What Are RF Systems Technicians?
Radio frequency (RF) systems technicians, also known as radio mechanics, install, maintain, and upgrade RF systems, such as wireless Internet access points, cellular telephone antennas, satellite systems, amplifiers, two-way radios, and other radio equipment. Other tasks may include testing RF systems and signal strength, assembling systems, maintaining records, and instructing customers on how to properly use the equipment.
Most RF technician jobs involve driving to client locations. Such technicians should be comfortable with heights. There is some risk of injury associated with this career due to the fact that technicians often work on towers or other high places, work closely with electricity, and use a range of potentially dangerous tools to complete their tasks. The majority of telecommunications technicians, such as RF systems technicians, work full-time, although overtime, on-call, evening, night, and weekend hours are a possibility.
|Degree Level||High school diploma; postsecondary training can be beneficial|
|Degree Field||Electronics or electrical technology|
|Certification||Voluntary professional certification is available|
|Experience||Varies; related experience may be preferred or required|
|Key Skills||Problem-solving skills; ability to troubleshoot; willingness to continue learning; strong communication skills; familiarity with installing, troubleshooting, and testing microwave and RF systems; valid driver's license; willingness to work flexible hours, outdoors, at great heights, and in other dangerous situations|
|Median Annual Salary (2015)*||$51,660 (for radio, cellular, and tower equipment installers and repairers)|
Sources: Online job listings from employers (January 2013), iSEEK, O*Net Online, *U.S. Department of Labor Statistics
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Steps for RF Systems Technicians
How can I become an RF systems technician?
Step 1: Complete Postsecondary Training
The first step is to complete postsecondary training. Although there are no set educational requirements for becoming a radio frequency systems technician, employers may prefer to hire candidates with at least an associate's degree. Some schools offer associate's degree programs in electronics engineering technology with wireless options. Other options include earning a degree in electrical engineering technology or computer science.
Step 2: Gain Experience
The next step is to gain experience. Although it's possible to gain entry-level employment in RF systems technology, many employers prefer hiring candidates with prior experience working with design, installation, troubleshooting, and repairing RF systems and related technologies. Gaining experience in a related area can help give aspiring RF systems technicians the familiarity with the equipment and technology that they'll be working on in the field. Entry-level technicians often work as part of a team and with substantial supervision. Some employers also require on-the-job training for new RF systems technicians.
You will want to look for opportunities to become professionally certified in the field. Voluntary certification may increase job opportunities, since the credentials demonstrate professional expertise. Some available options include the RFID certification issued by the RFID Professional Institute, wireless certification issued by Anritsu, and various certifications issued by iNARTE. Although the requirements for each credential vary by organization, candidates generally need to have some prior experience and take a certification exam.
You will also want to research certification renewal requirements. Some organizations may require candidates to renew the certification periodically. Continuing education, training, or work experience may be a condition of keeping certification current.
RF systems technicians have training and/or education after high school. They are highly skilled and work in some dangerous situations, and they earn a median annual salary of $51,660.