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Trades Careers: How to Work as a Maintenance Technician

Industrial machinery mechanics repair and maintain factory equipment and other industrial machinery.1 Industrial maintenance technology has its basis in engineering, and industrial maintenance technicians should be familiar with hydraulic, pneumatic, and electrical systems as well as computers.2 

Entry into the field of industrial maintenance may be made through higher education, a certificate, or an apprenticeship.

Learn more about industrial maintenance training, jobs, salary, and other important facts.

What is Industrial Maintenance?

Industrial maintenance involves applying best practices to increase equipment uptime in manufacturing. When industrial maintenance, or plant maintenance, techs keep equipment working as required, manufacturers can optimize the production phase of the supply chain.4

Manufacturers know that keeping a team of experts for industrial maintenance services is crucial for running an efficient plant.

What Does an Industrial Maintenance Mechanic Do?

Industrial maintenance mechanics work in a variety of fields, all centered on machinery. They perform basic maintenance and repairs on machines. They check the performance of machinery, clean and lubricate them, perform basic diagnostics, and test damaged machine parts to determine whether major repairs are necessary.3

Machinery maintenance workers are tasked with following machine specifications and must adhere to maintenance schedules.

Day to day, an industrial maintenance mechanic job description may include being required to:4

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

Skills for Maintenance Technicians

Besides mechanical abilities and familiarity with tools and industrial equipment, industrial mechanics should be able to display these skills:6

  • Attention to detail – They must be familiar with the routine operation of manufacturing equipment and quickly spot unusual occurrences. They must keep accurate and clear records of repairs, routine industrial maintenance testing, and troubleshooting.
  • Information technology – They should be familiar with cross-team communication, database upkeep, logs, and reporting.
  • Proactivity – They should be prepared to anticipate ongoing needs, carry out preventative checks and routine inspections, see potential issues, and take corrective measures. They may also be required to keep a stock of spare parts, ordering and replacing as necessary.
  • Problem-solving – They must be able to work independently, knowing, or being able to source information to resolve issues with machinery. They may have to identify, isolate, and repair issues based on reports from other teams.
  • Teamwork – They must be able to work with a maintenance team and others across the company to keep manufacturing line downtime to a minimum.
  • Time management – They must be able to plan and execute routine maintenance activities within deadlines. They also must be able to respond quickly to troubleshooting requests and unexpected equipment issues.
  • Verbal communication – They must be able to interpret maintenance issue reports and provide clear instruction or update about interventions or repairs.
  • Written communication – They must be able to read and interpret maintenance documentation, manuals, and plans. They will also be required to keep documentation up to date to ensure compliance with internal and external manufacturing guidelines.

Why Become a Maintenance Technician

A love of working with your hands and an interest in machinery are good reasons to become an industrial maintenance technician. The job prospects for such workers are also another good reason.

Overall employment of industrial machinery mechanics, machinery maintenance workers, and millwrights is expected to grow by 13% until 2029, much faster than the national average for all occupations.6 The growth in automated manufacturing machinery will keep the need for maintenance techs high, especially for applicants with a broad range of skills in machine repair.

Industrial Machinery Mechanic Salary

The pay for industrial machinery mechanics, machinery maintenance workers, and millwrights nationally was $52,860 in May 2019.7 The top industries and best industrial maintenance salaries are illustrated below.

Industry Median annual wage
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

 

Here are the top five states for employment of industrial machinery mechanics, machinery maintenance workers, and millwrights, the numbers employed and their annual pay.8

State Jobs Median annual wage
Texas 6,860 $45,760
California 6,740 $56,370
North Carolina 4,720 $43,510
Oklahoma 4,600 $50,210
Pennsylvania 4,190 $47,800

 

California is home to some of the highest pay and highest employment for industrial machinery mechanics, machinery maintenance workers and millwrights. Here are lists of the top 10 metropolitan areas for industrial maintenance jobs and pay as of May 2019, per the BLS.8

Top paying metropolitan areas

Metropolitan area Employment Annual mean wage
Florence, SC 90 $83,250
Vallejo-Fairfield, CA 70 $71,680
San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA 50 $68,380
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 300 $67,210
Savannah, GA 110 $65,710
Anchorage, AK 60 $63,810
Richmond, VA 210 $63,520
Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, SC-NC 40 $63,260
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA 670 $63,090
Urban Honolulu, HI 40 $62,280

 

Metropolitan areas with the highest employment level

Metropolitan area Employment Annual mean wage 
Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI 2,380 $53,340
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA 2,010 $58,000
New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA 1,940 $57,450
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 1,640 $46,680
Tulsa, OK 1,300 $48,990
Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC 1,190 $45,620
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA 1,090 $54,830
Oklahoma City, OK 1,020 $43,590
Pittsburgh, PA 970 $44,110
Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD 950 $45,730

Find Your Path in Maintenance Technology

SJVC is committed to hands-on training in the skills you need as a maintenance technician. Learn more about our program and exciting opportunities.

Where Can I Work as an Maintenance Mechanic 

Maintenance on industrial equipment can include everything from ball bearings and air tools, through compressors and valves, to bulldozers and cement mixers. Industrial equipment is used in most industries, so the job opportunities for maintenance technicians are in many different fields.

