The Electronic Hobbyists of America

The Great American Electronics Hobbyist Census

Electronics Hobbyists Overly intellectual, socially impaired and dressed with thick black framed glasses and pocket protectors is what is often associated with the term "nerd" and for a time in American history the term was an insult. Today, electronics are integrated into nearly every aspect of society, and being one to understand electronics, components, and how they work has brought nerds into a new found popularity.

We conducted the Great American Electronics Hobbyist Census and asked our most serious hobbyists what it means to be called a nerd and dozens of other questions. We heard from over 1700 participants and learned that over 50% feel that if someone called them a nerd, they would take it as a compliment and less than 3% see any negative connotations with the term. After all, intelligence is sexy.

Who are the electronic hobbyists of America?

Nerds or not, more than half of the Great American Electronic Hobbyists Census participants reported that their first experience with electronics involved taking something apart and nearly all reported having soldered before the age of 18. After their initial experience with the soldering iron, nearly half of all hobbyists continued on with their electronics education, making electronics both their avocation and vocation.

A hobby that most likely started during the teenage years (or earlier) has continued to pique interest. The average hobbyist has 35 years of electronics under their belt and an additional 25% have been working with electronics for 50 or more years. It was interesting that almost half of the participants received some sort of formal training in electronics, but also that just as many were self-taught.

When it comes to a reading preference amongst our participants, 42% prefer reading a technical publication over other types of publications, while 27% choose to read news. When we asked our hobbyists which other hobbies they enjoy, it was clear that electronics knowledge and skills play a role in more than just their electronics hobby; 10% reported that music was their second most favorite hobby, 9% told us they prefer woodworking second to electronics (which may or may not correlate to 83% reporting they've used an ax or saw within the past year) and 6.4% of participants named computing as their second favorite hobby.

It was somewhat astonishing to learn that the majority of participants (practically 98%) were male despite the fact that 19% of those graduating with bachelor degrees in engineering are women. This may have a correlation with time restrictions between work and family life; we discovered that the average age of our participating hobbyist is 56.

h3>Electronics is a hobby that becomes integrated into the hobbyist.

Over three-quarters (79%) of hobbyists report that they think about electronics in some form or fashion every day. Many spend at least 16 hours per month on their hobby—an average of 9 projects annually. 85% see themselves doing more or the same amount of projects in the next five years.

Although half of hobbyists have no direct ties to electronics in regards to their professional or academic worlds, one thing is clear, nearly all hobbyists believe that all American children should be taught the basics of electronics and electricity. A whopping 68% believe that electronics as a hobby is critical to fueling the American economy.

Risks don't deter the electronics hobbyist.

Working with electricity can be dangerous, and hobbyists are no wimps when it comes to the risks they take while working on their hobby; 77% report having blown something up by accident, while 38% admit to blowing something up on purpose. Nearly a tenth of participants have received an electronic shock in the past 30 days and 43% have burned themselves while practicing their hobby over the past 12 months. Less than 1% report having visited an emergency room as a result of their electronics projects. All of that hasn’t stopped them from doing the hobby they love most.

When it comes to a love of components, the results were fairly consistent. Participants reported that their top three favorites are microcontrollers, LEDs and transistors. The three least favorite components reported are SMDs, capacitors and inductors. 94% report saving a component they know they will never use.

While working on their hobby, 76% report that they work on their electronics projects inside their house, while 15% report that most of their electronics happens outside or in their garage, and 8% report that they don’t practice their hobby at home.

Hobbyists are practical–nearly 70% have purchased something that was broken with the intent to fix it. They’re a fairly honest group as well; only 9% reported that they lied in order to cover up an electronic failure while 59% report they’ve created something that only they could love.

You'll want to read our full report on the American Electronics Hobbyist. Send us an email to [email protected].

Is there something that astonished you about the electronic hobbyist? Let us know what you think at [email protected].