Fiber network technicians install and repair cable lines that provide internet and television. These professionals require a certificate or an associate's degree as well as on-the-job training and certification.
Fiber network technicians install and maintain cable lines that provide Internet and television services for public and private use. Most of these technicians need post-secondary education in telecommunications or electrical engineering prior to employment. Certification by an appropriate organization may also be required for specialized work. Physical dexterity and technical training in electronics and computers are essential skills for fiber network technicians.
|Required Education||Certificate or associate's degree|
|Other Requirements||On-the-job training and certification|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||4% decrease for all telecommunications equipment installers and repairers*|
|Median Salary (2016)||$49,786**|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; **PayScale.com
Fiber network technicians are usually employed by telecommunications companies that provide Internet and television services. Technicians install new cable lines, both underground and on telephone poles, and also perform maintenance on existing cables, including evaluation tests and repairing old or malfunctioning cables. Technicians cut and splice fiber optic cables, locate problem areas and perform other repairs as needed. Technicians also install and maintain network systems for private lines and determine solutions for any issues preventing the service from operating normally.
As reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), the expected employment growth for telecommunications equipment installers and repairers, except line installers, is a 4% decline between 2014-2024. PayScale.com states that the median annual salary for fiber optic technicians was $49,786 as of January 2016.
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A high school diploma, or equivalent, is the minimum education needed to work as fiber network technician, but many employers now require a certificate, an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree. Community colleges and technical colleges often offer a 2-year program in electricity or telecommunications. To prepare for a degree program, students should have high grades in their high school math and science courses. Students may go on to a 4-year program in a major that combines optical science with telecommunications engineering or electrical engineering. Technicians may also received additional training through a professional organization like the National Coalition for Telecommunications Education and Learning.
Many companies now opt for fiber optic technology over old copper cables because they can support a higher amount of data, but these new fiber systems require skilled, experienced technicians. Fiber network technicians need extensive technical training because they work on complicated switching equipment.
Most positions require a variety of physical skills, such as the ability to lift heavy equipment, climb poles and crawl into small spaces. Technicians also need general knowledge of electrical processes and familiarity with the equipment and tools used in the field. A basic level of comfort interacting with customers, as well as employees of other companies who may be on the same project, is also expected.
Employers will sometimes require their technicians to be certified prior to offering them a position, especially if the position calls for specialized work. Working technicians may also enroll in certificate programs to increase their education, advanced their careers or learn new skills. Many organizations, such as The Society of Cable and Telecommunications Engineers and the Telecommunications Industry Association offer these certificates.
The Electronic Technician Association awards the Certified Fiber-Optic Installer (FOI) and Certified Fiber Optics Installer - Outside Plant (FOI-OSP) certificates to technicians who achieve a passing grade on an exam. Some colleges offer classes, such as a Fiber-Optic Data Network Technician Certification course, which will prepare students for these exams.
To summarize, positions for fiber network technicians will be highly competitive in the coming years. Prospective professionals should have extensive knowledge of telecommunications technology, strong communication skills and a willingness to keep pace with a constantly evolving industry.