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Computer Operator

Published on December 18, 2009.


Job Duties

Computer operators keep their employer's computers operating efficiently. Some businesses and industries are dependent on their computers operating on a continual basis, in some cases 24 hours a day. Computer operators may be responsible for keeping the mainframe computer running, and monitoring the other computers on the network. They may work with programmers and systems analysts in keeping the computers of a company operating efficiently and responding to any error messages which may appear.

Computer operators may work with an employer's computer users, responding to minor glitches which may occur, and working to get the computer back online. They usually keep daily logs of any problems and may work with computer technicians to correct issues.

Job Skills

Computer operators must be able to communicate, as they often work with computer users in correcting problems. They must be able to work as part of a team, but should also be able to be self motivating when the situation arises. Computer operators should be able to work under stress, and be good at problem solving, as when a computer goes down with an issue, they are expected to get it back online as soon as possible.


The latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that in 2008 computer operators made a median annual salary of $35,600, and the top 10 percent made in excess of $54,450 annually. Computer operators working in the top-paying industries earned significantly more--those employed by the postal service had a mean annual income of $56,330, while those worked for the Federal government earned $48,200.

Training and Education

Most employers expect you to have at least a high school education to become a computer operator. They can also prefer that you have experience with the types of computers, operating systems, and software that they use. Some companies have their own training programs, and some community colleges offer 1 and 2 year certificate programs. As computer operating systems and software applications become more advanced and less dependent on constant monitoring, computer operators may find it beneficial to continue their education and earn an undergraduate degree in a computer related field. This may allow computer operators to become involved in other areas of the computer industry, as the need for computer operators is expected to decline over the next decade. Computer operators who have earned a degree and certifications should be able to grow with the industry.


Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that in 2008 there were 107,450 people working who were classified as computer operators. The need for computer operators is expected to decline through 2016. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the decline could be as much as 25 percent. Companies and businesses that may still use computer operators are in the financial, healthcare, and insurance fields, or may be in retail or manufacturing operations.

Job Outlook

The career opportunities for people trained solely as computer operators are expected to decline over the next decade. This can be attributed to the advances which have been made in the development of computer operating system technology and software, which have diminished the need for constant human maintenance. Computer operators with 4-year degrees in computer disciplines and certifications in computer fields should still have good employment prospects and may be able to make the transition into areas of the computer industry which are growing. Continued training, and earning a master's or doctorate degree in a computer related field would also be very beneficial.


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