RF Engineering Degree and Training Program Information
Radio frequencies are the basis of certain types of communications systems as well as energy efficient circuits. Radio frequency (RF) engineering - often lumped in with microwave engineering - is a discipline in electrical engineering. Training in RF engineering is available at the bachelor's, graduate certificate and master's levels.
There are no programs dedicated solely to the subject of RF engineering. Students who wish to study the field or find work as engineers who specialize in radio frequencies should consider enrolling in a bachelor's degree, master's degree or graduate certificate in electrical, wireless or microwave engineering. Most engineers need at least a bachelor's degree to qualify for entry-level work.
- Program Levels in RF Engineering: Bachelor's degrees, graduate Certificates, master's degrees
- RF Engineering Program Fields: RF and microwaves, applied electromagnetics, electrical engineering and computer engineering
- Prerequisites: Bachelor's degrees require a school diploma or equivalent while graduate certificates and master's degrees require a Bachelor's degree. Programs generally require some prerequisite courses.
- Program Length: Four years for bachelor's, one to two years for master's.
- Other Requirements: Final project or thesis may be required.
Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering
Elective coursework in 4-year electrical engineering programs often includes options in RF engineering. Programs can emphasize hands-on technical abilities as well as the theoretical foundations of the technology. Applicants are commonly required to be high school graduates who are ready to enroll in pre-calculus courses.
Programs offer significant training in math, design and computer science to give students a solid understanding of the theories behind the design of communications systems and components. As preparation for working with RF systems, subsystems and integrated circuits, electrical engineering students can learn about:
- Communication electromagnetics
- Logic design
Graduate Certificate in Wireless Engineering
These programs are typically offered through departments in electrical engineering. Training in microwave and radio wave engineering is most commonly applied to the communications field. Some programs simply require coursework, while others also require a final project.
Qualified applicants have typically earned a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering. Applicants with related bachelor's degrees in electronics engineering technology or physics may need to demonstrate sufficient training in electromagnetics.
Students can learn about numerical techniques as well as systems and circuit design. Programs can offer training in:
- Antenna design
- Microwave engineering
- Radar systems
- RF design
- Wireless communications networks
Master's Degrees Covering RF Engineering
RF engineering training is offered through master's programs focusing on RF and microwaves, applied electromagnetics, electrical engineering and computer engineering. Some of these Master of Science and Master of Science in Engineering programs are affiliated with research laboratories that specialize in different areas, like RF engineering. Programs take 1-2 years to complete, and have thesis and non-thesis options.
Prospective graduate students are generally required to have completed a bachelor's degree in a relevant field, such as electrical engineering. Only applicants who have earned an bachelor's degree in engineering are eligible to apply for a Master of Science in Engineering program.
Students prepare for careers working with RF communications equipment, radar and antennas. Coursework related to RF engineering includes:
- Digital and analog communication
- Electronic design
- Spread spectrum
Professional electrical engineers are able to work in hands-on careers or as managers who oversee projects and teams of people. Because managerial jobs often require years of professional experience, bachelor's degree program graduates may find themselves initially working as:
- Design engineers
- Systems analysts
- Technical sales people
In addition to working in existing fields, graduates of advanced degree programs are prepared to invent new applications for existing technologies. Job titles available to master's degree program graduates include:
- Electronics designer
- Forensic lab analyst
- Information technology troubleshooter
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities for electrical engineers were expected to see 5% growth from 2012-2022, while growth in electronics engineering was projected to be 3% (www.bls.gov).
Electronics engineers outside of the computer field earned a median annual wage of $95,790, according to the May 2014 BLS reports. These same reports showed a median annual wage of $91,410 for electrical engineers.
Certification and Licensure Information
Certification in radio frequency identification is available through CompTIA upon passing a 90-minute written exam. At least six months of technical experience is recommended before taking the test. Certified professionals need to retake the certification exam every three years to keep their certification current.
Engineers offering their services directly to the public must obtain a Professional Engineer (PE) license. Individual state requirements vary, but generally, candidates must have earned an undergraduate engineering degree from a program accredited by ABET (formerly the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology).
Doctoral programs in electrical engineering provide course offerings in RF engineering. Graduates of doctoral programs are qualified to pursue careers in independent research and academia.