Telecommunications engineering bachelor's degree programs focus on math, physics, electronics and systems. Many programs provide lab exercises for hands-on learning opportunities on equipment and systems. A master's degree program can prepare students for career advancement or doctoral studies in this or a similar field. Courses in math, physics and other sciences are as integral as classes focusing on specific communications technology, such as computer networking and voice communications. Professionals can opt to pursue certification.
Prerequisites at the bachelor's level include a high school diploma or GED, including high school coursework in geometry, algebra, chemistry, trigonometry and physicals. Applicants to a master's degree program must have an undergraduate degree, as well as GRE test scores, letters of recommendation and a personal goal statement. Master's students may be required to maintain a minimum GPA and complete a final project or thesis.
Bachelor's Degree in Telecommunications Engineering
The four-year bachelor's level provides the education needed for an entry-level position in telecommunications. After students gain knowledge in these core subjects, more advanced telecommunications subjects are introduced, and some programs include a technology specialization. Graduates are awarded a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Telecommunications Engineering or Telecommunications Engineering Technology.
Some schools also offer a fast track bachelor's degree program combined with master's degree studies, and these accelerated programs take approximately five years of continuous studies to complete. Honors programs are also available to students meeting minimum grade point average (GPA) requirements in specific coursework. Undergraduate telecommunications engineering degree programs typically require advanced studies in calculus, statistics and other math topics. Physics, science, English and communications subjects are also a heavy concentration. Telecommunications engineering-related topics include:
- Theory of circuits
- Voice, data and network communications
- Hi-frequency systems
- Telecommunications server programming
Master's Degree in Telecommunications Engineering
Telecommunications engineering master's degree programs typically take two years of full-time or three years of part-time study to complete, and some school programs are offered entirely online. Specific credit requirements in mathematics, physics and engineering vary by school, and some schools offer specialty areas of concentration such as wireless and satellite communications or high-speed and broadband networks.
Graduates are usually awarded either Master of Science (M.S.) or Master of Engineering (M.Eng.) in Telecommunications Engineering. Other degree options are a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering/Telecommunications Engineering (MSEE) or a M.S. in Telecommunications Engineering Technology. The coursework for telecommunications engineering graduate students includes advanced study in electronics, networking and technology. Some schools provide practical curriculum through cooperating agreements with institutions with state-of-the-art telecommunications laboratories and equipment. Some topics of study include:
- Telecommunications physical foundations
- Computer network performance analysis
- Random variables and processes
- Estimation and detection
- Telecommunications regulations and policies
Popular Career Options
Entry-level employment in the field usually requires a minimum of a bachelor's degree. A telecommunications engineering bachelor's degree prepares graduates for a variety of career options in the cable industry. Prospective employees without a degree normally enter the field as technicians, and a bachelor's degree can provide higher-level job opportunities. Some career options include:
- Computer networking engineer
- Telecommunications analyst
- Network planning engineer
Graduates of telecommunications engineering master's degree programs have advanced opportunities in cable engineering employment. Most employers of more complex engineering positions typically prefer those with a master's degree. Also, a master's degree along with experience in the field can help cable engineers with advancement in the field. Some employment areas of specialization include:
- Fiber optics
- Digital signals
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) stated that network and computer systems administrator positions were expected to grow 8% from 2014-2024, which was about as fast as average. These workers earned a median yearly salary of $77,810 in May 2015. Telecommunications engineering specialists (which fell under the general category of computer network architects) earned a median annual salary of $100,240 in May 2015, reported the BLS.
Continuing Education and Certification Information
Cable engineers can pursue additional education in doctoral degree programs. Ph.D. programs are available in related areas such as computer science and software engineering.
Certification is also available for cable engineers by The Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE). Engineers must have comprehensive knowledge and training in telecommunications equipment technology and pass a required test to achieve the Broadband Communications Engineer (BCE) designation. Re-certification is required every three years.
A bachelor's degree in the telecommunication field prepares graduates to enter the cable industry as entry-level telecommunications analysts, network planning engineers and computer networking engineers, while individuals who hold a master's degree in telecommunications engineering are qualified for more complex employment in the industry. Voluntary certification programs are also available from professional organizations.