Future electronic communications technicians enroll in programs at vocational schools and community colleges, from the certificate up to the bachelor's degree level. Certificate program students focus on computer networking, circuitry and electrical theory in preparation for careers in electronics or broadcast engineering. Programs may require less than two years of study. The following associate's degree option might last two years and is designed to teach students to program electronic equipment.
For all programs, a high school diploma or GED is needed for admission. Students who choose the bachelor's degree option might learn to assemble broadcast computer components during laboratory sessions. Ideally, bachelor's program applicants will have taken a number of high school science courses including physics or chemistry.
Certificate in Electronics Technology
Electronic communications professionals learn electrical theory with regard to radio and television broadcasting equipment in order to prevent interrupted transmissions leading to loss of revenue from disgruntled customers and advertisers. Certificate programs also let working professionals stay on top of new advancements in the field. Electronics technology programs prepare students to build, install, program and repair cell phone, television and radio equipment as well as satellite receivers. Certificate programs take 18 months to complete; intensive programs take less than one year to finish.
Students prepare to monitor equipment performance, evaluate new technologies and upgrade aging equipment by learning about circuitry and computer networking. Topics of study include:
- Computer-aided design and drafting
- Electrical codes
- Fiber optic networks
- Intrusion alarm systems
Associate's Degree in Electronic Technology
Electronic communications technicians enable GPS, radar and satellites to function by ensuring that machines are properly programmed, maintained and updated. Students in associate's degree programs study wiring, technical writing and electrical codes. Students may achieve an Associate of Science or Associate of Applied Science in Electronic Technology; these programs last two years. Graduates are trained to work as research and development specialists or field-service engineers working with microwave communications, video equipment and sound systems.
Technicians have been repairing electronic equipment since the invention of the electronic telegraph in the 19th century. Modern technicians are also expected to know how to program automated tasks on a wide variety of electronic equipment. Core coursework includes:
- Computer-aided design and drafting
- Digital circuitry
- High definition digital television
- Mathematical analysis
- Radar and microwave communications
Bachelor of Science in Electronic Engineering Technology
Students learn how to plan, purchase, build, manage and take care of broadcast computers, equipment and networks. Programs emphasize the security of digital information over the course of the equipment's lifespan, from design and assembly, to installation or repair. Hands-on experience is emphasized in laboratory work, so that students are fully prepared for a career as a field service engineer. Students can expect to graduate in 4-5 years.
Students learn to apply critical-thinking skills and the principles of electronics, to fix practical problems in digital communications signals, circuitry and computer programming. Programs offer such courses as:
- AC and DC analysis
- Electromagnetic theory
- Technical physics
Professionals in telecommunications technology work for the federal government, as well as architectural engineering and control instruments manufacturing companies.
Earning a certificate in telecommunications technology can lead to employment with the federal government, electronics wholesalers or contractors working with building equipment. Here are some typical jobs for which graduates may be eligible:
- Broadcast engineer
- Electronics salesperson
- Electronics security specialist
- Multimedia systems maintenance technician
- Satellite applications specialist
- Technical support engineer
Continuing Education Information
Post-baccalaureate training is available for individuals who want to design electronics from scratch and otherwise create telecommunications or computer networks. Graduate education, up to the doctoral degree level, is available for those who have completed an undergraduate program in a field related to computer or electrical engineering. Students at the graduate level collaborate on cross-disciplinary work relevant to information technology, medicine and robotics.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) anticipates a four percent decrease in jobs for electrical and electronics installers and repairers from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). These employees earned varying median annual wages depending on the equipment they worked with. According to the BLS, the May 2015 median annual salaries were $55,690 for commercial and industrial equipment installers and repairers; $73,810 for electrical powerhouse, substation and relay installers and repairers; $31,360 for installers and repairers working on motor vehicles; and $58,990 for transportation equipment installers and repairers.
The BLS reported that electrical and electronic engineering technicians held an estimated 139,080 jobs in 2015, and that industry was projected to experience just a two percent decrease from 2014-2024. This decline was partly due to sluggish growth and declines occurring in the traditional manufacturing industries. BLS earnings reports showed that electrical and electronics engineering technicians earned a median annual wage of $61,130 as of May 2015.
Training in electronic communications, also known as telecommunications, is available at the certificate, associate's and bachelor's degree levels from vocational schools and community colleges. Graduates are eligible for employment with federal agencies as well as in industries such as building, manufacturing and electronics.