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Maintenance Technician: Turn Machinery Into a Career

If you enjoy working with your hands, building things, and getting dirty, a career in the trades may be right for you. Learn all about the diverse world of maintenance technology, what maintenance tech jobs look like and how to become a maintenance technician. 

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Why Industrial Maintenance?

Industrial maintenance is an overarching act of keeping machinery used in a variety of professional settings running. Maintenance technicians are effectively mechanics specializing in large-scale machinery. But there are a number of jobs that fall into the world of industrial maintenance. These can include but are not limited to:

  • Industrial Maintenance Mechanic 
  • Industrial Engineers
  • Industrial Mechanic
  • Maintenance Technicians
  • Maintenance Planners
  • Maintenance Supervisors
  • Millwrights

Each role is unique, for example a mechanic may be responsible for installing and dismantling equipment, whereas a technician may only be in charge of repairs and upkeep. These roles will vary depending on the organization you work for. 

Industrial maintenance, sometimes called plant maintenance, touches a variety of industries and enterprises because it encompasses most large-scale machinery. This means there are likely jobs available across industries. 

What Does a Maintenance Technician Do?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) industrial machinery mechanics and industrial machinery maintenance workers maintain and repair factory equipment such as conveyor belts, production machinery, and packaging equipment. Millwrights, which the BLS groups with industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers, install, dismantle, repair, reassemble and move machinery in factories, construction sites, and other industrial areas.1

According to the BLS some typical job duties of industrial machinery mechanics, machinery maintenance workers, and millwrights can include:1

  • Read technical manuals to understand equipment and controls
  • Disassemble machinery and equipment when there is a problem
  • Repair or replace broken or malfunctioning components
  • Perform tests and run initial batches to make sure that the machine is running smoothly
  • Detect minor problems by performing basic diagnostic tests
  • Test malfunctioning machinery to determine whether major repairs are needed
  • Adjust and calibrate equipment and machinery to optimal specifications
  • Clean and lubricate equipment or machinery
  • Move machinery and equipment

A major difference between industrial maintenance mechanic job descriptions and those of machinery maintenance workers is the level of repairs, according to the BLS.1 Maintenance mechanics do basic maintenance and repairs on machines. They clean and lubricate machinery, perform basic diagnostic tests, check the performance of the machine, and test damaged machine parts to determine whether major repairs are necessary. Major repairs are typically performed by an industrial maintenance mechanic.

Maintenance Technician Skills

While many skills to work in industrial maintenance will be learned both on the job and in formal training, there are some inherent skills that may make you more suited for the job. Just like someone working in medicine should not be afraid of blood, there are some qualities that make for a better industrial maintenance worker. 

According to O*NET Online, a website managed by the U.S. Department of Labor, here are some skills and qualities that an industrial machinery mechanic may possess:2

  • Troubleshooting — Determining causes of operating errors and deciding what to do about it.
  • Quality Control Analysis — Conducting tests and inspections of products, services, or processes to evaluate quality or performance.
  • Equipment Selection — Determining the kind of tools and equipment needed to do a job.
  • Complex Problem Solving — Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
  • Judgment and Decision Making — Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.
  • Information Ordering — The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations).
  • 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.
  • Inductive Reasoning — The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
  • Selective Attention — The ability to concentrate on a task over a period of time without being distracted.

Start Your Career in Maintenance Technology

Carrington College focuses on small class sizes and hands-on training. Here you’re more than a face in a room. Take the first step on your way to a new career in maintenance technology.

Maintenance technician training hands on at school

Why Become a Maintenance Technician

Industrial maintenance technology as an industry is one that may provide many benefits. Manufacturing in the United States has been steadily increasing in recent years. In January 2019, there were 12.84 million manufacturing jobs in America. Comparatively, in November 1949, there were 12.88 million manufacturing workers, which accounted for 30% of the workforce excluding farm workers.3 After years of declines, U.S. manufacturing jobs steadily climbed through 2018 and 2019.

