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Did you know?*
- Instrument Mechanics learn in apprenticeship programs, informally on the job, in vocational high schools, and in community or technical colleges.
- Instrument Mechanics work in various manufacturing industries, including paper and wood mills, food processing, breweries, electronics, metal fabrication, and more.
- Although overall employment is projected to decline, job opportunities are expected to be good due to retirements occurring in the skilled workforce.
* Information retrieved from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Instrument Mechanics are highly skilled individuals who safely install, calibrate, test, adjust, troubleshoot and repair electronic equipment, such as industrial controls, transmitters and antennas.
While some of the controls and systems may be similar, Instrument Mechanics must understand their unique properties, and must constantly learn new systems.
Before they perform a task, Instrument Mechanics must carefully plan and prepare for the work. They review electronic or written blueprints or specifications for a job; determine which tools and material are needed; and then plan the sequence of work.
Their work typically falls into one or more of the following categories:
- Process Measuring or Indicating Devices
Installing, troubleshooting, repairing, and calibrating the following:
- Pressure/vacuum guages and transducers
- Temperature sensing devices and flow measuring devices
- Pressure, level and pneumatic transmitters
- Chart drives and chart recorders
- Other indicator/controllers
- Distributive Control Systems and Programmable Logic Controllers
Installing, troubleshooting, repairing, fine tuning and either programming or comprehending the programming of such systems.
- Process Actuators
Installing, troubleshooting, repairing, and calibrating the following:
- Control valves
- Drive systems
- Electric actuators
- Blue Print Reading
Comprehending and interpreting the following:
- Ladder logic
- Process and instrument diagrams
- Utilizing Calibration and Test Equipment
- Utilizing proper safety equipment and Personal Protective Equipment
- Adhering to employer, local, state and federal safety procedures and regulations
- Computer Literacy
- Utilizing data communications media
- Utilizing basic computer skills
After the work is completed, Instrument Mechanics use both simple and highly sophisticated tools to check the accuracy of their work against blueprints.
Because technology is changing rapidly, Instrument Mechanics must continuously learn a wide range of machines.
Today, most modern industrial facilities are relatively clean, well lit, and ventilated. Instrument Mechanics are typically not limited to a specific work area; rather, they are highly mobile and active throughout the facility, going wherever their skills are needed. However, they must be able to stand for long periods of time and work in cramped or uncomfortable positions and on ladders and lifts. They often work with their hands above their heads, in confined spaces and in a variety of conditions and temperatures, both hot and cold.
Working around machines and equipment and with high voltage presents certain dangers. Instrument Mechanics must vigilantly follow safety precautions, and wear personal protective equipment to avoid common hazards.
Instrument Mechanics typically work a 40-hour week, and overtime is common.
Knowledge & Training
Persons interested in becoming Instrument Mechanics should be mechanically inclined, have good problem-solving abilities, be able to work independently, and be able to do highly accurate work that requires concentration and physical effort.
Instrument Mechanics train in apprenticeship programs, informally on the job, and in technical colleges. Regardless of the training setting, Instrument Mechanics must possess or gain the following knowledge:
- High school diploma, General Equivalency Deiploma (GED) or high school equivalency certificate
- Using and maintaining tools
- Applied mathematics, especially algebra and geometry
- Computers and electronics, such as basic computer functions and programming, and circuit boards, processors and chips
- High pressure safety policies and procedures
High school or vocational school courses in algebra and geomtery, blueprint reading, and electronics are highly recommended.
Apprenticeship programs consist of on-the-job learning and related classroom instruction lasting up to 4 years. During on-the-job learning, apprentices work almost full time, and are supervised by an experienced Instrument Mechanic. Classroom instruction includes electronics, process measurements, controllers, safety, blueprint reading, and more. Apprenticeship classes are often taught in cooperation with local community or vocational colleges.
A growing number of Instrument Mechanics learn the trade through 2-year associate degree programs at community or technical colleges. Graduates of these programs still need significant on-the-job experience before they are fully qualified.
What Does the Apprenticeship Program Require?
- 4-year training program
- 7,600 hours on-the-job learning
- 720 hours of paid related instruction
- Additional hours of unpaid related instruction
- Transition-To-Trainer Course in the final year of the apprenticeship
- High school diploma or equivalent
- Entry requirements vary by employer
- Applicants apply directly to participating employers
- Active Listening: Ability to give full attention to what other people ar saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
- Arm-Hand Steadiness: Ability to keep your hand and arm steady while moving your arm or while hodling your arm and hand in one position
- Communication: Oral and written with an emphasis on understanding verbal instructions, written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.
- Manual Dexterity: The ability to quickly move your hand, your hand together with your arm, or your two hands to grasp, manipulate, or assemble objects.
- Mathematical Skills: Ability to add, subtract, multiply, and divide in all units of measure using whole numbers, common fractions, and decimals; ability to compute basic algebraic, geometric, and trigonometric formulas used in shop mathematics.
- Near Vision: The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
- Physical Ability: The ability to stand, walk, push, pull, reach overhead, and bend to the floor.
- Problem Sensitivity: The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing there is a problem.
- Reasoning: The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense. The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
- Time Management: Ability to manage one's own time and the time of others
- Troubleshooting: Ability to determine causes of operating errors and decide what to do about it
- Trunk Strength: The ability to use your abdominal and lower back muscles to support part of the body repeatedly or continuously over time without 'giving out' or fatiguing.
- Visual Color Discrimination: The ability to match or detect differences between colors, including shades of color and brightness.
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics maintains information on all occupations. For more information on the Instrument Mechanic trade in the United States, visit:
Sources: Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards Position Descriptions,
Apprenticeship in Wisconsin Handbook