Due to the hands-on nature of electronics and electrical repair technology, distance programs in this field of study are rare. A small number of schools offer online certificate programs. Although some electronics technician jobs require only a high school diploma, many employers prefer to hire those who have completed a training program at a vocational or technical college. For online programs, students may be required to have access to computer simulation technology and may need a circuit kit to complete course requirements.
Online Electronics Technician Certificate Program Overview
Certificate and diploma programs for electronics technicians cover basic electronics theory, the design and testing of circuits and the use of diagnostic tools. Students discover the functions and limitations of various components while building and testing their own circuits and familiarizing themselves with a variety of electronics circuits and their applications.
Distance learning certificate programs in electronics technology vary in size and complexity. Most are fully remote and can take 8-24 months to complete 350 hours of work, or the equivalent of 18 semester credits. Most classwork is not-for-credit and will not count toward an associate's or bachelor's degree, but there are exceptions.
Distance learning courses in electronics technology are generally asynchronous, offering pre-recorded lessons online or on DVD, with online testing at the end of each subject module. Students can expect to build their own circuits using breadboards, preprinted circuit boards and kits. Some programs also supplement the hands-on learning experience by providing computer simulation technology as a test-bed for more exotic circuit and component experimentation.
Distance learning students need a computer with good multimedia capabilities and a high-speed Internet connection. Programs providing specialized software may not support both Windows and Mac computer platforms, so students are advised to verify hardware and software requirements with their schools' distance learning departments before making new purchases.
Common Electronics Courses
Students are allowed to complete modules at their own pace. Many classes include laboratory experiments, using electronic components and instruments supplied with the course materials, or on computer simulation software. Reference librarians, tutors and student advisors are available online or via e-mail to help students work through the course modules, complete experiments and prepare for tests. Classes can include:
Current, Voltage and Resistance
Students learn common electronics concepts like current, voltage, resistance, current flow and electron velocity. The course covers basic safety rules for working with different electrical sources, different wire gauges, proper soldering technique and the use of various meters and tools.
This course covers equations governing voltage, resistance and current in series and parallel circuits; students use breadboards to complete experiments which explore the balance of electronic forces. Subjects include voltage polarity, fuses and switches, Kirchhoff's law and Ohm's law.
Alternating Voltages and Currents
Students study circuits that produce various alternating voltages and currents and review their uses and limitations. Lab experiments help students determine the frequency, wavelength and period of various waveforms.
This course reviews the physics behind the PN junction, along with applications in modern semiconductor technology. Students build their own diode-based rectifiers in the labs; they also create circuits using zener, varactor and light-emitting diodes.
Students compare the functions of analog and digital converters and use AC operational amplifiers in lab work to mix, filter and demodulate signals. Lab work explores configurations like inverting and non-inverting amplifiers, comparators and summing amplifiers.
Career Information for Electronics Technicians
Electronics technicians may find work wherever electronics devices are manufactured, installed or repaired. Technicians often perform repetitive assembly or testing tasks in manufacturing environments. In some cases, technicians performing installations or repairs need experience in basic carpentry or the construction trades to access or install the electronics components.
The number of jobs for electrical and electronics installers and repairers is projected to experience a decline of 1% from 2018-2028 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). The median hourly wage for this sector was $27.83 as of May 2018.
Continuing Education and Certification Information
The Electronics Technicians Association International (ETA) offers 50 test-based certification programs based upon levels of knowledge and experience in different electronics subject areas. Certificate-holders must complete ten hours of continuing education each year to maintain certification. The ETA also rates the ability of schools and programs to prepare graduates for its various certificate exams.
Certificate programs can provide a thorough background for students who continue on to earn a degree in specialized electronics applications like avionics, robotics or electromechanics.
There are a number of distance learning certificate programs that will prepare individuals to work as electronics technicians, though individuals should keep in mind that the credits earned in these programs are likely not transferrable to more advanced bachelor's and associate's degrees.