Career Development

Career development resources for aspiring professionals.

Career Change Center

Career change guides, tutorials and resources for professionals in transition.

Job Search Resources

Job search resources, websites, guides and directories for job seekers.

Precision Instrument and Equipment Repair Careers, Jobs and Training

Precision Instrument Repair Career and Job Highlights

  • Applicants need to be high school graduates, and for some jobs, have postsecondary instruction combined with valuable on the job work experience.
  • The majority of jobs are projected to have good opportunities for applicants.
  • Growth of course depends by the occupations, but the total employment is projected to rise slightly slower than the average.
  • Close to 20 percent of workers have their own businesses.

Precision Instrument Repair Career Overview

Workers must be skilled and very detailed in order to repair and maintain watches, cameras, musical instruments, and medical devices. For instance, many devices like watches have small gears which must be positioned very precisely, with room for error amount to little more that one-hundreth of a millimeter, while other products incorporate advanced electronic controls.

Camera and photographic equipment repairers follow outlined procedures to repair cameras. Repairers must first decide whether it is cost effective to fix the camera since many cheap cameras can easily be replaced at lower cost with a new one than being repaired. Once it is determined that a repair is worth carrying out, the most difficult problems will be sent back to the manufacturers. If a job can be done by a repairer, the repairer will determine the issues by taking apart the camera to find the origin of the issue. Repairers then fix the product by adjusting parts or replacing them all together. Knowledge of electronics is also important, as a lot of issues involve electronic circuits. Repairers also provide maintenance on cameras by fixing old parts, cleaning dirty components, and providing lubrication to to gears and springs. Since a lot of the components in the products are quite small, workers need to have good hands. Also there are few replacement parts for outdated cameras thus many repairers must create parts for cameras or remove old parts from old parts cameras on hand. Metalworking tools like lathes and grinding wheels are utilized to make new or replacement components.

Additionally, workers make repairs on digital cameras, which are gaining popularity. The repairs made on digital cameras and film cameras are quite comparable, with the major difference being digital cameras don’t use film and thus don’t have as many moving parts.

Watch and clock repairers typically work only on extremely old or pricey time devices, since others are cheaper to replace than to repair. Some time telling devices operate with no moving components, such as clocks powered by electricity or quartz wristwatches and clocks, making the maintaining them fairly simple as one must only replace the battery. However, antique and vintage time telling devices utilize old technology to operate a timepiece, such as watches that must be wound. These sorts of watches and clocks need periodic attention from repairers and servicers. To work on these timepieces repairers tools so that they can take apart the small gears and parts used. Repairers check each component in an attempt to locate worn parts. Surface areas of the wristwatch may need to be polished and buffed. The parts and components of these timepieces can be cleaned using a special device which uses ultrasonic waves and washes the parts with cleaning agents. As a watch is put back together, it will also require lubrication.

Old watches and clocks, similar to old cameras, do not have replacement parts readily available. To repair them, workers use small lathes and various other devices to produce small components needed to repair these old watches or clocks.

People who are both skilled in repair and love music might become musical instrument repairers and tuners. There are four areas of specialization that these technicians might work in. Work can be had dealing with band instruments, pianos and organs, violins, and guitars.

Repairers of band, brass, wind, and percussion instruments work on instruments that have been harmed or deteriorated. To locate the problem, repairers will play scales or mover around different mechanical components. They must take off old rod pins, cork pads, pistons, and keys, utilizing gas torches to take off any parts that are soldered on. Dents found in metal and wood instruments fixed using a mallet or filled in. The numerous tools that these workers use included grinding wheels, gas torches, lathes, shears, mallets and other small tools. Workers are highly skillful in working with metal and wood. Those who fix percussion instruments frequently must put on new drumheads that are cut animal hide.

