Training requirements include a high school diploma and, in
most cases, postsecondary education, coupled with significant
Good opportunities are expected for most types of jobs.
Overall employment is expected to grow about as fast as average,
but projected growth varies by detailed occupation.
About 1 out of 6 are self-employed.
Nature of the Work
Repairing and maintaining watches, cameras, musical instruments,
medical equipment, and other precision instruments requires a
high level of skill and attention to detail. For example, some
devices contain tiny gears that must be manufactured to within
one one-hundredth of a millimeter of design specifications, and
other devices contain sophisticated electronic controls.
Camera and photographic equipment repairers work through
a series of steps in fixing a camera. The first step is determining
whether a repair should be attempted, because many inexpensive
cameras cost more to repair than to replace. Of the problems for
which repair seems worthwhile, the most complicated or expensive
are referred back to the manufacturer or to a large repair center.
If the repairers decide to proceed with the job themselves, they
diagnose the problem, often by disassembling numerous small parts
in order to reach the source. They then make needed adjustments
or replace a defective part. Many problems are caused by the electronic
circuits used in cameras, and fixing these circuits requires an
understanding of electronics. Camera repairers also maintain cameras
by removing and replacing broken or worn parts and cleaning and
lubricating gears and springs. Because many of the components
involved are extremely small, repairers must have a great deal
of manual dexterity. Frequently, older camera parts are no longer
available, requiring repairers to build replacement parts or to
strip junked cameras. When machining new parts, workers often
use a small lathe, a grinding wheel, and other metalworking tools.
Repairs on digital cameras are similar to those on conventional
cameras, but because digital cameras have no film to wind, they
have fewer moving parts. Digital cameras rely on software, so
any repair to the lens requires that it be calibrated with the
use of software and by connecting the camera to a personal computer.
Watch and clock repairers work almost exclusively on expensive
and antique timepieces, because moderately priced timepieces are
cheaper to replace than to repair. Electrically powered clocks
and quartz watches and clocks function with almost no moving parts,
limiting necessary maintenance to replacing the battery. Many
expensive timepieces still employ old-style mechanical movements
and a manual or automatic winding mechanism. This type of timepiece
must be regularly adjusted and maintained. Repair and maintenance
work on a mechanical timepiece requires using handtools to disassemble
many fine gears and components. Each part is inspected for signs
of wear. Some gears or springs may need to be replaced or machined.
Exterior portions of the watch may require polishing and buffing.
Specialized machines are used to clean all of the parts with ultrasonic
waves and a series of baths in cleaning agents. Reassembling a
watch requires lubricating key parts.
As with older cameras, replacement parts are frequently unavailable
for antique watches or clocks. In such cases, watch repairers
must machine their own parts. They employ small lathes and other
machines in creating tiny parts.
Musical instrument repairers and tuners combine their
love of music with a highly skilled craft. Often referred to as
technicians, these artisans work in four specialties: Band instruments,
pianos and organs, violins, and guitars.
Band instrument repairers, brass and wind instrument repairers,
and percussion instrument repairers focus on woodwind, brass,
reed, and percussion instruments damaged through deterioration
or by accident. They move mechanical parts or play scales to find
problems. They may unscrew and remove rod pins, keys, worn cork
pads, and pistons and remove soldered parts by means of gas torches.
Using filling techniques or a mallet, they repair dents in metal
and wood. These repairers use gas torches, grinding wheels, lathes,
shears, mallets, and small handtools and are skilled in metalworking
and woodworking. Percussion instrument repairers often must install
new drumheads, which formerly were cut from animal skin, but now
are made exclusively from Mylar® and other synthetic materials.
Violin and guitar repairers adjust and repair stringed instruments.
Some repairers work on both stringed and band instruments. Initially,
repairers play and inspect the instrument to find any defects.
They replace or repair cracked or broken sections and damaged
parts. They also restring the instruments and repair damage to
their finish. Because the specifications of all types of instruments
vary greatly, custom parts machining is considered an essential
Piano tuners and repairers use similar techniques, skills, and
tools. Most workers in this group are piano tuners, tuning and
making minor repairs. Tuning involves tightening and loosening
different strings to achieve the proper tone or pitch. Because
pianos are difficult to transport, tuners normally make house
calls. Some repairers specialize in restoring older pianos. Restoration
is complicated work, often involving replacing many of the parts,
which number more than 12,000 in some pianos. With proper maintenance
and restoration, pianos often survive more than 100 years.
