Most instrument technician jobs fall mainly into two fields: medical and electrical. While there is a wee bit of overlap between the two fields (for example, both usually require the ability to operate in fast-paced environments), in most respects, the two are very different jobs indeed.
For starters, the medical instrument technician is responsible for the sterilization of operating room instruments between procedures. This implies knowledge of sterilization processes, as well as how to operate the various types of machinery used. While a high school diploma is usually the most basic requirement for this position, there is also an Instrument Technician Certification which is given preference by many employers.
On the other hand, an electronic instrument technician is usually required to have a two year degree or certificate in an electrical or instrument discipline, a journeyman’s electrician certificate or equivalent military training. In addition, there are many different manufacturers of electrical instruments that the technician may be required to maintain, so familiarity or certification in the brands used by a given company is also an important distinguishing factor.
While the medical instrument technician will almost invariably have an indoor work environment, the electronic instrument technician may work in a variety of environments, from indoor offices to busy construction sites. The most common work site is probably the manufacturing floor, which may be climate controlled or not, depending on the type of facility.
Work hours are actually similar for the two fields, because both hospitals and manufacturing facilities tend to operate on 24-hour schedules. Thus there can be a considerable amount of variability in shift availability and coverage, though entry-level instrument technicians are placed more often into second and third shift work, with more experienced techs garnering the first shift hours.
Instrument Technician Tasks
- Respond to outages and problems promptly and document root causes.
- Maintain, repair, and troubleshoot instrumentation.
- Audit and maintain spare parts inventory and manage documentation around instruments.
- Calibrate temperature, pressure, flow, or other characteristics of instruments.
- Assemble, disassemble, and test parts of instruments.