The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that telecommunications engineers fall into the category of electrical and electronics engineers. These professionals are generally required to have a bachelor's degree in the engineering field. However, an associate's degree in communications engineering technology can prepare graduates for some field technician positions, while a graduate degree (either a master's or doctorate) can prepare them for both engineering and managerial roles. A high school diploma or its equivalent, with a strong background in math, is needed for entry to two-year associate's and four-year bachelor's programs, while a bachelor's degree is necessary for two-year master's and doctorate programs.
Associate Degree in Communications Engineering Technology
Students prepare for careers in field service, network management and operations by learning about electrical wiring and codes as well as technical writing. Electronic communication engineers and technicians enable satellite functionality, update radar systems and troubleshoot the physical network behind Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP). Core communications engineering technology coursework includes:
- Assembly language
- Alternating and direct currents
- Circuit analysis
- Electronics drawing
- Logic design
- Technical calculations
Bachelor's Degree in Telecommunications Engineering Technology
Students in these programs learn the fundamentals of wireless communication, networking theory and data communication. Programs prepare graduates for careers in mobile communications, television broadcast maintenance, remote sensing and optical networks. As preparation for coursework in calculus-based physics, students are recommended to have a background in chemistry, physics, geometry, trigonometry and advanced algebra. Students can prepare for jobs working in information theory as well as network design and security management by learning about computer networking and radio broadcast equipment. These types of programs often include the following subject matter:
- Computer architecture
- Differential equations
- Information security
- Network design
Master's Degree in Telecommunications Engineering
Graduate students can learn about interoperability among wireless, optical, Internet protocol, analog public switched telephone network and asynchronous transfer mode, which are the five major types of telecommunications systems. Programs may require students to participate in a significant amount of practical laboratory hours. Project-based programs are available for those students not interested in undertaking thesis papers. Graduate programs teach students about digital image processing and internetworking as well as how to account for random variables and prevent signal jamming. Commonly, these programs cover the following subjects:
- Light wave communication
- Microprocessor system design
- Satellite communications
- Spread spectrum systems
- Statistical signal processing
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 130,500 engineering technicians working in the electrical and electronics fields as of May 2018 (www.bls.gov). Associate program graduates were qualified to work as:
- Field service technician
- Telecom operations specialist
- VoIP support technician
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
BLS reports projected a 5% increase in electrical engineering job opportunities from 2018-2028. While demand for new products was expected to remain high, increased international competition was forecast to limit domestic job growth. According to the same source, the 191,900 professional electrical engineers earned a median annual salary of $96,640 as of May 2018.
Continuing Education Information
Doctoral training programs in telecommunications engineering are available for those interested academic and research-based careers. Admission to doctoral programs is typically open to graduates of bachelor's degree programs in subjects like computer science, electrical engineering and telecommunication engineering.
Those pursuing a career in electronic communication engineering should seek a degree in communications engineering technology, whether at the associate's, bachelor's, master's, or doctorate level. Graduates are skilled in concepts like light-wave communication and microprocessor system design, and may find jobs as field service technicians, telecom operations specialists, or VoIP support technicians.