Stringed instruments are repaired by violin repairers and guitar repairers. There are those workers who deal with more than one type of instruments, like stringed and band instruments. Repairers must play the instrument to begin with; then inspect it to locate problems. Parts that determined to be faulty or broken will be replaced or repaired. Additionally, repairers will restring instruments requiring this service and fix those that have a damaged surface or finish.

The job, including methods, skills and tools, of piano tuners and repairers is very comparable. The majority of these workers work as piano tuners, ensuring that pianos are tuned and carry out small repairs as needed. The objective of tuning is to gain the proper pitch and tone, and requires one to make various strings tighter or looser as needed. Typically tuners make visits to the customer’s home since pianos are not very portable. Other repairers concentrate on the restoration of pianos, which is very sophisticated and includes removing and install many of the 12,000 plus parts found in a piano. Some pianos can be maintained for 100 or more years, given proper care, handlings, and restoration as needed.

The work of pipe organ repairers is quite comparable to work of piano repairers, but the instruments they work on are much bigger. Besides performing repairs on organs, they also install and put together new ones. Pipe organs are too enormous to be moved, so they must be put together on location. Since some organs are extremely large, putting an organ together can last weeks or months, even when work is done in teams.

Electronic, electromechanical, and hydraulic equipment is often maintained, adjusted, calibrated, and fixed by medical equipment repairers and other precision instrument and equipment repairers. These repairers take advantage of tools like multimeters, special software, and computers which can communicate with select parts of hardware. They use some specialized equipment, like a device made to replicate water and air pressure. To make repairs and adjustments repairers use a variety of hand and electrical tools, including soldering irons. Malfunction parts, like bad circuit boards must be taken out and replaced with new ones. Repairers of medical equipment and precision instruments have to record all maintenance and repairs perform on each device.

Repairs who work on medical devices, other wise known as biomedical equipment technicians, might repair device like defibrillators, heart monitors, x rays, CAT scanners, ultrasound equipment, and electric wheelchairs.

These repairers might also work on a variety of other devices that are used by or related to automated or controlled production processes. For instance, in a power plant a precision instrument repairer might perform repairs and maintenance on instruments that control and track the plant’s operations, like gauges that monitor pressure and temperature. At times repairers must produce their own replacement components as often times replacement parts are unavailable. Parts must also be lubricated, cleaned, and adjusted regularly to prevent potential problems.

Precision Instrument Repair Career Training and Job Qualifications

To be a precision instrument and equipment repairer, typically a high school diploma is needed. Additionally, most firms favor those with postsecondary instruction. Many of the skills of the job will be learned as one works. One must be able to read and comprehend technical manuals as part of the job, as well as possess good visions and motor skills. These repairers need to also be very detailed, work as problem solvers, and have a passion of taking apart equipment and learning how it operates. Additionally, many precision equipment repairers have to work with little or no supervisory direction.

Educational requirements vary by employer, but a basic understanding of electronics is needed. Some repairers receive an education beyond high school, receiving associate degrees in this area. In addition to being good with ones hands, repairers must be able to comprehend electronic schematic diagrams as well as understand other technical specifications. Beginners receive on the job training separated into two different stages for the first year. For approximately 6 months entry level employees aid a senior repairer. For the next 6 months or so they practice what they have learned by independently making repairs. Additionally, repairers can further refine their skills and abilities by attending programs and seminars related to select products and models sponsored by manufacturers.

There is also a variety of different training programs for repairers of watches and clocks. There are many different certification programs offered by various organizations, such as the American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute (AWI) and the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors. Some programs for certification can be finished in mere months, requiring just a final exam, while other more extensive programs grant certification only after 3,000 hours, or 2 years of in class instruction and training. Training to be a watch repairer necessitates more time than it take to become a clock repairer, since watches have smaller parts which must be installed more precisely. There those repairers who will learn their job by observing and aiding more experienced worker fix watches. Regardless, becoming competent and efficient in watch or clock repair involves many years of schooling and work experience.

