Computer Operator: Salary and Career Facts

Explore the career requirements for computer operators. Get the facts about education requirements, key skills, job outlook, and salary information to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Industrial Technology Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is a Computer Operator?

Computer operators are in charge of overseeing computer systems to make sure that everything is running smoothly. They may work at computer terminals to monitor the operations of equipment, and keep an eye out for problems. This involves interning commands and responding to error messages. In the event of a problem they may inform management and find solutions to program errors. You may also assist computer users over the phone. The following chart gives you an overview about entering this field.

Education Required High school diploma or GED; postsecondary certificate preferred
Education Field of Study Computer science, information science, computer operations
Key Skills Computer literacy, data entry, problem-solving, analytical
Job Growth (2014-2024) -19%*
Median Salary (2015) $40,420*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Does a Computer Operator Do?

Computer operators are employed by a wide range of businesses that need to maintain secure computer networks. Sometimes, the bulk of the job is performed in main rooms known as data centers. However, many modern computer systems manage themselves and no longer operate from a mainframe. In either scenario, your job as a computer operator is primarily to be a system administrator.

What Education Do I Need?

For the majority of computer operations positions, all you will need is a high school diploma or a GED to qualify. On-the-job training and certification is often mandatory, and of course previous experience is always an asset. However, education programs do exist, and these programs may increase your chances of gaining employment and a higher entry-level wage in the field.

If you are looking to go to school, there are certificate programs in computer operations and, though a bit rare, 2-year associate degree programs as well. As a computer operations student, you can expect to take courses in a variety of subjects such as telecommunications, networking, operating systems, managing databases, spreadsheets, computer maintenance and business. Education programs tend to be very hands-on due to the nature of the subject.

What Skills Do I Need?

Modern-day computer operators must keep their skills up-to-date with the rapidly changing landscape of computer technology. First, you will typically need to become proficient in a variety of operating systems such as Windows, Macintosh and Linux. You will also need a basic understanding of how a computer is put together in order to perform hardware as well as software maintenance. Data entry and backing up data are also very important tasks that you will need to accomplish.

What is the Job Market Like?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), computer operator jobs are expected to decline at a rate of 19% from 2014-2024. In May of 2015, the BLS stated that the median wage earned by computer operators was $40,420.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Computer user support specialists are trained to help users find solutions to computer software problems. They may also be in charge of installing new equipment and making repairs to hardware. Most of these professionals have some college education, which may include an associate's or bachelor's degree. Database administrators help install databases, run diagnostic tests, ensure database security and set levels of user access. Most of these professionals have a bachelors degree.

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