Data Processing Technicians


Employment Prospects


Data processing technicians are employed by larger companies and organizations that use computers to manage their day-to-day work. Some examples are businesses such as banks, manufacturers, and even specialized data processing centers. Technicians may also be employed by large institutions such as school districts, universities, and major hospitals. In addition, work in this field is available at government agencies and in the military.

Starting Out

Many students in data processing programs find jobs before they graduate. This can be accomplished in several ways. One is through the school's career services office, which is responsible for maintaining a current file on local and national job openings. Classified advertisements and employment agencies can also be great sources of information concerning job openings.

Some industries and businesses send recruiters (usually personnel managers) to schools. Recruiters review applicants and set up on-campus interviews with qualified students.

Graduates of two-year technical programs seeking entry-level data processing jobs may have to compete with many other job seekers. The great interest in the data processing and programming field in recent years has spurred the development of many training programs, including some that require a bachelor's degree. As the field matures and competition becomes tighter, a bachelor's degree will become more and more necessary for entry-level positions.

On-the-job training for the employer's specific data processing system is often necessary. A period of orientation at the beginning of the job, sometimes several months or even a year in length, may be required before the beginning technician is expected to have mastered the details of the employer's needs and processes.

In recent years, the trend toward computer-controlled automation in industries such as computer manufacturing and radio and television products has increased the need for scientific data processing technicians who know the industry. Many companies have met this need by sending their experienced electronic or electromechanical technicians to school to learn computer programming and data systems management. The same kind of program is also used to train other technical workers so that they can use the computer-controlled robots now being installed in some industries.

Advancement Prospects

Advancement opportunities for skilled data processing technicians are good. In addition to the steps from data processing technician to junior and senior programmer, there are parallel steps in supervision and management. Technicians who are considered extremely competent in the details of problem analysis and programming generally can progress to the analyst position. Advancement occurs faster for those whose education goes beyond a two-year technician program. Supervisory and managerial positions are available to technicians who show promise in managing and supervising people and projects. 

Experienced technicians will find increased opportunities to work as consultants. There are many companies and businesses that need help in designing custom systems using small computers, storage and information processing systems, and the programming know-how to apply computer technology to their work. Often, such a system and the ability to use it will make the difference between failure and success of a business.

In a similar way, data processing technicians and programming specialists in either numeric process control or computer graphics can often find excellent advancement opportunities working for consulting companies that specialize in these services.

Advancement is often a result of activities with and contacts in the many professional computer societies and organizations. The areas of concentration of such groups are diverse, ranging from systems management groups to special interest groups involved in research, statistical programming, and business programming.

Tips for Entry

Look for a job in the data entry field at your school or part time in an office at an organization in your community.

Take math and English courses in high school and learn as much as you can about computer operations.

Attend community college and take courses in business, data processing, and clerical skills.