Info and Answers
What the Heck to Call Your Pro?
Systems designer or integrator? Don’t get confused over the job title of your custom electronics professional.
Credit: Hal Mayforth
June 25, 2009 by Lisa Montgomery

Custom electronics pros call themselves a slew of different names. Some go by “electronics integrators”; others are more comfortable with “home systems specialist.” There are also those who find “systems designer” more fitting. You’ll also hear terms such as low-voltage contractor, home electronics installer and custom integrator tossed around.

“There seems to be a real identity crisis within our industry,” says Perry Workman of Audio Input, Joplin, Mo.

There’s a good reason these professionals can’t come to a consensus. Home electronics is highly diversified, consisting of many types of products. Everything from lighting to HDTV, thermostats and networking systems falls under the umbrella. With such a wide range of offerings, who can blame our electronics pros from choosing such ambiguous titles?

“The truth is, we struggle with what to call ourselves,” says Workman, who recently listed his company under 12 different headings in his local Yellow Pages.

Your job as a consumer is to look past the monikers to the real meat-and-potatoes of an electronic pro’s expertise. In other words, don’t assume that just because a business card reads home systems installer, the person who hands it to you puts in every type of system. Nor should you surmise that a home theater designer does just theaters.

Company names only add to the confusion. Take Workman’s Audio Input outfit. “Our name may say only ‘audio,’ but we do a lot more,” he says. Home control and lighting systems are also part of the portfolio, so Workman added the line, “More than you think” to all of his company’s literature.

Will there ever be a common name we can call our electronics pros? The Electronic Systems Professional Alliance (ESPA) thinks it’s a possibility. The organization recently launched a certification program for technicians who install home technology. The baseline training applies to a wide range of fields, including audio, video, networking IT, cable, satellite, lighting, home control, alarm and telecom. ESPA calls its certified technicians ESTs (electronic systems technicians), and hopes the term will eventually become as recognizable as that of plumber and HVAC contractor.

If ESPA has anything to do with it, we’ll start seeing the term EST creep into the consumer vernacular as more high schools and colleges start offering low-voltage courses. We here at Electronic House, meanwhile, prefer the moniker CE pro (for custom electronics professional).

What’s the quickest and easiest way to find a pro in your area? Check out the directory at

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Lisa Montgomery - Contributing Writer
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.

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