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Computer Operators

At a Glance

  • Run computer hardware systems
  • Keep detailed records
  • May work nights and weekends
  • Help and train others
  • Many train on the job

Career summary

Computer operators load, run, and monitor computer systems.

#no alt titles, nothing else brought over

#review 3/21/19 lh

Computer operators run computer systems. They read instructions to learn how to setup the equipment. Operators load computers with software. They may also load and run additional equipment, such as:

Operators enter commands and use controls to start computers and operate the equipment. While the equipment is running, operators monitor it and watch for error messages on a computer screen. If an error occurs, they diagnose it and correct the problem. They notify supervisors of more serious problems.

Computer operators keep records of computer operating times. They also keep records of problems that occur and how they are solved. They may assist users over the telephone. They may also help programmers test and debug new programs.

Computer operators may work on mainframe computers or networked personal computers. The tasks they perform are very similar.

Related careers

This career is part of the Business Management and Administration cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to computer operators.

Common work activities

Computer operators perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, computer operators:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Computer operators frequently:

It is important for computer operators to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for computer operators to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Computer operators need to:


Reason and problem solve

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Work with things

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a computer operator, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Some computer operators learn their skills through formal training programs. Vocational schools, community colleges, and colleges offer training. A degree in computer science or information technology is excellent preparation. Often you earn an associate degree.

Work experience

You can gain experience by working with experienced operators.

On-the-job training

Most computer operators are trained by employers on the job. The length of training varies by employer and the complexity of the computer setup. Training may last up to one year.

Because of rapid changes in technology, computer operators often attend training sessions to update their skills. Employers, software and hardware vendors, colleges and universities, and private training firms offer continuing education courses.

Military training

Some branches of the military train people to be computer systems specialists. Training lasts from seven to 13 weeks, depending on your specialty. Additional training occurs on the job.

Helpful high school courses

You should take a general high school curriculum that meets the state's graduation requirements. You will be required to take both math and science classes to graduate.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Employers prefer to hire computer operators who have experience with the type of equipment the company uses. Because technology is changing, they look for people who are adaptable and willing to learn.

A high school diploma or equivalent is usually the minimum requirement for employment but most employers look for applicants with one or two years of formal training or experience at a technical school or college.

A high school graduate with the interest and aptitude for the work may receive on-the-job training in some data processing operations. The military services also offer training in a number of computer skills.

Costs to workers

Some workers join a professional association, which may have annual dues.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Computer operators (SOC 43-9011)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $16.42 $19.16 $25.96 $30.30 $34.44
Monthly $2,846 $3,320 $4,499 $5,251 $5,968
Yearly $34,160 $39,840 $54,000 $63,020 $71,640
    Kennewick-Richland Hourly $14.58 $16.49 $19.06 $26.85 $30.21
Monthly $2,527 $2,858 $3,303 $4,653 $5,235
Yearly $30,326 $34,308 $39,648 $55,832 $62,819
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $16.99 $19.27 $25.47 $30.20 $34.01
Monthly $2,944 $3,339 $4,414 $5,234 $5,894
Yearly $35,355 $40,083 $52,995 $62,811 $70,739
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $17.63 $22.60 $27.26 $30.21 $31.56
Monthly $3,055 $3,917 $4,724 $5,235 $5,469
Yearly $36,672 $46,989 $56,687 $62,818 $65,638
    Vancouver Hourly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
Monthly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
Yearly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
United States Hourly $13.22 $16.95 $22.04 $27.96 $31.31
Monthly $2,291 $2,937 $3,820 $4,845 $5,426
Yearly $27,490 $35,260 $45,840 $58,150 $65,130

(1) Wage estimate is not available.

Wages vary by employer and work schedule. Those who work nights usually receive higher wages. The operator's level of responsibility also affects wages.

Computer operators who work full time usually receive benefits. Typical benefits include sick leave, paid vacation, and health insurance.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook

#Between 2014 and 2024, it is estimated that there will be 23 openings annually due to new positions and seven openings annually from workers leaving this career.

#Updated outlook 06.16 sd

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Computer Operators (SOC 43-9011)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 585 5.6% 16.1% 67
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 48 64.6% 13.4% 12
    Benton and Franklin Counties 38 0.0% 15.0% 4
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 67 4.5% 15.2% 7
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 65 6.2% 14.1% 8
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 28 -7.1% 14.6% 2
    King County 241 0.8% 19.6% 24
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 12 8.3% 13.8% 1
    Pierce County 31 6.5% 15.2% 3
    Snohomish County 10 10.0% 12.4% 1
    Spokane County 25 4.0% 13.9% 3
United States 36,800 -23.9% 5.2% 3,100

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

Due to advances in technology demand for this occupation will decline. Operators will monitor a greater number of computer operations at the same time requiring fewer workers.

Operators who wish to remain in the computer field will need to know about programming, automation software, graphics interface, and open systems. Operators who keep up with changing technology should have the best prospects.

Most job openings will arise from the need to replace workers who change jobs or retire.

Other resources

Association for Women in Computing - Puget Sound Chapter (external link)
3743 S. 170th Street
Sea-Tac, WA 98188
International Association for Computer Information Systems (external link)
Washington Business Week (external link)
PO Box 1170
Renton, WA 98057
Washington Technology Industry Association (external link)
2200 Alaskan Way, Suite 390
Seattle, WA 98121


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupation

Holland occupational cluster