Posted on Sunday, 29th October 2017 by

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There are many occupations in the federal government that require electronics technician skills both in the General and Wage Grade Schedules. The primary General Schedule (GS) occupation is the electronics technician GS-0856. The postal service also hires electronic technicians to service their mail delivery automation equipment.

The federal government employs 8,072 GS-0856 electronics technicians of which 222 work overseas. The Department of the Army, Air Force and Navy are the largest employers with 5,368 civilians followed by The Department of Justice with 806 and the Department of Transportation with 537. Many cabinet level agencies and a few large independent agencies such as NASA employ electronics technicians.

Many GS-0856 electronic technicians can qualify for related jobs such as system specialists with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the Transportation Specialist GS-2101 Series. These jobs require additional training at the FAA academy in Oklahoma city for each specialty. Randy Baldwin, featured in this article, and Dennis Damp, host of this service, spent many months in training at the academy throughout their careers first as a GS-0856 technician and later as GS-2101 system specialists. The GS-2101 series with the FAA offers work in automation, communications, navigation, and surveillance / radar occupations.

You will also find many opportunities in the WG-2600 Electronic Equipment Installation and Maintenance Family. This job family includes occupations involved in the installation, repair, overhaul, fabrication, tuning, alignment, modification, calibration, and testing of electronic equipment and related devices, such as radio, radar, loran, sonar, television, and other communications equipment; industrial controls; fire control, flight/landing control, bombing-navigation, and other integrated systems; and electronic computer systems and equipment.

There are 10,299 federal wage grade workers employed in the WG-2600 group of which 68 work overseas or in the U.S. Territories. The largest employers are the Departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force with 8,411 civilians employed.  The Veterans Administration employs 233, and the Treasury Department 144. Other cabinet level and a few large independent agencies employ small numbers of this group.

Additionally there are 866 civilians that work in the WG-3300 Instrument Work Family.

Interview with Randy Baldwin

Randy Baldwin started his federal government civilian career with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as an electronics technician (GS-0856) after discharge from the U.S. Air Force and ended his career as a Special Projects Officer, GS-14, in Leesburg, VA. He was interviewed for this article to provide insight into this occupation.

 

Randy Baldwin

Mr. Baldwin had an extensive and diverse career with the federal government and after retiring he went on to start several successful companies including Just Write Laser Engraving.

He started his career in 1971 originally working for the Navy as an electronics Wage Grade technician. Since there were limited advancement prospects, he searched for positions in the GS-0856 job series. Randy applied for FAA positions in both the Eastern and Southern regions. He was originally hired in Athens, GA as a GS-856-09 electronics trainee. Randy said this was the best decision he could have made for career progression and to take care of his family. He retired at the GS-14 pay grade.

Randy’s last position, before retiring, was special projects officer. He states that every day was different from the next and a challenge. He represented the Eastern Region’s engineering organization. One of the projects he handled was initiating computer control monitoring of various  environmental systems, such as air, heat, and fuel. Another major project was coordinating the upgrade of all underground fuel storage tanks to both Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state standards.

Randy’s greatest challenge was successfully completing an Engineering Mathematics for Engineering Technicians home study course. Randy said that you had to pass the course. If you did not pass it, “you might as well look for another job.” Another course Fundamentals of Radar, was a four-month course in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Again, this was a make or break course for your career, as before he passed it and went on to bigger and better opportunities in the FAA.

The FAA invests considerable time and resources to training their specialists. To retain your position initially trainees must pass fundamental courses that impart the knowledge they will need for advanced systems training.

Randy emphasizes, to be successful “work hard and you will be rewarded. Apply yourself, do a good job and take pride in that. The reward may not come at once, and not even by the same people you currently work for.” Working hard is the best advice that Randy has to offer others.

Electronic Technician (GS-0856) Qualifications

The electronic technician series covers technical positions supervising, leading, or performing work involving applying:

  • knowledge of the techniques and theories characteristic of electronics, such as a knowledge of basic electricity and electronic theory, algebra, and elementary physics;
  • knowledge of electronic equipment design, development, evaluation, testing, installation, and maintenance; and
  • knowledge of the capabilities, limitations, operations, design, characteristics, and functional use of a variety of types and models of electronic equipment and systems related to, but less than, a full professional knowledge of electronic engineering.

Federal Government Requirements:

  • You must be a U.S. citizen to apply
  • The yearly salary for a GS-12 is $79,720 to $103,639 per year

Typical Duties & Occupational Profile:

For this article we will cover electrical and electronics engineering technicians for the private sector.

Electrical and electronics engineering technicians help engineers design and develop computers and other electrical and electronic equipment.

Electrical and electronics engineering technicians help engineers design and develop computers, communications equipment, medical monitoring devices, navigational equipment, and other electrical and electronic equipment. They often work in product evaluation and testing, using measuring and diagnostic devices to adjust, test, and repair equipment. They are also involved in the manufacture and deployment of equipment for automation.

Duties

Electrical engineering technicians typically do the following:

  • Put together electrical and electronic systems and prototypes
  • Build, calibrate, and repair electrical instruments or testing equipment
  • Visit construction sites to observe conditions affecting design
  • Identify solutions to technical design problems that arise during the construction of electrical systems
  • Inspect designs for quality control, report findings, and make recommendations
  • Draw diagrams and write specifications to clarify design details of experimental electronics units

Electrical engineering technicians install and maintain electrical control systems and equipment, and modify electrical prototypes, parts, and assemblies to correct problems. When testing systems, they set up test equipment and evaluate the performance of developmental parts, assemblies, or systems under simulated conditions. They then analyze test information to resolve design-related problems.