Pipe organ repairers do work similar to that of piano repairers,
but on a larger scale. In addition, they assemble new organs.
Because pipe organs are too large to transport, they must be assembled
onsite. Even with repairers working in teams or with assistants,
the organ assembly process can take several weeks or even months,
depending upon the size of the organ.
Medical equipment repairers and other precision instrument
and equipment repairers maintain, adjust, calibrate, and repair
electronic, electromechanical, and hydraulic equipment. They use
various tools, including multimeters, specialized software, and
computers designed to communicate with specific pieces of hardware.
Among their specialized tools is equipment designed to simulate
water or air pressure. These repairers use handtools, soldering
irons, and other electronic tools to repair and adjust equipment.
Faulty circuit boards and other parts are normally removed and
replaced. Medical equipment repairers and other precision instrument
repairers must maintain careful, detailed logs of all maintenance
and repair that they perform on each piece of equipment they work
Medical equipment repairers, often called biomedical
equipment technicians, work on medical equipment such as defibrillators,
heart monitors, medical imaging equipment (x rays, CAT scanners,
and ultrasound equipment), voice-controlled operating tables,
and electric wheelchairs.
Other precision instrument and equipment repairersservice,
repair, and replace a wide range of equipment associated with
automated or instrument-controlled manufacturing processes. A
precision instrument repairer working at an electric powerplant,
for example, would repair and maintain instruments that monitor
the operation of the plant, such as pressure and temperature gauges.
Replacement parts are not always available, so repairers sometimes
machine or fabricate a new part. Preventive maintenance involves
regular lubrication, cleaning, and adjustment of many measuring
devices. Increasingly, it also involves solving computer software
problems as more control devices, such as valves, are controlled
by or linked to computer networks. To adjust a control device,
a technician may need to connect a laptop computer to the control
device’s computer and make adjustments through changes to the
Camera, watch, and musical instrument repairers work under fairly
similar solitary, low-stress conditions with minimal supervision.
A quiet, well-lighted workshop or repair shop is typical, while
a few of these repairers travel to the instrument being repaired,
such as a piano, an organ, or a grandfather clock. Often, these
workers can adjust their schedules, allowing for second jobs as
needed. Musical instrument repairer jobs are attractive to many
professional musicians because the flexible hours common to repair
work allow musicians to do the work while still maintaining a
regular performing schedule.
Medical equipment and precision instrument and equipment repairers
normally work daytime hours, but are often expected to be on call.
Still, like other hospital and factory employees, some repairers
work irregular hours. Precision instrument repairers work under
a wide array of conditions, from hot, dirty, noisy factories,
to air-conditioned workshops, to the outdoors on fieldwork. Attention
to safety is essential, as the work sometimes involves dangerous
machinery or toxic chemicals. Due to the individualized nature
of the work, supervision is fairly minimal.
Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement
Most employers require at least a high school diploma for beginning
precision instrument and equipment repairers. Many employers prefer
applicants with some postsecondary education. Much training takes
place on the job. The ability to read and understand technical
manuals is important. Necessary physical qualities include good
fine-motor skills and acute vision. Also, precision equipment
repairers must be able to pay close attention to details, enjoy
problem solving, and have the desire to disassemble machines to
see how they work. Most precision equipment repairers must be
able to work alone with minimal supervision.
The educational background required for camera and photographic
equipment repairers varies, but some knowledge of electronics
is necessary. A number of workers complete postsecondary training,
such as an associate degree, in electronics. The job requires
the ability to read electronic schematic diagrams and comprehend
other technical information, in addition to manual dexterity.
New employees are trained on the job in two stages over about
a year. First, they learn to repair a single product over a couple
of weeks. Then, they learn to repair other products and refine
their skills for 6–12 months while working under the close supervision
of an experienced repairer. Finally, repairers continually teach
themselves through studying manuals and attending manufacturer-sponsored
seminars on the specifics of new models.
Training also varies for watch and clock repairers. Several associations,
including the American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute and the
National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, offer certifications.
