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Communications Engineer Education Requirements and Career Info

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a communications engineer. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and other requirements to find out if this is the career for you.

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Communications engineering is an umbrella term that includes engineers specializing in electrical systems, telecommunications, and computers. An electrical engineer could be an expert in anything from electrical equipment to motors, navigation systems, broadcast and communication systems, and power generation. Get more information about a career as a communications engineer, including education, job duties, and salary information.

Essential Information

Communications engineers work with many of the information technologies vital to daily life. According to their training, communications engineers may be experts in telecommunications, computers and electrical systems. A bachelor's degree in engineering, mathematics and science is recommended, and internships that offer research opportunities are often available.

Required Education Bachelor's degree
Other Requirements Internships are recommended
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 0% for electrical engineers*, 17% for software developers
Median Salary (2015) $95,230 for electrical engineers*, $74,516 for telecommunications engineers**, $100,690 for software developers*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics;**Payscale.com'

Communications Engineer Education

Most communications engineering jobs require a bachelor's degree. Typically, engineering degree programs are more than lectures; they include labs and advanced projects.

Education Requirements

The foundational coursework for telecommunications, electrical and computer engineering programs includes sequences in calculus and physics. The core curriculum in telecommunications engineering includes courses and labs in electronics, programming and digital logic. Electrical and computer engineering programs are often housed together and may offer a concentration in communications. The curriculums of these programs include electromagnetics, digital systems and circuits.

Engineering students often have opportunities to gain practical experience. While still in school, many students take advantage of cooperative internships to work in the industry. Some programs offer students the opportunity to perform research under the guidance of a professor. Senior design projects are required by many curriculums and provide students the chance to pursue their communications-based interest within their program.

Any prospective engineering program should be accredited by ABET, Inc., the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Graduating from an ABET-accredited program is required by many licensing boards and employers. While there are many approved computer and electrical engineering programs, as of 2011 there are just two accredited telecommunications engineering programs.

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Career

Like most engineers, communications engineers can expect to make high salaries. The communications field is versatile and individuals who operate in it need to have a diverse set of skills.

Career Overview

Communications engineering is a broad career field that can be filled by computer, electrical or telecommunications engineers. These individuals apply advanced knowledge of math and science to find economical solutions to practical and commercial problems involving communication networks and data transmission.

Computer or software engineers work on the computers that facilitate communication networks. They install programs and software that help maintain a network's flow and security. Electrical engineers are concerned with the electrical requirements of a communication system such as the controls and the wiring. Telecommunications engineers have specific training related to the technology and theories of communication systems including voice, video and data transmission.

The job duties of a communications engineer vary, but many positions require expertise in advanced technology such as microwaves and fiber optics or hardware design. Communications engineers may work with other engineering professionals and technicians on large projects.

Job outlook can vary based on type of engineering. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that positions for electrical engineers will not increase between 2014 and 2024, whereas positions for software developers are expected to increase by 17%. However, salaries between the different types of engineers are fairly comparable. As of 2015, the median annual salary for electrical engineers was $95,230, while it was $74,516 for telecommunications engineers and $100,960 for software engineers.

Communications engineers need to hold at least a bachelor's degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program, and an internship is recommended. They need a solid background in math and science, along with advanced technical knowledge. The field covers many occupations including software engineer, which has a high potential for job growth and projected salaries around $100,000.

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