Because of their familiarity with equipment, experienced repairers may also move into customer service or sales positions. Some experienced workers open their own repair shops or become wholesalers or retailers of electronic equipment.