Computer operators oversee the operation of computer hardware systems and make sure the machines are used efficiently and securely. Computer operators may work with mainframes, networks of personal computers and minicomputers. They control the console of a mainframe digital computer or a collection of minicomputers. They set the controls of computers in order to run computer tasks.
A larger number of computer operators are dealing with minicomputers and personal computers. They work with operating instructions that were developed by computer programmers, operations managers or users. They also solve problems that happen during computer operations. The duties performed by a computer operator vary by the policies of the employer, the size of the installation and the types of equipment being utilized.
A computer operator working with a personal computer network assists a network administrator in making sure all network connections are in place and the organization's network and servers are running properly. They may also help employees connect computer peripherals and set up new computers.
Some sample job titles are operations and maintenance technician, information technology specialist, computer console operator, computer specialist, systems operator and computer technician.
- Oversee the operation of computer hardware systems
- Load equipment with supplies
- Retrieve and sort program output and send data to specific users
- Monitor the control console and respond to computer and operating messages
- After receiving an error message, locate and solve the problems or terminate the program
- Monitor the system for performance errors and equipment failures
- Enter commands using a computer terminal
- Maintain logbooks of operating records
- Notify computer maintenance technicians or supervisors of equipment malfunctions
- Answer telephone calls to help computer users that are having problems
Computer operators usually work in well-ventilated comfortable rooms. Due to many companies utilizing their computers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, computer operators may work evening or night shifts and during the weekends. However, due to the increasing use of automated operations there may be a decrease in the need for shift work since computers can take over operations during the undesirable work hours.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has forecasted a minus 19 percent employment growth for computer operators from 2008 to 2018. Sophisticated software combined with robotics allows computers to perform many basic tasks that used to be performed by computer operators. Loading and downloading programs, scheduling, running periodic reports and rerouting messages can usually be accomplished without a computer operator.
With advances in technology, the duties of many computer operators are moving to areas including user support, network operations and database maintenance. Individuals that have formal computer education, have knowledge about a variety of operating systems and about the newest technology will have the best employment opportunities. In addition, the median annual earnings for computer operators in 2008 was $35,600.
Education, Certification, and Licensing
Employers typically require only a high school diploma for computer operators. They receive on-the-job training. Many computer operators seek to advance to other positions in the field of information technology within a few years.
The primary employers are insurance companies, banks, manufacturers, educational institutions, data processing services firms and government agencies.
Schools for Computer Operators are listed in the Browse Schools Section.