Some certifications can be completed in a few months; others require
simply passing an examination; the most demanding certifications
require 3,000 hours, taken over 2 years, of classroom time in
technical institutes or colleges. Those who have earned the most
demanding certifications are usually the most sought after by
employers. Clock repairers generally require less training than
do watch repairers, because watches have smaller components and
require greater precision. Some repairers opt to learn through
assisting a master watch repairer. Nevertheless, developing proficiency
in watch or clock repair requires several years of education and
For musical instrument repairers and tuners, employers prefer
people with post-high school training in music repair technology.
According to a Piano Technicians Guild membership survey, the
overwhelming majority of respondents had completed at least some
college work; most had a bachelor’s or higher degree, although
not always in music repair technology. Almost all repairers have
a strong musical background; many are musicians themselves. Also,
a basic ability to play the instruments being repaired is normally
required. Courses in instrument repair are offered only at a few
technical schools and colleges. Correspondence courses are common
for piano tuners. Graduates of these programs normally receive
additional training on the job, working with an experienced repairer.
Many musical instrument repairers and tuners begin learning their
trade on the job as assistants or apprentices. Trainees perform
a variety of tasks around the shop. Full qualification usually
requires 2 to 5 years of training and practice. Musical instrument
repair and tuning requires good manual dexterity, an “ear” for
pitch and tone, and good hand-eye coordination. While piano tuning
requires good hearing, it can be performed by the blind.
Medical equipment repairers’ training includes on-the-job training,
manufacturer training classes, and associate degree programs.
While an associate degree in electronics or medical technology
is normally required, training varies by specialty. For those
with a background in electronics, on-the-job training is more
common for workers repairing less critical equipment, such as
hospital beds or electric wheelchairs. An associate or even a
bachelor’s degree, often in medical technology or engineering,
and a passing grade on a certification exam is likely to be required
of persons repairing more critical equipment, such as CAT scanners
and defibrillators. Some repairers are trained in the military.
New repairers begin by observing and assisting an experienced
worker over a period of 3 to 6 months, learning a single piece
of equipment at a time. Gradually, they begin working independently,
while still under close supervision. Biomedical equipment repairers
are constantly learning new technologies and equipment through
seminars, self-study, and certification exams.
Educational requirements for other precision instrument and equipment
repair jobs also vary, but include a high school diploma, with
a focus on mathematics and science courses. Because repairers
need to understand blueprints, electrical schematic diagrams,
and electrical, hydraulic, and electromechanical systems, most
employers require an associate or sometimes a bachelor’s degree
in instrumentation and control, electronics, or a related engineering
field. In addition to formal education, a year or two of on-the-job
training is required before a repairer is considered fully qualified.
Many instrument and equipment repairers begin by working in a
factory in another capacity, such as repairing electrical equipment.
As companies seek to improve efficiency, other types of repair
workers are trained to repair precision measuring equipment. Some
advancement opportunities exist, but many supervisory positions
require a bachelor’s degree.
Precision instrument and equipment repairers held 62,000 jobs
in 2004. Employment was distributed among the detailed occupations
Medical equipment repairers
Precision instrument and equipment repairers,
Musical instrument repairers and tuners
Camera and photographic equipment repairers
Medical equipment repairers often work for hospitals or wholesale
equipment suppliers, while those in the occupation “all other
precision instrument repairers” frequently work for manufacturing
companies and wholesalers of durable goods. About 1 out of 6 precision
instrument and equipment repairers was self-employed—they may
own jewelry, camera, medical equipment, or music stores.
Good opportunities are expected for most types of precision instrument
and equipment repairer jobs. Overall employment growth is projected
to be about as fast as the average for all occupations over the
2004–14 period; however, projected growth varies by detailed occupation.
Job growth among medical equipment repairers should be about
as fast as the average for all occupations over the projection
period. The rapidly expanding healthcare industry and elderly
population should spark demand for increasingly sophisticated
medical equipment and, in turn, create good employment opportunities
in this occupation.
