2014 witnessed the loss of a Malaysian jetliner. With aviation experts concluding the plane’s journey most likely ended in the expansive waters of the South China Sea, it was time for sonar technicians to get to work.
Who are these technicians and what does it take to become one? Read on!
What Do Sonar Technicians Do?
Their duties include:
- Operating sonar systems, underwater fire control systems and other specialized equipment that use sound wave technology to track or locate planes, ships and other objects of interest
- Using these equipment to conduct underwater surveillance, detect navigational hazards or lead search and rescue operations
- Analyzing and classifying data obtained from underwater surveillance systems
- Setting up the workstation for sonar operation and configuring and maintaining sonar equipment.
If you can’t go a week without seeing your family, then this is a wrong career! Sonar technicians can spend several months at sea conducting sonar operations. Since many sonar operations are 24-hour jobs, expect to work on a shift basis.
This work can be physically demanding. Although sonar technicians work aboard surface water vessels, they are often exposed to harsh sea conditions, such as strong winds and extreme waves.
Here is the average annual salary for sonar technicians:
Because sonar technicians can work for either military agencies or private companies that manufacture sonar system, the entry requirements vary.
If you want to work in the private sector, all you need to do is earn at least an associate’s degree in marine technology, ocean systems technology, electronics engineering or any other relevant field. Experience is not a typical employment requirement.
If you wish to work in the military, you must meet the following requirements:
- Be an American Citizen
- Be at least 17 years old
- Have a clean criminal and drug background
- Be physically fit
Depending on the agency you work for, you will then undergo a series of sonar technician training programs. Examples of topics you will learn include:
- The electronics laboratory
- Solid state electronics
- Oceanographic concepts
- Digital systems troubleshooting and maintenance
To do the roles of a sonar technician competently, you should possess:
- Strong practical and technical skills
- An aptitude for electronics
- Strong math skills
- The ability to innovate
- Strong computer skills
- Manual dexterity
- Good teamwork skills
- Normal hearing and color vision
- Good problem-solving skills
- The ability to pay close attention to details
- Good analytical skills.
In the military, you can pursue advanced sonar technician training programs to become a senior or master chief sonar tech. Experience and professional competence are also essential career advancement tools.
In the private sector, you must pursue a bachelor’s degree in marine or electronics technology to heighten your chances of becoming a sonar engineer – a position that involves designing and manufacturing sonar systems.
The employers of sonar technicians include:
- The Navy
- Engineering companies
- The Marine Corps
- Firms that sell sonar equipment
- Marine research companies
Finally, sonar technology is a very niche discipline in electronics engineering and technology. As such, you should not expect to have strong employment prospects. It takes the right training, a strong passion for sonar systems and the love for oceans to break into this career.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many opportunities will be available in the military, as there is a continuous need to replace members who move up the ranks, retire or leave the service.