Technical careers for 21st century students

11/27/2011  |  OLIVIA SELLKE
Technical Career Options for Students

Not long ago when people spoke about technical careers it was inclusive of anything from an electrician to a mechanic. Today, technical careers are evolving to include a wide variety of careers that are not only technical but technology-based. As technology continues to advance the question becomes, how do we prepare students for that next generation of technology-based careers?

There is an ongoing need for training to adapt to new technology, and a qualified workforce is always in demand to install these new technologies. As early technology becomes mature, a new technology trend emerges creating a demand. Consider the advances in the past 10 years, VHS to DVD, DVD to Blu-Ray, and now Blu-Ray to high definition streaming.

Technology-based careers are always evolving and a career as an electronic systems technician (EST) is no exception. On Monday an EST could be installing the latest 3D projector, on Wednesday she could be networking a home media system and by Friday she could be showing clients how they can reduce their energy costs. Help your students find a career that puts their love of technology to practical use.

How To Approach Students About a Career as an EST

In the early days, industry pioneers were finding creative ways to distribute audio around the home, and route IR control so that handheld remotes would work ... well ... remotely. Around the same time, a brand new idea started emerging, the home theater. It didn’t take long for the industry to grow to include a wide variety of different technologies and subsystems, most of which had one thing in common; they were based on signals that were low-voltage and did not require a licensed electrician to install them.

Today ESTs get to work with the latest technology and can pursue careers in a variety of fields. The current emphasis on streaming media, alternative energy and energy management only further drives the demand for qualified entry level employees to install, upgrade and service these technologies.

Once certified, ESTs have a variety of careers available to them in many different areas, including Residential A/V, IT, Commercial A/V, Security, Green Technology, Telecom, and much more. Take for example these three career options that all begin with an entry level EST certification.

Electronic Systems Technician — These individuals install, upgrade and service electronic systems in the field. Most begin under supervision, doing basic pre-wiring and other fundamental tasks. As ESTs gain experience they work on their own, do final installation, setup, and calibration. Income for experienced ESTs in 2010 ranged from $35,000 to $45,000 based on company size, years in business, location and experience.

Project Manager — In this industry, attention to detail and programming skills warrant higher pay and more responsibility. ESTs can continue to advance as they gain experience into roles such as project management. Project management is the key to optimizing efficiency and profit within a company. Many successful companies lean heavily on their project managers. Income for project managers in 2010 ranged from $50,000 to $65,000 based on company size, years in business, location and experience.

Control System Programmer — These individuals work on the “behind the scenes” communication that makes integration and automation happen. They actively participate in electronic systems design, engineering, and/or documentation and are responsible for pre-sale design of new systems. The career potential in this role is constantly growing. In 2010, control system programmer income ranged from $50,000 to $60,000 based on company size, years in business, location and experience.

As students advance through additional training, certification, and on-the-job experience, there will be many opportunities for them to move into positions with more responsibility, and of course, a higher pay range. Within a few years, an entry-level technician may be performing final installations, programming control systems, training other employees, or doing system design. It all depends on the student’s ambition, willingness to learn and general professionalism.

In addition to the positions shown, electronic systems contractor companies often employ IT specialists, marketing personnel, and sales representatives — all of whom benefit from fundamental EST knowledge and skills. A technician who has a strong background in electronics is a very valuable commodity in today’s workplace and will be in even more demand as technology becomes absolutely essential to everything we do. Additional training and certification in computer and networking is also a huge plus when entering the job marketing.

Electronic Systems Professional Alliance (ESPA) certification is the foundation for a 21st century career as an electronic systems technician. It is a starting point that opens doors to a variety of different careers in low voltage industries. Most people who are now lead technicians, project managers, and control system programmers started as basic ESTs and kept learning more, and working their way up into positions of more responsibility. Most business owners, sales personnel, and managers have this fundamental knowledge under their belts.

Help Encourage the Next Generation of Electronic Systems Technicians

A survey of seasoned ESTs, conducted by ESPA, asked participants about their career and training experience and found several important factors including the need for schools to do a better job of priming the EST workforce.

Less that two percent of survey respondents cited a teacher or course in school as their primary motivation for beginning a career in the electronic systems industry. How can we inspire students to pursue an EST career if they don’t have the teachers or programs in school that motivate them to pursue 21st century jobs?

Curriculum that serves as a gateway for students to gain the fundamental knowledge needed to pursue a career as an EST is available through ESPA. The ESPA curriculum was created and vetted by a group of industry experts, aimed at an individual with zero to 12 months of job experience in the electronic systems industry. ESPA’s program is made up of five domains:

  • Electrical Basics
  • Tools
  • Construction Methods and Materials
  • Wiring and Installation Practices
  • Standards, Codes and Safety Practices.

Once students complete the five domains as needed, they will be better prepared to sit for the ESPA certification exam.

The ESPA Certification exam tests the student’s knowledge in these fundamental areas. Pre-test assessments, exam blue prints and review sessions are available through ESPA to help students prepare for the exam. Scholarships are also available to cover the cost of the ESPA Certification exam.

Upon passing the ESPA Certification exam, students are given a complimentary one year student membership to CEDIA and NSCA which offer discounts on continuing education, access to job boards and more.

CEDIA, NSCA and CEA memberships are comprised of over 8,000 companies with varying focuses within the electronics systems industry. These companies represent a wide set of job opportunities for the newly certified and entry level technicians.

Olivia Sellke is the Public Relations and Marketing Assistant for ESPA. Learn more about ESPA at An archived webinar about Careers in the Electronic Systems industry is also available under the “Schools” tab on the ESPA Web site. For more information contact [email protected].
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