For industrial machinery mechanics, machinery maintenance workers, and millwrights, the BLS projects employment to grow 13% from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations.4

When broken out by specific job title, industrial machinery mechanics are expected to grow 16%, machinery maintenance workers are expected to grow 6% and millwrights are expected to grow 7% between 2019 and 2029. That represents an estimated 62,300; 4,500 and 3,400 jobs added, respectively.

According to the BLS, the growth of industrial machinery jobs can be attributed to the growing popularity of automated manufacturing machinery. This more advanced machinery, much of which is controlled by computers, will require more maintenance workers to keep them operating. Additionally, the continued use of conveyors to move products and materials in factories lead to a higher demand of industrial maintenance workers, since conveyors use belts, motors, and rollers that all need regular care and maintenance.4

Industrial Machinery Mechanic Pay

Of course, when considering a new career, you may take into account pay. Industrial maintenance salary varies depending on exact job title and geographic location. According to the BLS, the median annual wage for industrial machinery mechanics, machinery maintenance workers, and millwrights was $52,860 in May 2019.5

Meaning maintenance technician salary should be in that area. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10% earned less than $33,760, and the highest 10% earned more than $79,150.

When broken out by individual job title, median annual wages in May 2019 were:5

    • Millwrights $55,560
    • Industrial machinery mechanics $53,590
    • Maintenance workers, machinery $47,520

According to the BLS, in May 2019, these were the top industries in which industrial machinery mechanics, machinery maintenance workers, and millwrights worked as well as their median annual wages:5

  • Manufacturing $53,130
  • Construction $52,860
  • Wholesale trade $51,410
  • Commercial and industrial machinery and equipment (except automotive and electronic) repair and maintenance $48,350

Best States to Work as an Industrial Machinery Mechanic

As mentioned above, industrial maintenance salaries will vary depending on employment levels and geographic area. Some states may pay better or have more job opportunities than others.

In May 2019, states with the highest employment level of industrial machinery mechanics, machinery maintenance workers, and millwrights, according to the BLS:6

State Employment Employment per thousand jobs Hourly mean wage Annual mean wage 
Texas 41,370 3.33 $27.29 $56,770
California 27,170 1.56 $29.83 $62,050
Michigan 22,670 5.22 $25.18 $52,370
Ohio 20,980 3.85 $26.22 $54,530
Pennsylvania 18,220 3.09 $25.65 $53,350

 

According to the BLS, as of May 2019, the top-paying states for industrial machinery mechanics, machinery maintenance workers, and millwrights were:6

State Employment  Employment per thousand jobs Hourly mean wage Annual mean wage 
Wyoming 2,520 9.22 $33.09 $68,830
Hawaii 500 0.79 $32.75 $68,120
District of Columbia 230 0.32 $32.06 $66,680
North Dakota 2,260 5.35 $31.88 $66,310
Connecticut 2,650 1.59 $31.55 $65,630

 

Where Can I Work as an Industrial Machinery Mechanic 

As mentioned, while the BLS classifies industrial maintenance workers as industrial machinery mechanics, machinery maintenance workers and millwrights, there are a number of job titles and places one can work with a background in industrial maintenance. 

Some industrial maintenance technician jobs and job titles to look out for include:

  • Maintenance technician
  • Heavy machinery mechanic
  • Millwright
  • Production supervisor
  • Hydraulic technician
  • Machine operator
  • Plant electrician

As far as industries are concerned, a variety of industries use industrial machinery as part of their process. Obviously, manufacturing is a major part of industrial maintenance but companies like Amazon, Tesla and other tech giants also have a need for machinery maintenance workers. There may even be industrial maintenance services you can look into working for. 

How to Become a Maintenance Technician

There are a few pathways to becoming an industrial maintenance technician, but here are some common steps for how to become an industrial maintenance technician. 

