Computer network architects analyze, plan and build local area networks (LAN), wide area networks (WAN) and other types of networks. These professionals typically need at least a bachelor's degree in a subject such as communications engineering or information systems, though network technicians can get started in the job force with just an associate's degree. Master's and doctoral programs in the field can prepare computer network architects for jobs in management.
Associate of Science in Communications Engineering Technology
Associate degree programs prepare students for jobs in network operations and management by teaching electrical control systems and computer diagnostics. Communication engineers learn to restore satellite communication functions, troubleshoot radar systems and update the software and hardware that enable Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) communication.
These programs require students to have a high school diploma or equivalent prior to enrollment, and usually take two years to complete. Commonly covered material includes:
- Alternating current (A.C.) electricity
- Direct current (D.C.) electricity
- Electrical codes
- Electronics drawing
Bachelor of Science in Telecommunications Engineering Technology
These four-year programs teach students the concepts of data and wireless communication as well as networking theory. Programs prepare students for employment in fields like optical networks, mobile communications, remote sensing and broadcast maintenance. Students learn about security management, radio broadcast equipment and information theory. Like with other undergraduate degrees, incoming students need to have a high school diploma or equivalent. Core courses cover topics like:
- Network design
- Information security
- Differential equations
- Computer architecture
Master of Science in Telecommunications Engineering
Interoperability among the five main kinds of telecommunications systems - analog public switched telephone network, optical, asynchronous transfer mode, Internet protocol and wireless - is covered at this level. Given the hands-on nature of the industry, participation in practical lab hours is required. Students preferring to undertake a final project in lieu of a final thesis are able to choose a project option. Programs at the master's level are usually two years long and require a bachelor's degree for admission. Students learn about statistical interference in signal processing, processing digital images and the prevention of signal jamming and accounting for random variables. Material covered in these types of programs can include:
- Next generation networks
- Satellite communications
- Design of microprocessor systems
- Light wave communication
Popular Career Options
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that 139,080 engineering technicians found employment in the field of electrical and electronics repair, as of May 2015 (www.bls.gov). Graduates of these programs were qualified to work in research and development, product evaluation or broadcasting as:
- Telecommunications network engineering technician
- Field service technician
- Technical consultant
- VoIP support specialist
The May 2015 BLS reports showed employment of 178,580 electrical engineers. Among these, graduate degree holders were qualified to work as:
- Engineers for network applications
- Facilities engineers
- Network developers
- Sales engineers
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
The 2014-2024 BLS employment forecast shows a projected little or no change in employment opportunities for electrical engineers. The BLS data on electrical engineers employed as of May 2015 showed the median annual earnings of these professionals was $93,010.
Ph.D. programs exist for scholars interested in research or academic careers. Eligible applicants to these programs are typically graduates of baccalaureate programs in electrical engineering or computer science.
While an A.S. in Communications Engineering Technology may provided students with the education needed for entry-level jobs as technicians, many advanced positions require B.S. or M.S. degrees.