Electronics Career Field Structure
The products made by the electronics industry can be divided into four basic categories: government products, industrial products, consumer products, and electronic components. The first category, government products, represents a high percentage of sales in the industry. Missile and space guidance systems, communications systems, medical technology, and traffic control devices are just a few of these high-priced, high-tech products.
The second category covers industrial products, which include large-scale computers, radio and television broadcasting equipment, telecommunications equipment, and electronic office equipment. Industrial products also include testing and measuring instruments, industrial control and processing equipment, electronic instruments for nuclear work, and radiation detection devices.
The third category, consumer products, is the most commonly known area within the electronics industry and includes such things as wireless phones, compact disc players, DVD players, televisions, radios, video games, and VCRs. Other consumer products are personal computers, Personal Digital Assistants, electronic ovens, and home intercommunication and alarm systems.
The fourth category is made up of the small pieces that all electronics are made of: components. Integrated circuits, capacitors, switches, transistors, relays, microchips, television picture tubes, and amplifiers are among the most widely known.
Electronic components usually are classified in three broad groups: electron tubes, semiconductors, and passive components. Tubes include receiving, television picture, and various power and special-purpose tubes. Principal semiconductor devices are integrated circuits, microprocessors, transistors, diodes, and rectifiers. Passive components include capacitors, resistors, transformers, relays, connectors, and switches.
Because of its dependence on technology and the need to keep abreast of technical progress, electronics manufacturing provides a large number of opportunities for engineers and scientists. In 2004, more than 30 percent of individuals working in the electronics industry were in professional specialty occupations, primarily electrical and electronics engineers. About 6 percent of those employed in the electronics industry are technicians, mostly engineering technicians, who work closely with engineers. Today, there is strong growth in companies doing research and development in areas such as telecommunications, computers, and biomedical and medical engineering.
Although electronics employs a high number of professional and technical workers, more than three out of 10 workers in this field are in production. Many are assemblers, who put together the various parts of an electrical device. Other production workers inspect and test equipment before it is shipped out. About 14 percent of the jobs in this field are executive, managerial, and administrative, and the remainder are clerical and sales and service positions.
The principal unions involved in electronics manufacturing are the International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried, Machine, and Furniture Workers; International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers; and United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America.