How to Become a Computer Operator: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a computer operator. Research the education requirements, training and experience you will need to start a career as a computer operator.

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Should I Become a Computer Operator?

Computer operators monitor computer hardware systems to ensure that they are processing accurate data for the institution they are enlisted to support. Computer operators also maintain peripheral devices to assure that they work correctly. A large number of industries employ computer operators, including scientific institutions, engineering facilities and businesses. This career is often a stepping stone for positions in software engineering and computer programming. Computer operators often spend many hours sitting at a desk.

Career Requirements

To get started in this career, a high school graduate can earn an associate's degree. While it's not strictly required, many employers prefer an associate's as well as about 1-2 years of experience. The key skills that a computer operator will need are time management, operation and control, critical thinking, complex problem solving, active listening, monitoring, reading comprehension, and operation monitoring. The must also have the ability to use database user interface and query software, network monitoring software, object- or component-oriented software and operating system software. In May 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that computer operators made a median annual salary of $40,420.

Steps to Becoming a Computer Operator

Step 1: Gain Technical Knowledge

Education requirements to become a computer operator vary by employer. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), it is possible to begin this career with only a high school diploma. However, high school graduates who are successful in this field typically come into the job market with knowledge of how to maintain computers, data processing machinery and peripherals. One method of gaining technical knowledge without a degree is to attend technology seminars.

To really shine in the field, earn a degree. Technical schools, community colleges and some computer manufacturing companies offer the necessary training to get ahead in this profession. Most associate's degrees in computer science typically include classes in web authoring, databases, programming, database management systems, algorithms and data structures.

Step 2: Seek Employment

Employment opportunities for computer operators can be found in many fields, including data processing services, finance, insurance and government. Depending on the staffing needs of the employer, computer operators may work a flexible shift, which may include nights, weekends or holidays.

It's important to gain on-the-job experience. Some employers offer computer operators on-the-job training in their specific software and hardware programs.

Step 3: Advance in the IT Field

To advance to a higher-paying position, such as software developer or computer analyst, computer operators usually need to obtain a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field. Because this particular field deals with computers, professionals who want to keep a competitive edge typically take classes throughout their career in order to stay up-to-date with the changes and advancements technology is continually facing.

It could also be beneficial to join a professional organization. The Association of Information Technology Professionals offers conferences, continuing education events, scholarships and networking opportunities to its members. Participation in a professional organization may lead to increased expertise and greater professional opportunities.

To review, with a high school diploma, possibly a degree, some work experience and extensive knowledge of computers, computer operators can make about $40,000 a year to monitor and support computer operating systems in a company.

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