  • Get educated. A GED or high school diploma is generally recommended to become a maintenance technician but additional schooling may be helpful. You can attend a certificate of completion or associate degree program at a community college or vocational school. Obtaining a certificate or degree could make you more competitive when searching for your first industrial maintenance job. 
  • Gain experience. Industrial machinery mechanics and machinery maintenance workers typically receive more than a year of on-the-job training. As different employers likely use different machinery, it may be helpful to gain experience with specific machines even after your education. Some jobs require an industrial maintenance test to prove aptitude when applying, which may make formal training beneficial.
  • Continue to hone your skills. Industrial maintenance is a varied career. Continued work experience and ongoing education may help. 

Do I Need to Do an Industrial Maintenance Apprenticeship?

An industrial maintenance apprenticeship is not required, and in fact, formal education may be preferable. By signing on as an industrial maintenance apprentice, you are entirely relying on on-the-job industrial maintenance training, which can be costly and time consuming for an employer. 

Some industrial maintenance jobs, like millwrights, have unions and formal apprenticeship programs, so it is an option to consider. 

Industrial maintenance certification does not require an apprenticeship but it is an option. 

Can I Study Industrial Maintenance Technology Online?

Industrial maintenance technology is a hands-on job. You’ll need to learn how to properly care for and maintain major machinery, which is something that should be practiced as well as studied in theory. It is unlikely you can complete an industrial maintenance degree online.

Discover Your Career as a Maintenance Technician

Carrington College’s Maintenance Technology Program offers you the hands-on training you need for a job in maintenance. Take the first step on your way to a new career.

How to Choose a Maintenance Technician Program

Choosing a Maintenance Technician program to attend is a big decision and every school is going to say their program is the best. It’s important that you evaluate different programs to make sure they fit your needs and will help your individual career best. 

Some things you may want to look for when choosing a maintenance technician program include:

  • Small class sizes. You will be learning how to handle large machines and electricity. Individual attention from your instructor can help ensure safety and better mastery. 
  • Hands-on training. Whether you are cleaning, lubricating or starting, it’s important that you have time to practice those skills hands-on. 
  • Externships or career training. Most programs include an opportunity to learn in the real world before you even graduate! You’ll earn an impressive experience that looks great on your resume.
  • Cost. Education is a major investment, but it’s an investment in your future. At Carrington College and many other institutions, we participate in most financial assistance programs, both federal and state, as well as private financing. Student loans, grants, and scholarships are available to those who qualify. For complete information on current tuition costs, please see the academic catalog.

Why Get a Maintenance Technician Associate Degree

While both an industrial maintenance certification program and a degree may offer the same career training, there can be benefits to earning your associate degree. A maintenance technician associate degree includes all the hands-on training you need for a career in industrial maintenance in addition to coursework for general studies in topics like math, writing and science. Having an associate degree as compared to a certificate may open more doors as you have additional training and a more well-rounded education. 

What Will I Learn in a Maintenance Technician Program at Carrington College?

There are a variety of courses you can take in Carrington College’s Maintenance Technician program. Some sample courses you may take include: 

IT 101 Basic Industrial Electricity This seven-part course discusses the elements and applications of electricity that are common to any industrial facility. In strict accordance with the National Electric Code, this course will introduce students to electrical theory with an emphasis in those energy sources developed for commercial and manufacturing use.

IT 201 Programmable Logic Controllers This course presents basic concepts and applications of programmable logic controllers (PLCs) such as the PLC language, performing installation and diagnostic functions, using program tools, basic communications and logic operations. The practical instruction of this course is performed with Allen Bradley equipment and RSLogix software, both of which are predominantly used within the manufacturing industry. 

IT 120 Fluid Power This course presents basic concepts and operation of fluid power, demonstrating knowledge in maintenance, safety, and troubleshooting. Students will perform fluid power operation in the use of hydraulic power systems, symbols and schematic interpretation, industrial hydraulics, pressure control valves, directional control valves, check valves, flow control valves, actuators, pumps, oil conditioners and measuring instruments. 

Learn More About Maintenance Technician Training at Carrington College

Maintenance Technician at Carrington College is taught by faculty with real-world experience at our Trades Education Center in Phoenix. Students use our facilities to get hands-on experience in how to work with different machinery components.

Learn more about the Maintenance Technician program and request more info.  

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