Career Guides

Career Guide for Computer Repairmen

A computer, and other office equipment, repairman installs and fixes a variety of business machines. Computer service technicians often work in a variety of customer sites fixing computers and servers.

In this free career guide, you will learn how to have a successful career as a computer repairman.

Computer Repairman Summary

  • Employment is expected to decline slowly.
  • Job prospects will be best for applicants with knowledge of electronics, certification, formal training, and repair experience.
  • Workers qualify for these jobs by receiving training in electronics from associate degree programs, the military, vocational schools, equipment manufacturers, or employers.

Working as a Computer Service Technician

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.

Work environment. Repairers usually work in clean, well-lighted surroundings. Because computers and office machines are sensitive to extreme temperatures and humidity, repair shops usually are air-conditioned and well ventilated. Field repairers must travel frequently to various locations to install, maintain, or repair customers’ equipment. ATM repairers may have to perform their jobs in small, confined spaces that house the equipment.

Because computers and ATMs are critical for many organizations to function efficiently, data processing equipment repairers and ATM field technicians often work around the clock. Their schedules may include evening, weekend, and holiday shifts, sometimes assigned on the basis of seniority. Office machine and cash register servicers usually work regular business hours because the equipment they repair is not as critical. Most repairers work about 40 hours per week, but about 9 percent work more than 50 hours per week. Although their jobs are not strenuous, repairers often must lift equipment and work in a variety of postures. Repairers of computer monitors need to discharge voltage from the equipment to avoid electrocution.

Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement

Knowledge of electronics is required, and employers prefer workers with formal training. Office machine and ATM repairers usually have an associate degree. Certification is available for entry-level workers and experienced workers seeking advancement.

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.

Employment as a Computer Service Technician

Computer, automated teller, and office machine repairers held about 152,900 jobs in 2008. Wholesale trade establishments employed about 29 percent of the workers in this occupation; most of these establishments were wholesalers of professional and commercial equipment and supplies. Many workers also were employed in electronics and appliance stores and office supply stores. Others worked in electronic and precision equipment repair shops and computer systems design firms. About 20 percent of computer, automated teller, and office machine repairers were self-employed.

Job Outlook

Employment is expected to decline slowly. Opportunities will be best for applicants with knowledge of electronics, formal training, and repair experience. Employers increasingly prefer applicants who are certified.

Employment change. Employment of computer, automated teller, and office machine repairers is expected to decline by 4 percent from 2008 to 2018. Less expensive and more reliable computer equipment is expected to result in fewer computer repairers. Nonetheless, some computer repairers will be needed as malfunctions still occur and can cause severe problems for users, most of whom lack the knowledge to make repairs. Additionally, computers are critical to most businesses today and will become even more so as companies increasingly engage in electronic commerce, and as individuals continue to bank, shop, and pay bills online.

Employment growth of ATM repairers will be impeded as a result of newer technology which allows for the testing and resetting of machines remotely. The relatively slow rate at which new ATMs are installed will also limit demand for ATM repairers, despite a greater reliance on these machines by consumers.

Fewer office machine repairers will be needed as office equipment is often inexpensive and increasingly replaced instead of repaired. However, digital copiers and some newer office machines are more costly and complex. This equipment is often computerized, designed to work on a network, and capable of performing multiple functions. But because this equipment is becoming more reliable, the need for repairers will continue to decline.

Job prospects. Job prospects are expected to be limited as newer equipment continues to require less maintenance and repair. As a result, the vast majority of job openings will stem from the need to replace workers who retire or leave the occupation for other reasons. Those with knowledge of electronics, certification, formal training, and repair experience will have the best prospects.

A growing number of new ATMs called electronic kiosks offer non-traditional retail services, such as employee information processing and ticket redemption, in addition to banking transactions. Candidates who have expertise in the installation, maintenance, and repair of such equipment will also have better job prospects.

Projections Data

Projections data from the National Employment Matrix
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2008 Projected
Employment, 2018
Number Percent
Computer, automated teller, and office machine repairers 49-2011 152,900 146,200 -6,700 -4
NOTE: Data in this table are rounded.

Earnings for Computer Repairmen

Median hourly wages of computer, automated teller, and office machine repairers were $18.18 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $14.17 and $23.20. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $11.14, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $28.41. Median hourly wages in the industries employing the largest numbers of computer, automated teller, and office machine repairers in May 2008 were:

Computer systems design and related services $19.87
Professional and commercial equipment and supplies merchant wholesalers 19.12
Office supplies, stationery, and gift stores 17.40
Electronic and precision equipment repair and maintenance 17.03
Electronics and appliance stores 15.67