Here are some of the most common industries with industrial maintenance jobs.9 

  • Aviation – Machinery used to construct aircraft must be evaluated constantly, maintained, and repaired as needed. Industrial maintenance technicians are needed to keep the machines running at optimum output at all times.
  • Construction – Machines in construction are observed, inspected, and adjusted constantly. Sometimes, technicians will need to repair or replace tool or vehicle parts to prevent downtime and keep operations running.
  • Electronics – With the growth of modern electronics, there is a strong need for industrial technicians inspecting and repairing machines that produce them. To ensure that these parts are assembled properly, industrial maintenance technicians are deployed along the production line.
  • Energy – This is a broad category including gas, electric, mining, and the oil industry. Production of power is a key industry in the economy, and the need for industrial maintenance technicians is vital. 
  • Food – Food that ends up in grocery stores has been processed through factories. Some is canned or bagged, some is in cartons or jars, but each is part of a process overseen by industrial maintenance technicians.  
  • Manufacturing – From small appliances to automobiles to even larger equipment, dozens of machines are involved in the manufacturing process, overseen by maintenance technicians. 

How to Become a Maintenance Technician

Maintenance technicians are usually required to have at least a high school diploma or equivalent. Many complete a two-year associate industrial maintenance degree, with or without an apprenticeship.

Industrial machinery maintenance workers typically receive more than a year of on-the-job training, learning how to perform routine tasks, such as setting up, cleaning, lubricating, and starting machinery. They also may be instructed in subjects such as blueprint reading, computer programming, electronics, proper hand tool use, shop mathematics, and welding. This training may be offered on the job by professional trainers working for employers or by representatives of equipment manufacturers.10

Do I Need to do an Industrial Maintenance Apprenticeship?

Employers, local unions, contractor associations, and state labor departments often sponsor apprenticeship programs, but they are not typically required of industrial maintenance techs.10 Most employers prefer a formal education, such as an associate degree.

How to Become a Maintenance Technician

Maintenance technicians are usually required to have at least a high school diploma or equivalent. Many complete a two-year associate industrial maintenance degree, with or without an apprenticeship.

Industrial machinery maintenance workers typically receive more than a year of on-the-job training, learning how to perform routine tasks, such as setting up, cleaning, lubricating, and starting machinery.

They also may be instructed in subjects such as blueprint reading, computer programming, electronics, proper hand tool use, shop mathematics, and welding. This training may be offered on the job by professional trainers working for employers or by representatives of equipment manufacturers.10

Do I Need to do an Industrial Maintenance Apprenticeship?

Employers, local unions, contractor associations, and state labor departments often sponsor apprenticeship programs, but they are not typically required of industrial maintenance techs.10 Most employers prefer a formal education, such as an associate degree.

How Should I Choose a Maintenance Technician Program?

A formal education in industrial maintenance may be a good stepping stone to a job in a major industry. Selecting the right industrial maintenance school is a key move.

When choosing a school to earn an industrial maintenance degree, there are a few things you should consider:

  • Cost – Finding a school within your budget is also important. Visit SJVC’s Net Price Calculator to get personalized information on college costs and financial aid. To find out more about program costs by campus and credential level, check out SJVC’s Consumer Information.
  • Job connections – Schools should be ready to help graduates with employment services. SJVC offers a Career Services department that may help you find a job in your career field. 
  • Location – School should be at a location convenient to you. SJVC’s Maintenance Technician program is offered at these campuses:

Other points to consider include class size and instructor experience. Contact your prospective school with your questions. Request more information from San Joaquin Valley College. 

Why Get a Maintenance Technician Associate Degree

More school is generally more advantageous if you’re looking to start a career. Many studies over the years have shown that those with a college degree may earn as much as 75% more money in their lifetime than those without a degree.11

Industrial maintenance certificate programs may take only several months. An associate degree in Industrial Maintenance may take up to two years but will give you broader knowledge with which to begin your career.

What Will I Learn in the Maintenance Technician Program at SJVC?

Students in the Maintenance Technician program at San Joaquin Valley College will be required to take, among others, these courses:

  • Industrial Electricity – The elements and applications of electricity are common to any industrial facility. This course will introduce electrical theory with an emphasis in energy sources developed for commercial and manufacturing use, in strict accordance with the National Electric Code.
  • Programmable Logic Controllers – The basic concepts and applications of PLCs such as their language, performing installation and diagnostic functions, using program tools, basic communications, and logic operations are introduced in this course. 
  • Power Transmission – The maintenance, operation, troubleshooting, and safety of machinery, industrial drive gears and gear systems, industrial bearings, coupling and shaft joining devices are covered in this course.
  • Hydraulics – Installation, operation, maintenance, and troubleshooting hydraulic systems. The techniques and knowledge you will learn here are applicable across all maintenance technician fields, from aviation to industrial!

Learn More About Maintenance Technician Training at SJVC

San Joaquin Valley College’s Maintenance Technology program provides students fundamental, hands-on training on industrial systems and equipment. Industrial maintenance certification programs may be finished in about seven months or an Associate of Science Degree in about 14 months.

San Joaquin Valley College’s Maintenance Technician program is offered at campuses in Bakersfield, Fresno Trades Education Center, Modesto, Ontario and Visalia.

Visit https://www.sjvc.edu/admissions/consumer-information/ for important information on program outcomes.

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