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How to Become a Radio Frequency (RF) Engineer: Career Guide

Find out how to become a radio frequency engineer. Research the education requirements, and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in engineering. View article »

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Video Transcript

Become a Radio Frequency Engineer

Radio frequency engineers are specialists within the electrical engineering field. They work with devices that transmit or receive radio waves, including wireless equipment, radios, and cellular phones. A background in general electronics, physics, and math is needed to design and improve wireless networks. Engineers also must have good communication skills because they may be expected to work in teams or with others outside of their field. These workers typically work in an office setting during a normal full-time workweek; however, overtime might be required to meet deadlines.

Career Requirements

Key Skills Detail-oriented; ability to use field-specific software such as CAD, Unix, and C++; math skills; knowledge of and ability to use tools such as signal generators, spectrometers, and evaporators
Degree Level Bachelor's degree required; more advanced positions may require a master's degree
Degree Field Electrical engineering
Licensure Licensure as a Professional Engineer (PE) is encouraged
Salary $93,010 yearly (2015 median for all electrical engineers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*NET OnLine, CareerBuilder.com job postings

Steps for Radio Frequency Engineers

Step 1: Earn Your Bachelor's Degree

Employers typically seek candidates who hold bachelor's degrees in electrical engineering. Aspiring radio frequency (RF) engineers may also consider programs in computer engineering, telecommunications engineering, or possibly computer science. RF engineering courses may cover subjects such as factors that affect radio propagation, concepts of cellular technology, and principles of frequency reuse. Prospective engineers should choose from schools accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).

Step 2: Pass Your State's License Exam

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) maintains that engineers who work in regulated public service industries, such as telecommunications, must pass a series of state license exams. According to the BLS, completion of an engineering degree program is a prerequisite to sit for the first of two exams that covers basic engineering principles. Individuals who pass this exam are designated engineers in training. A minimum of four years of work experience is required in order to sit for the second exam covering engineering principles and methods. Successful completion of both license exams results in attaining the title of Professional Engineer.

Step 3: Obtain Employment

Possible work environments for RF engineers include military offices, telecommunications companies, and broadcast stations. Jobs in research, development, and testing of new technologies may also be available from manufacturers of wireless products for the communications and auto industries.

Step 4: Obtain Professional Certification

After an RF engineer has been working in the field for a few years, certification could be an astute career move to show future employers and clients the engineer's level of knowledge in his or her field. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Communications Society (IEEE) offers the Wireless Communication Engineering Technologies (WCET) certification in several specialty areas, including RF engineering. Candidates with a bachelor's degree or the equivalent and at least three years of relevant work experience are eligible to take the certification exam.

Step 5: Take Continuing Education Courses

According to the BLS, continuing education is required to maintain licensure in some states. Certificate programs in RF engineering are available to provide professionals with opportunities to keep up with continuously evolving technologies. Certificate programs may be offered online to accommodate working students. Courses may include RF integrated circuit design and RF identification systems.

Radio frequency engineers work with devices that transmit or receive radio waves, including wireless equipment, radios, and cellular phones. They have bachelor's and master's degrees and frequently state licenses, and they earn a median salary of $93,010.

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