Data Processing Technicians


Education and Training Requirements

High School

If you are interested in becoming a data processing technician, you should study accounting, business management, and computer technology. Most high schools offer at least an introductory course in computer programming. If you plan to be a business data processing technician, subjects such as accounting, inventory control, statistical methods, and similar business subjects are also good to take.

Good language and communication skills can be developed in English and speech classes. An introductory-level course in drafting or engineering drawing taken in high school will be very useful to data processing technicians as well. Drawing, diagramming, and sketching are also helpful.

Postsecondary Training

An associate's degree is the minimum education level you should complete for this work. Many excellent educational institutions, both private and public, offer two-year degrees in computer-related technologies. Your course of study should emphasize programming and software development. The curriculum for these degrees usually includes a number of specialized computer programming and systems concepts courses. Laboratory work, using the most modern technology, is a vital part of students' education. Related courses in mathematics, statistics, accounting, business principles, economics, physics, engineering science, biology, or earth science also are required for graduation. Selection among these courses depends on your area of interest in either business or scientific data processing. Many institutions offer an associate's degree in both fields.

A two-year program in scientific data processing technology might begin with an orientation seminar followed by an introductory course on data processing. Courses might include technical mathematics, a science course (physics, electronics, chemistry, or biology), techniques of real-time and remote computation, statistics, statistical programming, life sciences, graphical representation, and technical reporting. The second year might include courses in fundamentals of scientific computation, Boolean algebra, linear programming, industrial organization and management, programming for engineering applications, scientific programming languages, introduction to operations research, a field project of the student's choosing, and general and industrial economics.

The two-year program in business data processing technology might begin with courses in communications skills, business machines, and technical mathematics. The first year would also include introduction to business, introduction to electronic data processing, business programming languages, business statistics, and principles of accounting. In the second year of business data processing, courses typically include economics, technical reporting, business management, systems and procedures, applied business systems, computer peripheral equipment and data storage systems, introduction to operations research, and programming language survey.

While obtaining an associate's degree is still an acceptable path to take for entering this field, you should consider obtaining a bachelor's degree if possible. Increasing competition for jobs combined with the high expectations employers have for their technicians and ever-evolving technology means that those with the most thorough training will have the best chances for employment and advancement. Appropriate bachelor's degrees include those in computer science, information science, and business information systems.

Other Education or Training

Your education will need to continue long after you're hired. You will need to keep up with advances in technology, which constantly change the procedures, methods, equipment, and programming languages in use. Once you land a job, opportunities for further education are varied. Some companies and equipment manufacturers offer intensive seminars and workshops to keep employees and clients up to date on the latest technology. In some cases, technicians work with technology so new that formal training has yet to be developed. They may need to take supplementary evening or weekend courses to become qualified to work with the machines. The employer usually pays tuition and other costs of such job-related education. In addition, organizations such as the Association for Computing Machinery, Association for Information Science and Technology, CompTIA, and the IEEE Computer Society provide professional development opportunities. 

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Although not mandatory, certification is available for technicians who pass an examination administered by the Institute for Certification of Computing Professionals (ICCP). One ICCP certification related to data processing is the certified computing professional (CCP) designation. It also offers upper-level credentials such as Big Data professional, certified data professional, and certified data scientist. Even though employers do not formally require the CCP or other credentials, they provide favorable proof of accomplishment to employers when hiring or promoting technicians.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

To apply for a job as a data processing technician, try to get some on-the-job experience as a data entry clerk in an office after school or in a job during the summer. High school courses in math and English are also helpful in qualifying for a position, as well as an associate's degree with courses in computer technology, clerical skills, and database management. Technicians should be detail oriented, feel comfortable with repetitive activities in front of a computer, and performing continuous quality control procedures.

The ability to think clearly and logically is the most important skill when working in a computer-related field. Data processing technicians enjoy the challenges of complex problem solving. They also need to communicate and work well with others. Because they often serve as communication channels between various people and the computer, they must be receptive to new ideas and diplomatic in resolving misunderstandings among workers.