Electronics engineering technicians typically do the following:

  • Design basic circuitry and draft sketches to clarify details of design documentation, under engineers’ direction
  • Build prototypes from rough sketches or plans
  • Assemble, test, and maintain circuitry or electronic components according to engineering instructions, technical manuals, and knowledge of electronics
  • Adjust and replace defective circuitry and electronic components
  • Make parts, such as coils and terminal boards, by using bench lathes, drills, or other machine tools

Electronics engineering technicians identify and resolve equipment malfunctions and then work with manufacturers to get replacement parts. They also calibrate and perform preventative maintenance on equipment and systems.

These technicians often need to read blueprints, schematic drawings, and engineering instructions for assembling electronic units. They also write reports and record data on testing techniques, laboratory equipment, and specifications

Education

Programs for electrical and electronics engineering technicians usually lead to an associate’s degree in electrical or electronics engineering technology. Vocational–technical schools include postsecondary institutions that serve local students and emphasize training needed by local employers.

Community colleges offer programs similar to those in technical institutes but include more theory-based and liberal arts coursework. Some of these colleges allow students to concentrate in computer electronics, industrial electronics, or communications electronics.

Prospective electrical and electronics engineering technicians usually take courses in ANSI C, C++ programming, Java programming, physics, microprocessors, and circuitry. The Technology Accreditation Commission of ABET accredits programs that include at least college algebra, trigonometry, and basic science courses.

Important Qualities

Logical-thinking skills. Electrical and electronics engineering technicians must isolate and then identify problems for the engineering staff to work on. They need good reasoning skills to identify and fix problems. Technicians must also be able to follow a logical sequence or specific set of rules to carry out engineers’ designs, inspect designs for quality control, and put together prototypes.

Math skills. Electrical and electronics engineering technicians use math for analysis, design, and troubleshooting in their work.

Mechanical skills. Electronics engineering technicians in particular must be able to use hand tools and soldering irons on small circuitry and electronic parts to create detailed electronic components by hand.

Observational skills. Electrical engineering technicians sometimes visit construction sites to make sure that electrical engineers’ designs are being carried out correctly. They are responsible for evaluating projects onsite and reporting problems to engineers.

Problem-solving skills. Electrical and electronics engineering technicians create what engineers have designed and often test the designs to make sure that they work. Technicians help to resolve any problems that come up in carrying out the engineers’ designs.

Writing skills. These technicians must write reports about onsite construction, the results of testing, or problems they find when carrying out designs. Their writing must be clear and well organized so that the engineers they work with can understand the reports.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

The National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET) offers certification in electrical power testing. This certification would benefit those technicians working in the electric power generation, transmission, and distribution industry.

ETA International also offers certifications in several fields, including basic electronics, biomedical, and renewable energy.

The International Society of Automation offers certification as a Control Systems Technician. To gain such certification, technicians must show skills in pneumatic, mechanical, and electronic instrumentation. In addition, they must demonstrate an

understanding of process control loops and process control systems.

The occupational profile information was excerpted from the Occupational Handbook (OOH) published by the Department of Labor.

GS-0856 Electronics Technician (Excerpted from USA Job Announcement)

Specialized Experience

These duties are relevant to a GS-09 to GS-13, and you must have at least one year of experience for the next successive grade.

GS-09

  • providing assistance with collecting and evaluating electronics equipment performance data.

GS-10

  • providing assistance with collecting and evaluating electronics equipment performance data
  • interpreting and analyzing designs, diagrams, and schematics to evaluate feasibility.

GS-11

  • providing assistance with collecting and evaluating electronics equipment performance data
  • interpreting and analyzing designs, diagrams, and schematics to evaluate feasibility
  • evaluating faults in the operational configuration of electronic systems and equipment.

GS-12

  • providing assistance with collecting and evaluating electronics equipment performance data
  • interpreting and analyzing designs, diagrams, and schematics to evaluate feasibility
  • evaluating faults in the operational configuration of electronic systems and equipment
  • developing designs, diagrams, and schematics for technical feasibility

GS-13

  • providing assistance with collecting and evaluating electronics equipment performance data
  • interpreting and analyzing designs, diagrams, and schematics to evaluate feasibility
  • evaluating faults in the operational configuration of electronic systems and equipment
  • developing designs, diagrams, and schematics for technical feasibility
  • analyzing and diagnosing faults in the operational configuration of electronic systems and equipment.

 

Job Prospects:

(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections Program)

Employment of electrical and electronics engineering technicians is projected to decline 2 percent from 2014 to 2024.

Some of these technicians work in traditional manufacturing industries, many of which are declining or growing slowly. In addition, employment of these technicians in the federal government is projected to decline. However, employment growth for electrical and electronics engineering technicians will likely occur in engineering services firms as companies seek to contract out these services as a way to lower costs.

Electrical and electronics engineering technicians also work closely with electrical and electronics engineers and computer hardware engineers in the computer systems design services industry. Demand for these technicians overall is expected to be sustained by demand for workers in this industry because of the continuing integration of computer and electronics systems. For example, computer, cellular phone, and global positioning system (GPS) technologies are being included in automobiles and various portable and household electronics systems.

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The information provided may not cover all aspects of unique or special circumstances, federal and postal regulations, and programs are subject to change. Our articles and replies are time sensitive. Over time, various dynamic human resource guidance and factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation and this service is not affiliated with OPM, the postal service or any federal entity. You should consult with school counselors, hiring agency personnel offices, and human resource professionals where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

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