What Is a Radio Engineer?

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a radio engineer. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and certification to find out if this is the career for you.

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A radio engineer oversees equipment related to broadcasting systems and conducts maintenance and repair duties when necessary. Many radio engineer positions typically require a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering, while others might require candidates to have a master's degree. State licensure is also required for any engineer performing a public service.

Essential Information

Radio engineers, also called radio frequency engineers, are specialized electrical engineers who work with devices that emit and receive radio waves. These devices are found on wireless networks, as well as in items such as radios and cell phones. The main duties of these professionals include maintenance, monitoring and repair of broadcasting systems and equipment. Education requirements vary, but a degree may be required. Radio engineers generally need to be licensed, though certification is voluntary.

Required Education Depends on position; some radio engineers may need a bachelor's or master's degree
Other Requirements Professional Engineer licensure
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 7% for broadcast and sound engineering technicians*,
0% for electrical engineers*
Median Salary (2016) $80,063** (radio frequency engineers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale

Academic Requirements

While some aspiring radio engineers may earn a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering, some positions may require a master's degree. Core course topics in these programs relating to radio engineering include signal processing, semiconductor and LCD fabrication, circuits, electromagnetic theory and communications systems.

Radio Engineer Licensing

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) all states required engineers who provided public services to be licensed as Professional Engineers (PE) (www.bls.gov). To become a PE, engineers must have four years of work experience and pass a state PE exam. Most beginning engineers will take this exam in two stages. The first stage involves taking a Fundamentals of Engineering exam and acquiring the necessary work experience. The second stage consists of taking the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam.

Certification

The Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE) offers a voluntary certification for radio engineers. Candidates for the Certified Broadcast Radio Engineer (CBRE) title must have five years of broadcast or radio engineering experience and pass an exam that covers AM/FM procedures, problem solving and theory (www.sbe.org). The CBRE certification comes with continuing education requirements and may help with advancement to senior positions.

Employment Outlook

Employers of radio engineers include government, telecommunications and broadcast companies. While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not offer specific employment growth data for radio engineers, it does offer information about related fields. For instance, the BLS predicted that broadcast and sound engineering technician jobs would grow by 7% from 2014-2024, while employment of electrical engineers was predicted to show no change (www.bls.gov). Additionally, PayScale.com reported that radio frequency engineers earned a median annual salary of $80,063 in January 2016.

The coursework that students studying towards an electrical engineering undergraduate degree typically take include electromagnetic theory and signal processing. There is voluntary certification available for this profession, which might prove beneficial to radio engineers seeking out career advancement.

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