September 1957 Radio & TV News
of Contents]These articles are scanned and OCRed from old editions of the Radio & Television
News magazine. Here is a list of the
Radio & Television News articles
I have already posted. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.
"Unprecedented openings for non-engineers result from industry growth
and shortage of skilled men." Thus goes the subtitle for a magazine
article pitching the promises of a career in electronics technology.
It came at a time that predated throw-away everything rather than attempting
to repair stuff. It was before the term 'personal device' (aka 'throw-away')
had been coined. It was before placards warning "No user serviceable
parts inside" were routinely stuck on practically every item purchasable
in a department store. It was a time when people took stuff apart to
see how it works, and were actually able to figure it out because parts
were large enough to see and actually moved, and even printed circuit
boards could be deciphered since trances were on the two outside surfaces
and components had leads. The radar systems I worked on while in the
USAF are a perfect example
of the transition between component level circuit repair and module/board
swapping. The 1950s-era vacuum tube portions with point-to-point wiring
required real troubleshooting and repair skills. The newer 1970s-era
transistorized IFF synthetic radar (the system that puts alphanumeric
squawk codes on the air traffic controllers' displays) were designed
to be troubleshot to the board level, but often if time permitted we
to the initiative and went onto the PCB. We figured if we ever found
ourselves in an actual battle situation with a crippled supply line
that it would be good o have honed the skill. Fortunately, our shop
NCOIC had the same philosophy. Yeah, I know, "Stop living in the past,"
you might say. I don't, and I enjoy the benefits of modern technology,
but I do miss some of the simplicity of yesteryear.
See all available vintage
Radio News articles.
Career Opportunities in Electronics
By Walter H. Buchsbaum
Television Consultant. Radio & TV News
Unprecedented openings for non-engineers result from industry growth
and shortage of skilled men.
Prospective field service engineers and technicians for Remington
Rand check and adjust computers and related equipment under
supervision during training period
The most serious obstacle to the current expansion of our technology
is the shortage of technically skilled people. Educators, industrialists,
and government officials are continually deploring the lack of engineers
and scientists, especially in those fields which have grown most rapidly.
The electronic industry has developed so fast since World War II that
the manpower problem is now quite acute.
In this field, the shortage of trained personnel is further aggravated
by the rapid growth of the industry and its branching out into so many
diversified fields. In 1938 the radio-receiver manufacturers were the
major employers of electronic engineers and technicians. Today aircraft
companies, business-machine manufacturers, and others dominate the employment
It is difficult for one not actively engaged in this gigantic, many-faceted
field to realize the tremendous variety of work going on. Some old-time
radio amateurs are amazed when they see a K-band radar unit or an industrial
heat-sealing machine and realize that, basically, these devices are
related to their own rigs. Hi-fi enthusiasts are often surprised to
learn that amplifier characteristics, similar to those in their home
music systems, are also measured in computing amplifiers, servo systems,
and radar display devices.
The current shortage of technical personnel in the electronics field
cannot be solved overnight by any magic formula. It can be relieved
gradually by increased emphasis on science teaching in elementary and
high schools, by an increase in various scholarships, and, of course,
by further improvement in the salary scale of both professional and
non-professional people. Engineering salaries have been increased considerably
during the past five years and the wages of technicians have risen similarly.
The trend has shown no signs of petering out.
This chart indicates the wide variety of career opportunities
open to technicians with electronics background and experience
but without degrees. Numbered grades are explained in text.
Much has been written recently about steps taken to increase the
supply of engineers. One of the most practical steps proposed has been
the use of the available engineers in the type of work for which they
are particularly qualified and only in those positions. This means that
posts have to be created for engineering aides, technicians, and other
personnel-people who have some but not necessarily all of the technical
qualifications of the engineer. Many companies have instituted reorganizations
in this direction. The "help wanted" ads in this magazine are witness
to this trend.
It is not enough to upgrade or relocate technicians and engineers
already employed in the industry. Rather, additional personnel is needed.
