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The telecommunications industry only works with the help of a diverse workforce. Professionals are needed to do the following:
- Develop new technology for telecommunications.
- Install equipment and lines to provide communications services.
- Repair equipment and lines as needed.
- Answer client questions and provide customer support.
Many workers within the telecommunications industry provide specialized services. They may be computer engineers who develop new hardware or applications, or they may provide customer service and phone support to customers. Even telecommunications installers and repairers may specialize in the following capacities:
- Central office technicians work in central telecommunications offices to monitor core systems and respond to service disruptions and other technical issues.
- Headend technicians provide support services in distribution centers called headends. They may monitor signals for television companies and local cable networks.
- Home installers and repairers specialize in working within customer homes and businesses to install and repair telecommunications equipment.
Educational Requirements for Telecommunications Workers
Interested in becoming a telecommunications worker? Consider the following steps in your quest to work in the field:
- Earn a high school diploma or equivalent.
- Consider postsecondary training. An associate degree might give you a leg up on the competition, but often employers hire telecommunications workers with a certificate in the field or a related field.
- Gain experience in the field. Look for opportunities to familiarize yourself with the technical terms you might expect in the workplace.
While your classes can vary depending on the specialization you choose, you can expect to learn about the following in many telecommunications programs:
- Electrical currents
- Computer programming
- Computer networking
- Data transmission
Telecommunications Degree Programs
Students can earn one of the following through telecommunications programs available at schools across the country:
- Certificate: If you're looking for an entry-level job in telecommunications, a certificate may be the right education level for you. Often earned in less than a year, a certificate in telecommunications can include courses in technology, programming and security.
- Associate degree: Although not required for all positions, some students choose to pursue a two-year degree. These programs may combine liberal arts classes with a deeper look at data and telecommunications technology.
- Bachelor's degree: For the most comprehensive education in the field, you could earn a bachelor's degree. However, a four-year degree is only required for advanced positions such as those related to engineering.
Hands-on Training for Telecommunications Workers
While a telecommunications trade school can provide the knowledge needed for jobs in the industry, many employers still like their workers to have hands-on experience. This is especially true for installation and repair positions. New telecom technicians may be required to complete an on-the-job training program that could last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.
Since technology is constantly evolving, telecommunications workers may need additional training from time to time to keep skills updated. Some employers may provide access to training opportunities while other professionals may independently enroll in telecommunications programs.
You have lots of options when it comes to selecting a telecommunications school. Certificate and degree programs can be found through telecommunications trade schools, community colleges and universities. There are even fully online telecommunications programs available from many institutions.
Certification for Telecommunications Workers
If you want to prove your expertise in the field, consider earning a professional certification. They are not required for many jobs, but employers may prefer to hire someone with one of the following or another designation:
- Junior, Senior or Master Telecommunications Technician offered by iNARTE, also known as the International Association for Radio, Telecommunications and Electromagnetics
- Certified Telecommunications Network Specialist (CTNS) offered by the Telecommunications Certification Organization
- Internet Protocol Engineering Professional (IPEP) offered by the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers
- Registered Communications Distribution Designer (RCDD) offered by BICSI, the Building Industry Consulting Service International
Some of these credentials are geared for telecom technicians while others are intended for engineers. Each certification program has its own eligibility criteria which could include a minimum level of education and work experience.
Gaining additional education is one way to advance your career. Many telecommunications programs are created so that credits from a certificate or associate degree can be applied toward a higher degree.
Telecommunications workers may also find that earning a voluntary certification improves their income and employment prospects.
Skills and Qualities for Someone Working in Telecommunications
You might need more than a degree from a telecommunications school to be successful in this field. You might also need the following skills and abilities:
- Complex problem solving: Working with electronics means issues may not always be easy to identify and diagnose. That makes complex problem solving a critical skill for telecommunications professionals.
- Problem sensitivity: Part of being able to work effectively with technology is being able to anticipate when problems might occur.
- Operation monitoring: Telecom technicians need to be attentive to system operations so they can quickly address problems as they arise.
- Near vision: Whether they are installers or engineers, telecommunications professionals need good vision to see small components and read monitors.
- Hand-arm steadiness: Telecommunications work - particularly that of installers and repairers - requires a steady arm to set and operate equipment correctly.
Career Outlook and Salary for Telecommunications Workers
As a diverse field, not all jobs in telecommunications have the same income and growth potential. Positions requiring more education may pay more while a person's geographic region, work experience and professional certifications can all factor into salaries as well. The chart below provides the range of incomes you'll find nationally for selected telecommunications careers. Job growth can also vary by region and position. The following data is based upon estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
|Career||Total Employment||Annual Mean Wage||Projected Job Growth Rate|
|Telecommunications Equipment Installers and Repairers, Except Line Installers||229,890||$57,080||-7.6%|
|Telecommunications Line Installers and Repairers||118,200||$59,000||1.6%|
Professional Resources for Telecommunications Workers
To stay up-to-date on the latest industry news after graduating from a telecommunications school, you may want to follow or join one of the following organizations:
- Communications Workers of America - This labor union represents more than 700,000 telecommunications and information technology workers in North America.
- Telecommunications Industry Association - Although its members are telecommunications companies, not workers, this organization offers extensive information on industry priorities and initiatives.
- International Association for Radio, Telecommunications and Electromagnetics - This group is one of the organizations offering professional certifications for telecommunications workers.