A telecommunication degree can be a passport to a career in a booming industry.
A telecommunication degree is set to be very valuable in the future economy. Jobs in the computer-based telecommunications sector are expected to increase at a faster rate than normal job growth rate, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
These jobs include telecommunications specialists, whose jobs deal with the interface between individual computers and larger networks of communications equipment. Telecommunications specialists design the communication systems, which are often data or voice systems, oversee their physical installation and then manage their upkeep after installation. Job growth in the area is largely due to the expansion of computer and related equipment use in all sectors of U.S. business.
Another sector of this career field includes telecommunications workers who focus on radio and telecommunications equipment outside of computer-based networks. The BLS says that these areas may experience flatter job growth than other sectors.
Like many career fields, students can choose to obtain an education ranging from a low-level certification with no formal education or experience, to an associate or bachelor degree, to a continuing education certification, which is aimed at professionals already in the field who are trying to keep their education current.
The National Association for Telecommunications Education and Training (NACTEL) offers most of its training online, including introductory certifications, associate, bachelor and undergrad level certificates.
However, colleges and universities also offer a wide range of telecommunications degrees. For example, the State University of New York (SUNY) offers both a Bachelor and Master of Science in telecommunications. For those who want to go even further, the Atlantic International University (AIU) offers a doctorate level degree in the field.
Since technology evolves rapidly, this occupation is one in which it is necessary to consistently continue learning. Workers must keep up with the newest equipment, and know how to keep it in good repair. Telecommunications employees may need to continue to take certification classes and ongoing education throughout their career.
Two professional associations, the Society of Cable and Telecommunications Engineers and the Telecommunications Industry Association both meet this ongoing education need by offering classes and voluntary certifications in the field. Often, equipment-specific training and certification is available to telecommunications professionals from the manufacturers of the equipment.
Educational requirements sometimes vary. For example, requirements are more advanced for central office installers and people who work in nonresidential settings. In addition, there are other ways to get needed training, such as by gaining experience through less difficult jobs. For example, experience as a line installer or station installer can often prepare a telecom worker for a job as a central office installer and other more complex jobs. Training through the military is also available. In addition, newly hired telecom workers often receive on-the-job training, or formal classroom training at the direction and discretion of employers.
Some divisions of telecommunications require licensure for workers. For example, aviation and marine radio mechanics need to be licensed by the Federal Communications Commission before they can work on aviation and marine radios. In order to be licensed, the worker must pass exams on the specifics of radio law, electronics fundamentals, and maintenance practices.
There are several different routes and specialties that telecom professionals can explore. Network systems and data communications analysts, who are also called network architects, make and evaluate computer systems such as LANs (Local Area Networks), WANS (wide area networks), the Internet, local intranets, and other systems.
Network systems and data communications analysts provide hardware and software solutions for networks. These solutions may include hardware installation and the configuration of software as well.
Telecommunications specialists are likely to design the systems, supervise their installation, and maintain them after installation.
Another career possibility is as a cable television technician, whose tasks are performed most often in the field.
A PBX (private branch exchange) installer and repairer will focus on private systems, such as those within a large business or company. For example, they may install and repair switchboard systems, alarm systems and Internet-based systems.
Home installers, technicians and repairers install and repair equipment in private residential customers' homes or businesses. Associated tasks include the installation of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), Internet, modems, and television services.
Radio mechanics install and work on radio equipment, including two-way radio communications systems, emergency communications systems, and transport-based systems, such as marine and airplane radios.
Those who earn a telecommunication degree can expect to work in either office or field conditions, and can expect a relatively normal 40-hour work week, with possible overtime and rush jobs. The career boasts a fairly high retention rate and strong job prospects.