Education options in wireless communications are available at the associate's and master's degree levels. Both programs of study are generally two years, but master's degree programs require the completion of a bachelor's degree, prior to admission. In addition, master's programs may require the completion of prerequisite coursework.
Students can explore cell phone and radio technologies as well as wireless systems modeling through classroom and laboratory experiences. They might go on to become telecommunications equipment repairers and installers or management professionals. Students who have sufficient education and experience may earn certifications by passing examinations.
Associate's Degree in Wireless Communications
An associate's degree program in wireless communications provides a grounding in electronics while focusing on the operation and maintenance of digital wireless systems. A combination of classroom and lab courses examines radio frequency technology at the discreet component and network systems level. Students develop analytical, problem-solving and critical thinking skills in the process of setting up wireless communications systems and troubleshooting system disruptions. Admission to an associate's degree program requires only a GED or high school diploma.
Physics and mathematics are considered helpful preparatory courses for wireless communications programs. Wireless communications programs are likely to include supporting courses in technical writing, college algebra and trigonometry. Courses that are closely or directly related to wireless communications might include:
- Electronics fundamentals
- Circuit analysis
- Radio technology introduction
- Networking technology
- Radio communications systems
- Cellular phone technology
Master's Degree in Wireless Communications
Master's degree programs in wireless communications primarily have a technology emphasis. Degree candidates study issues related to choosing coding and decoding schemes, implementing security protocols and integrating 2G and 3G systems. Some programs also consider organizational and managerial issues, such as developing service plans and forecasting wireless industry trends, with the intent of helping management-level telecommunications professionals solve problems in their industry. Program content is conveyed through a mix of classroom study, research papers and individual and team projects.
A bachelor's degree in computer science, engineering or engineering technology is required for admission to a master's program. Applicants who don't have an electrical engineering degree may have to complete courses in algebra, calculus and physics.
The curriculum in a wireless communications program may consist of a small number of foundational courses and electives. Programs may also recommend that courses be completed in a particular sequence. The following are possible course titles or topics:
- Wireless fundamentals
- Wireless security
- Signal processing
- Data and information theory
- Wireless systems modeling
- Wireless industry economics
Popular Career Options
Graduates of a master's degree program are prepared to find new jobs or transition to positions of greater authority and responsibility in the wireless industry. The following institutions are possible employers:
- Research organizations
- Government regulators
- Computer centers
- Wireless service providers
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
A wireless communications associate's degree qualifies graduates for entry-level positions in the telecommunications industry as equipment installers and repairers. Unfortunately, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), www.bls.gov, projects a 4% decrease in employment for these professionals over the 2014-2024. As the demand for wireless services increases, telecommunications companies need to hire fewer workers in this area. As of May 2015, the BLS reports that telecommunications equipment installers and repairers earn a median annual salary of $54,570.
Continuing Education Information
Technicians with an associate's degree can improve their career prospects by earning a bachelor's degree either in wireless communications or in electrical engineering with a wireless communications emphasis. A number of schools have transfer programs in electrical engineering, but wireless communications degree programs at this level are very rare.
Associate's degree holders are also eligible for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' (IEEE's) Wireless Communications Engineering Technologies (WCET) certification. Attaining WCET certification requires candidates to pass an exam covering such areas as RF engineering, wireless access and network and service architecture. A degree from a university or college and three years of work experience is considered the baseline for preparation.
An associate's degree in wireless communications prepares students for jobs as telecommunications equipment repairers and installers. Graduate degrees and professional certification are available, which could increase job prospects.