Some new employees are often recruited from the graduating classes of
technical schools on various levels, but a great source of skilled,
competent personnel still lies untapped. The circulation of this magazine,
for example, exceeds 250,000 copies a month. In this vast group alone
there will be some qualified individuals who are not yet employed in
the electronics industry. There may be many others who are working in
some branch where their skills are not fully realized. Those who have
some technical knowledge, but for one reason or another, are working
outside the industry; those who are dissatisfied with their present
positions in the industry; those who want to get ahead; those who are
thinking of entering the electronics field will all find some helpful
information in this article.
In the accompanying table, we have tried to show the variety of career
opportunities open to non-graduate personnel in the electronics industry.
Engineering graduates today are in a favorable position but technicians
have generally been wooed much less vigorously and only by a small segment
of the industry. For that reason many qualified non-engineers feel that
their services are not in demand or that only such popular fields as
TV servicing and hi-fi work are open to them. The table presented here
should serve to show the true possibilities for a career in electronics
for other than graduate engineers.
By common understanding, a graduate engineer is a person having at
least a bachelor degree in electrical engineering or some related field.
In the table, we have considered only those jobs which do not require
any college degree and which can be filled by persons with less knowledge
and experience. (In some positions, an engineering degree is preferred
but equivalent experience is acceptable. Such jobs have not been included.)
The table of career opportunities presented here is based on average
earnings and average ability. We know of many instances where non-graduates
have achieved high engineering status by practical knowledge, experience,
and outstanding ability, and now hold top positions in the electronics
industry. The same holds true for civil service, where tests are often
substituted for college education.
To give some idea of technical knowledge and its value in a job,
we have selected eight arbitrary levels of competence. It is assumed
that the knowledge or skills of lower levels are possessed by a person
rated at a higher competence level. When a technician is capable of
simple circuit design, for example, we assume he knows how to solder,
how to read the color codes, and understands basic radio theory.
Naturally the list cannot fit each individual exactly, nor are the
grades shown under "qualifications" in the table fixed. Often a person
of lower qualifications is accepted for a job because he shows promise
or is concurrently engaged in some study which will increase his knowledge.
Despite the fact that no absolute classification of qualifications
can be applied in every single case, the following eight-grade breakdown
for electronics personnel who do not have engineering degrees will be
extremely useful in most instances:
Grade 1 - Knows wiring and assembling; can operate simple machine
Grade 2 - Understands circuit diagrams; knows electrical components,
units, and systems of measurement.
Grade 3 - Knows radio theory as taught in trade schools; can service
equipment according to detailed instructions.
Grade 4 - Can construct and test simple devices from circuit diagrams.
Grade 5 - Can design simple circuits from technical texts; knows
algebra and trigonometry.
Grade 6 - Has graduated from a 2-year course at a technical institute.
Grade 7 - Has 5 or more years experience as a technician in lab work
or servicing or has equivalent military experience.
Grade 8 - Has 3 or more years experience as a junior engineer in
TV broadcast technicians and cameramen, as part of their
training, use mobile equipment during a practice pickup.
An engineer pans the camera of a self-contained flying TV
transmitting station built into the cabin of a helicopter.
Pre-flight check of air electronic gear.
A technician in a naval radio station operates code perforating
A sound technician, at work in a studio control booth, is
adjusting program material on a broadcast audio console.
George Bryan demonstrates an experimental model voice-operated
radio transmitter at the Signal Corps Engineering Laboratory.
The impact of the sound waves from a speaker's voice powers
the electronic signal. Jobs involving interesting new equipment
such as this transmitter are open in various branches of government
The grade into which an individual falls at this time is not necessarily
a permanent limitation to how far he can go: there are many ways in
which he can improve his qualifications while working at a particular
level so that he may pass on to higher positions, especially with prevailing
conditions in the industry. Many of the larger manufacturing and developing
firms conduct schools for technicians which, after a few years' work,
lead to better positions and even recognition as engineers. Most electronics
companies grant time off with pay for employees attending evening school.