Employers of musical instrument repairers and tuners, look for applicants that have post-high school training in music repair technology. As reported by the Piano Technicians Guild, most members have some college education at the very least. The majority had achieved at least a bachelor’s degree, though not necessarily in music repair technology. The majority also had firm foundation in music. Though not absolutely necessary, being able to play instruments at a beginner’s level is useful. Instruction in instrument repair can be received from technical schools and colleges or via correspondence courses. After graduation, repairers also receive more training on the job, typically being mentored by a more experienced repairer. Some learned the tricks of the trade working as helpers or apprentices to experienced workers. Entry level employees take on many different duties at the repair shop. To become fully qualified as a repairer, anywhere from two to five years of experience and training is needed.

Training for medical equipment repairers is quite comparable. Education such as an associate degree in medical or electronics technology is very useful, though not absolutely necessary. The required training varies by specialty. For those with an understanding of electronics who are working on less important devices like hospital beds or wheelchairs will normally be trained on the job. Those working on more vital devices, such as CAT scanners and defibrillators, typically will need be well educated, with an associate or bachelor’s degree, be certified by passing an exam. A few repairers receive their training in the military. When repairers first start on the job, they will learn from and aid a senior worker for about 3 to 6 months. After time, repairers are allowed to work independently, but are still closely supervised.

Education required differs by occupations; almost all employers of repairers in other precision fields require at least a high school diploma, concentrated particularly on mathematics and science instruction. The majority of employers make the attainment of an associate or even bachelor degree a requirement. The degree must be based in instrumentation and control, electronics, or an associated engineering area, since workers must be able to comprehend blueprints, electrical schematic diagrams, and electrical, hydraulic, and electromechanical systems. On top of education requirements, most employers require one or two years of on the job experience before a repairer is deemed completely qualified. There are a few opportunities for promotion, but to become a supervisor one will need a bachelor’s degree.

Precision Instrument Repair Job and Employment Opportunities

There will be good chances for jobs for most of the different kinds of precision instrument and equipment repairer jobs. The rate of growth in employment is expected be slightly lower than the average for all jobs through 2012. However, it is important to note that expected growth rates differed by jobs.
The growth rate for medical equipment repairers should rise on pace with the average for all occupations through 2012. Growth in the healthcare market combined with the aging of the nation’s population will likely help spur the need for advanced medical equipment which will help spur the creation of new jobs for repairers.

However, growth in employment for musical instrument repairers is projected to grow slower than the average. Most opportunities will come as positions open up due to retirements. Though the population of school aged children is on the rise, and more and more children take a liking to music, this will help increase the need for repairers, yet music will still go head to head with other activities such as sports. If there is no growth in the number of beginning musicians, the demand for instrument rentals, purchases, and repair will be adversely affected. There are limited possibilities to get training in repair of musical instruments since only few schools offer such programs, thus those with training will be presented with good job prospects.

There is a projected negative growth in the number of camera and photographic equipment repairers employed. Employment as repairers in this industry had been adversely affected by the rise of cheap cameras, which are easy to replace altogether and very inexpensive as compared to repair costs. Advancements in digital camera technology have also adversely affected the opportunities for repairers. If a digital camera stops working properly, it is often cheaper to replace the camera with a newer model than to repair it, and the new model is always more advanced than the old model.

The growth in employment of watch repairers is projected to grow slower than the average. The need for watch repairers has decreased over the past few decades as advancements in technology like digital and quartz watches have cut into the need for repairs. In the past few years, this pattern has changed as repairs on expensive mechanical watches have required the expertise of repairers. Though the need for watch repairers has increased, not many new workers have started careers in this field. Good prospects should be available since there have been relatively few people entering this occupation and many older watch and clock repairers are close to retiring.

Just as employment growth for manufacturing industries is increasing at a pace slower than the average, the growth rate for precision instrument and equipment repairers working in that industry is also growing slightly slower than the average. Regardless, since very few people are expected to try and enter this field, and many openings will be created through retirement of current workers, the prospects in this field should be favorable.