SMT Operator: Job Outlook and Career Info for Becoming a SMT Operator

SMT operators require little formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and certification options to see if this is the right career for you.

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SMT operators work with surface mount technology to ensure circuit boards and other devices using electronic circuits are assembled correctly. The minimum education requirement for entry-level positions is a high-school diploma. Some positions may require an associate's degree.

Essential Information

Surface mount technology (SMT) is used to create electronic circuits that can be described as surface-mount devices (SMD). SMT operators ensure that devices are created and maintained correctly and operate SMT machines. To become an SMT operator, one needs training or experience in electronics, and a high school diploma at the minimum.

Required Education High school diploma; some positions might require an associate's degree
Other Requirements SMT experience or military training in electronics; certification is available through the Surface Mounted Technology Association (SMTA)
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) -5% (for all electrical and electronic equipment assemblers)*
Median Salary (2016) $34,225**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **

Career Information

SMT operators monitor, maintain and adjust equipment that's used to create electronic circuits with surface mount technology (SMT). This technology, in which electronic components are mounted directly onto circuit boards, is used in industries ranging from auto manufacturing to specialty electronics. SMT operators work with surface mount technology (SMT) equipment used in electronic circuit manufacturing. By using equipment such as SMT stencils and foils, soldering equipment and 'pick and place' machines, SMT operators ensure the proper assembly and placement of components onto circuit boards, such as those used in computers. They also calibrate equipment to meet production schedules and maintain quality control.

Education and Training

Most employers of SMT operators require a minimum of a high school diploma combined with SMT experience or equivalent military training in electronics; however; some may prefer an associate degree in electronics or electrical design. These programs are often offered at community colleges and include coursework in math, electricity, digital electronics, physics, circuitry, programming, industrial safety, fabrication techniques and data communications. Students also get hands-on training working with electronics.

Essential Skills

SMT operators must have mechanical assembly skills and soldering ability, a working knowledge of equipment used in SMT operation and an understanding of electronics. They must be team players with strong communication skills and the ability to meet deadlines in a fast-paced environment. SMT operation requires good eyesight, hand and finger dexterity and the ability to perform repetitive tasks. Computer proficiency and familiarity with word processing and spreadsheet programs may also be required by some employers.


The Surface Mounted Technology Association (SMTA) offers certification to SMT professionals planning to work as assembly managers, or in the areas of production, design or testing. In addition to a minimum of two years of work experience in SMT manufacturing, the SMTA recommends the completion of two years of college for certification. Certification also requires strong analytical, math and problem-solving skills.

Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a five percent decline for electrical and electronic equipment assemblers throughout the 2014-2024 decade. This decline is due improved efficiency in the manufacturing industry, which has led to a need for fewer workers. Automation has also contributed to this field's decline. Job opportunities should be strongest for SMT operators with advanced technical skills, training and experience; SMTA certification may also improve prospects for career advancement. As of January 2016, reported that SMT machine operators earned a median salary of $34,225, with most making between $25,137 and $53,582 a year.

SMT operators need to have at least a high school diploma and some experience with SMT to get started, but can benefit from an associate's degree in electronics or electrical design. SMTA certification, which requires two years of work experience, can also help to increase job prospects.

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