Lockheed Aircraft, for example, permits qualified technicians to attend
college during two days a week while working the remaining time at regular
pay. Tuition for relevant courses is paid for entirely by many employers,
while others pay a portion of it.
Positions Not Listed
The positions listed in the table are by no means all that are available
in the industry, but rather the most common and most accessible jobs
have been selected. There is an entire range of jobs open in the electronic
sales field, for example. Here the important qualifications include
sales ability and some technical knowledge of product. The salesman
for a parts distributor will have to know something about electronics
in order to understand, at least roughly, what the various parts are.
When selling relays, the salesman should really know something about
relays as well as sales. Usually an alert person can learn enough about
a product in a short training period and, if he has sales ability, can
do very well.
Another area in the electronics industry in which many chances occur
is that involving various clerical and administrative functions. In
each instance, a knowledge of at least some branch of electronics is
helpful, but the major qualifications are of a different nature. The
expediter or general office worker who has some background, say, in
amateur radio, will easily fit into the purchasing, administrative,
or stock-control department of an electronic firm. Such positions generally
pay slightly better than general office work but, since they are not
really of a technical nature, we have omitted them from the table. We
have also omitted those positions which are found in any other manufacturing
or servicing firm, such as accountants, office managers, carpenters,
painters, machinists, and electricians.
In the table we have listed most of the active fields in the electronics
industry and have shown what positions, duties, and approximate wages
are offered in each. We have used the field of "Electronic Equipment
Manufacturer" to illustrate in some detail the various positions available
with companies making such specialized electronic equipment as business
machines, radio, hi-fi equipment, etc. The "Electronic Equipment Manufacturer"
may be a firm specializing in making test equipment for other manufacturers,
an aircraft firm now engaged in developing its own electronic flight
control equipment, or a division of a locomotive factory engaged in
making railroad electronic gear. It is impossible to list all types
of firms which have some electronics department, but it is a safe bet
that almost every sizable manufacturer in any field either has or soon
will have one. We know of textile firms which have electronic labs and
cigarette manufacturers, glass makers, lumber companies, food processors,
breweries, and practically every other industry have connections with
electronics today. In addition to the fields listed in the table, any
other company which has an electronics department will have jobs for
technically qualified personnel, but usually those companies cannot
offer the inexperienced person as much training or advancement as the
type of organization listed in the table.
A few words might be said about the annual income given in the table
for various positions. These figures are average and do not take into
account regional variations, overtime, travel pay, relocation allowances,
and other benefits. In general, the fringe benefits offered are very
similar throughout the industry. Hospitalization policies, insurance,
vacation, and sick leave are universal. In many places, tuition, retirement
funds, and additional insurance are provided.
There are two important occupations which require some knowledge
of electronics, but also lean heavily on other talents. One is that
of the technical writer, who is presently in short supply. This position
requires some technical knowledge and an ability to write factual accounts.
Straight forward exposition is more important than ability at fiction
or poetry. The other is that of draftsman. This usually requires that
the person has taken a course in drafting, at least. Some background
in mechanics often is helpful to obtain promotions from draftsman to
designer, a job usually performed by mechanical engineers in most manufacturing
How to Get Training
Enticing as the various career opportunities in the electronics industry
are, they cannot be achieved without some training. In general it is
safe to state that the more training a person has, the better his job
and the higher his pay will be. It is, as was shown before, often possible
to get additional training while working in the industry. However, in
order to start, some previous background is important. We know of one
young man who started 12 years ago as an assembler, being taught on
the job how to use a soldering iron, and gradually, through correspondence
school and, later, evening college, obtained a master's degree. He now
is a department head at a large military electronics firm. Such careers
are open to the ambitious and able person in almost any field, but the
rapid growth in the electronics industry tends to encourage such advancement.
