Aspiring telecommunications technicians, communications operations specialists and network designers should have a minimum of an associate's degree or prior experience in related areas. Programs may focus on electric circuitry, digital electronics, computer programming and telecommunications laws. Learning may take place in telecommunications laboratories as well as in classroom environments. Other education options included a certificate and/or a bachelor's degree in telecommunication engineering technology. Some programs may feature distance education, and they may require the completion of an internship or capstone project. Professional certification options are available in this field.
Certificate in Telecommunications Engineering Technology
Certificate programs cover the basics of telecommunications engineering technology. These programs are designed for individuals with a high school diploma or GED and a background in circuit theory, electricity, computers and telecommunications. Evening or day courses are available providing flexibility in scheduling. Course credit may be transferable to an associate's degree program. Graduates are awarded a certificate of completion and are prepared for entry-level employment in the industry.
These programs typically consist of six to seven classes in electricity, computer and telecommunications fundamentals. Courses include:
- Computer operating systems
- Electric circuitry
- Telecommunications fundamentals
- Digital, technical and analog electronics
- Engineering technology
Associate's Degree in Telecommunications Engineering Technology
These programs are designed to advance knowledge in designing, building, installing, and maintaining various telecommunications, cellular, computer and networking systems. Most include hands-on learning in a telecommunications lab. The programs take approximately two years to complete and include general education classes. Graduates are awarded an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) or Associate of Science (A.S.) degree.
In addition to a high school diploma or GED, these programs require additional math courses and ACT or SAT scores before enrolling.
General education classes are included in the programs typically include reading, math, science and communications. Classes in the specialty and systems vary by school, but some include:
- Alternating Current (A.C.) and Direct Current (D.C.) circuitry analysis
- Computer programming, networking, architecture, construction and interfacing
- Digital, analog and wireless telephony technology
- Local Area Network (LAN) fundamentals
Bachelor's Degree in Telecommunications Engineering Technology
Bachelor's degree programs focus on advanced training in voice, software and data systems, networking, analysis, design and problem-solving. Students also learn skills in communication, project management and process improvement. While most only require incoming students to have a high school diploma or GED with a background in telecommunications or math, many are designed for students with an associate's degree in the specialty. Depending on the student's previous education, the programs take two to four years to complete. Some schools offer different tracks in areas like wireless or optical communications. Graduates are typically awarded a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) or Bachelor of Technology (B.Tech.) degree.
The curriculum builds upon a student's core knowledge in telecommunications engineering-related math, science and electronics skills. Business and management are also emphasized. An internship or capstone project culminates many of the programs. Courses include:
- Telecommunications laws and regulations
- Statistics and probability
- Engineering economics
- Technology philosophies
A bachelor's degree provides additional opportunities in telecommunications engineering technology, typically including supervisory or management positions. An associate's degree provides more advanced opportunities for employment in the industry. Some choices are:
- Traffic or telecommunications analyst
- Fiber optics engineer
- Communications operations specialist
- Fiber optics technician
- Telecommunications field technician
- Data communications technician
Career options available to telecommunications engineering technology certificate holders are entry-level. Some include telecommunications technician, telecommunications installer, network technician and data technician. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), telecommunications equipment installers and repairers are expected to experience a 6% decline in employment over the 2018-2028 decade. These professionals earned a median annual salary of $56,100 in May 2018.
Those pursuing a career in telecommunications engineering have a few options to choose from when it comes to the level of education and employment they wish to pursue. Certificate and associate's degree programs offer hands-on and in-class training that prepare students for entry level work, while bachelor's degree programs focus on advanced training in various areas of the field.
Continuing Education and Certification
Many bachelor's degree programs in telecommunications engineering technology are designed to transfer into a master's degree program. Some schools offer a five-year, B.S./Master of Science (M.S.) program leading to a combined degree in the specialty. Master's degree programs are available both on-campus and via distance education, and in full-time or part-time schedules.
Some employers may require professional certification, which is available through a number of private vendors in a variety of related areas, including storage networking, advanced switching and routing, wireless design and service provider operations.