By contrast, employment of musical instrument repairers is expected
to increase more slowly than the average. Replacement needs are
expected to provide the most job opportunities as many repairers
and tuners retire. School budget cuts to music programs—specifically,
stringed-instrument programs—should hurt the outlook for musical
repairers. With fewer new musicians, there will be a slump in
instrument rentals, purchases, and repairs. Because training in
the repair of musical instruments is difficult to obtain—there
are only a few schools that offer training programs, and few experienced
workers are willing to take on apprentices—opportunities should
be good for those who receive training. Schools report that their
graduates easily find employment.
Employment of camera and photographic equipment repairers is
expected to decline. The popularity of inexpensive cameras adversely
affects employment in this occupation, as most point-and-shoot
cameras are cheaper to replace than repair.When a camera
breaks, not only is replacing the camera often not much more expensive
than repairing it, but the new model is also far more advanced
than the old one. However, consumers are spending more on high-end
digital cameras than they did on conventional cameras in the past,
which should make repairing the cameras more economical.
Employment of watch repairers is expected to increase more slowly
than the average. Over the past few decades, changes in technology,
including the invention of digital and quartz watches that need
few repairs, caused a significant decline in the demand for watch
repairers. In recent years, this trend was somewhat reversed,
as the growing popularity of expensive mechanical watches increased
the need for these repairers. Nonetheless, few new repairers entered
the field. Thus, the small number of entrants, coupled with the
fact that a large proportion of watch and clock repairers are
approaching retirement age, should result in very good job opportunities
in this field.
The projected slower-than-average employment growth of other
precision instrument and equipment repairers reflects the expected
lack of employment growth in manufacturing and other industries
in which they are employed. Nevertheless, good employment opportunities
are expected for these workers due to the relatively small number
of people entering the occupation and the need to replace repairers
The following tabulation shows median hourly earnings for various
precision instrument and equipment repairers in May 2004:
Precision instrument and equipment repairers,
Medical equipment repairers
Camera and photographic equipment repairers
Musical instrument repairers and tuners
Earnings ranged from less than $7.94 for the lowest 10 percent
of musical instrument repairers and tuners to more than $32.32
for the highest 10 percent in the occupation “all other precision
instrument and equipment repairers.
Earnings within the different occupations vary significantly,
depending upon skill levels. For example, a lesser skilled watch
and clock repairer may simply change batteries and replace worn
wrist straps, while a highly skilled watch and clock repairer
with years of training and experience may rebuild and replace
Many precision instrument and equipment repairers work with precision
mechanical and electronic equipment. Other workers who repair
precision mechanical and electronic equipment include computer,
automated teller, and office machine repairers and coin, vending,
and amusement machine servicers and repairers. Other workers who
make precision items include dental laboratory technicians and
ophthalmic laboratory technicians. Some precision instrument and
equipment repairers work with a wide array of industrial equipment.
Their work environment and responsibilities are similar to those
of industrial machinery installation, maintenance, and repair
workers. Much of the work of watch repairers is similar to that
of jewelers and precious stone and metal workers. Camera repairers’
work is similar to that of electronic home entertainment equipment
installers and repairers; both occupations work with consumer
electronics that are based around a circuit board, but that also
involve numerous moving mechanical parts.
Sources of Additional Information
For more information about camera repair careers, contact:
National Association of Photographic Equipment Technicians
(NAPET), 3000 Picture Pl., Jackson, MI 49201.
For information on musical instrument repair, including schools
offering training, contact:
National Association of Professional Band Instrument Repair
Technicians (NAPBIRT), P.O. Box 51, Normal, IL 61761. Internet:
For additional information on piano tuning and repairwork, contact:
Piano Technicians Guild, 4444 Forest Ave., Kansas City, MO
66106. Internet: http://www.ptg.org/
For information about training, mentoring programs, employers,
and schools with programs in precision instrumentation, automation,
and control, contact:
ISA-The Instrumentation, Systems, and Automation Society,
67 Alexander Dr, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709. Internet:
For information about watch and clock repair and a list of schools
with related programs of study, contact:
American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute (AWI), 701 Enterprise
Dr., Harrison, OH 45030-1696. Internet: http://www.awi-net.org/
For information about medical equipment technicians and a list
of schools with related programs of study, contact:
Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation
(AAMI), 1110 North Glebe Rd., Arlington, VA 22201-4795. Internet:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational
Outlook Handbook, 2006-07 Edition