To young people of high-school age we would advise, if possible,
attendance at a vocational high school. If this is not feasible, at
least take as many physics and mathematics courses as possible in the
school you are attending. Correspondence courses in radio and TV theory
are invaluable in getting started in this field, although they are of
less value to an employer if the applicant does not have any practical
experience to go with the theory. Today many firms realize that a person
who takes a correspondence course and then actually starts servicing
radio and TV sets shows not only technical ability but aptitude and
determination which recommend him for further training. Such courses
are a good start for an electronics career, but should be backed up
with practical experience as soon as possible.
An alternative to correspondence courses or supplementary to such
training is attendance at a trade school teaching some branch of electronics.
At the present time, there are a number of technical schools that offer
a six-month course in radio and an additional three-month course in
TV, coupled with construction and testing of actual receivers. Such
courses are particularly valuable for the person who did not graduate
from high school or whose aptitude for any form of mathematics is slight.
Technical institutes offer, in addition to shorter courses, a full
two-year course which is equivalent to at least two years of college
work. This type of education is just a little short of an actual engineering
degree in that it gives the student sufficient theoretical background
to understand almost all engineering literature and permits him to use
manuals and references for actual design of electronic equipment.
The graduate from one of these two-year technical-institute courses
will find ready employment and excellent prospects for advancement.
It should be pointed out, however, that this type of training introduces
the student to basic calculus, algebra, vector analysis, and complex
numbers as well as to electromagnetic theory, physics, and some optics.
In addition to technical institutes, there are also junior colleges
which offer two-year courses, some giving a degree of Associate in Science
at graduation. Another means of getting a technical background at a
higher level is provided by the engineering colleges which offer part
or all of their curriculum by mail, usually with some provision for
a short residence at school prior to graduation. Such training is generally
not accepted as equivalent to a full four-year engineering college,
but it will qualify the graduate for many good positions in the electronics
Many states sponsor or offer vocational training in some branch of
electronics and, depending on the length of study, the person graduating
from such a school will be qualified for various ones of the career
opportunities listed in the table. The electronics training offered
in the armed services is rather specialized, but gives a good background
and often serves as the stepping stone to further training and better
jobs. In some instances, it is possible to utilize military training
to the fullest by working for a firm which makes the type of equipment
for which the service training was given. We know of quite a few technicians,
field service engineers, and junior engineers who are currently working
for a civilian contractor on the same type of radar gear, fire control
systems, or other devices which they were taught to operate during their
Whatever the origins of a person's technical knowledge may be, unless
this knowledge is kept up-to-date, it can quickly become useless. The
old-time radio amateur will hardly recognize some of the subminiaturized
components, novel circuitry, and plug-in assemblies which make up transmitters
today, even though basic radio theory has not changed. Probably the
best way to keep abreast of new developments is by reading. Keeping
up with technical magazines, books, and manufacturers' literature is
indispensable for everyone in such a fast-moving industry. This is recognized
by management and it is customary to circulate periodicals and other
literature to all technical personnel. Most fair-sized companies maintain
technical libraries, and reading up on something is not considered a
sign of ignorance but rather an indication of professional procedure.
The value of studying textbooks at home, over and above any courses,
cannot be over estimated. Anyone in the electronics industry who wants
to get ahead should devote at least a few hours every week to reading
some technical literature. Aside from the direct information it presents,
it also trains the reader in the logical thinking required in any technical
In conclusion, we would like to urge those with some qualifications
who are not yet a part of electronics to enter it professionally, and
also encourage those who are in it already to investigate the possibility
of advancing themselves, for their own good and for that of the industry.
Our investigations indicate that your present work is not making full
use of your abilities and that you are ready to advance into more difficult
but also more satisfactory work. Support for this conclusion is provided
by the personnel manager of a well-known electronics firm: he confides
that 90 percent of all job applicants under-rate themselves as far as
technical ability is concerned. His estimate is substantiated by the
face that practically all technical people in his organization have
achieved substantial promotion during the first year. While increasing
technical knowledge is important to career development, the environment
for acquiring while working in the industry could not be more favorable
than it is now.
Editor's Note: Readers of this article will
also be interested in "Employment in the Computer Field" and "The Men
We Hire," which appear elsewhere in this issue.
Posted May 7, 2014