Electronics & Communications Engineering Technology Careers: Salary & Job Info

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What are the pros and cons of a career in electronics and communications engineering technology? Get real job descriptions and education requirements to see if a career in electronics and communications engineering technology is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career in Electronics and Communications Engineering Technology

Electronics and communications engineering technology is a broad field concerned with the development, installation, testing and maintenance of communications systems. Electrical engineering technician, electrical engineer and telecom technician are three common job titles in this field. Here's a brief view of each of these possible career choices:

Electrical Engineering Technician Electrical Engineer Telecom Technician
Career Overview Electrical engineering technicians assist engineers in the development and maintenance of electrical technology. Electrical engineers are in charge of the design process and manufacture of a many different kinds of electronic and communication devices and systems. Telecom technicians repair and install communications equipment.
Education Requirements Associate's degree Bachelor's degree Certificate or associate's degree
Program Length 2 years 4 years 1-2 years
Certification and Licensing Not required Licensure is often not required but encouraged Certification is needed for certain positions
Job Outlook for 2012-2022 No growth (0%) compared to all occupations* Slower-than-average growth (5%) compared to all occupations* Slower-than-average growth (4%) compared to all occupations*
Mean Salary (2014) About $60,000* About $96,000* About $55,000*

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

Electrical Engineering Technician

Electrical engineering technicians often assist or work under the direction of lead engineers. As an electrical engineering technician, you'll typically be responsible for helping to develop and design communications tools and equipment as well as computer systems. Designing circuitry, building electronic prototypes, drafting sketches, building parts and troubleshooting issues or malfunctions are common duties of the job. You may also be in charge of recording and maintaining data and records for a head engineer.

Requirements

In order to become an electrical engineering technician, you'll usually need to earn at least an associate's degree. You could study electrical or electronic engineering technology at a community college or technical school. Coursework in an electrical engineering technology program covers topics like circuitry, linear devices, instrumentation, technical writing and digital electronics. Such programs are accredited by ABET, formerly known as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.

Here are a sampling of jobs postings for electrical technicians available in December of 2012:

  • In Wisconsin, a metal production and distribution company sought an electrical control systems technician with a 2-year degree in electronics or relevant work experience.
  • A Colorado manufacturing company needed a mill electrical technician who would work as a welder, millwright, pipe fitter and boilermaker. Completion of, or the equivalent to, an apprenticeship as an electronic repairman, combustion technician or electrical inspector was expected.
  • In Oklahoma, an energy company was seeking an instrumentation and electrical and communications technician with ten years of experience.

Standing Out

You might stand out as a electrical engineering technician by specializing in one area of expertise. There are many different technical areas that you can specialize in. For example, you could choose to focus on electrical inspection and seek positions in this area exclusively. Additionally, after earning your associate's degree, you might consider going on to earn a bachelor's degree in electrical or electronics engineering technology. This would allow you to advance from technician to the position of electrical engineering technologist, which entails more conceptual engineering work and may lead to higher earnings.

Electrical Engineer

Electrical engineers design and develop electrical equipment, which can include testing and troubleshooting, overseeing technicians and technologists and overseeing the manufacturing process. They work in a range of industries, producing equipment like navigation systems, power generators and electric motors. Those who work in the communications industry are often in charge of designing phone, Internet and television networks and systems. Positions are available in manufacturing, development, research, service and local/federal government agencies.

Requirements

A bachelor's degree is mandatory for a career as an electrical engineer. These 4-year programs combine in-class and laboratory instruction as well as field study in topics like digital equipment design, circuit theory and differential equations. In addition, select states require you to become licensed to practice as a electrical engineer. Licensure usually requires completion of an ABET-accredited degree program and passage of both Fundamentals of Engineering and Professional Engineering exams in addition to completion of a number of years serving as an engineer in training.

Get an idea of what employers were looking for by taking a look at a few job postings available in December 2012:

  • A metal recycling company in California was seeking an electrical engineer to use AutoCAD software to create product designs, as well as managing the operation of a variety of machinery. A bachelor's in electrical engineering and a minimum of two years of industrial experience, specifically with Allen-Bradley products, were required.
  • In Pennsylvania, an architectural aluminum manufacturer was hiring a staff electrical engineer with a bachelor's degree and at least ten years of experience in the field, five of which needed to be related directly to metal manufacturing.
  • A defense and aerospace company in California was seeking an electrical engineer with five years of operations, maintenance and design experience and AutoCAD skills.

Standing Out

There are a number of measures that you can take to stand out as an electrical engineer. For example, you can maintain a high level of computer literacy and up-to-date knowledge of industry technology. Experience with computer-aided design (CAD) and AutoCAD computer drafting technology can be enormously useful. Additionally, the BLS notes that may students gain practical experience before entering the workforce by completing cooperative-education programs during college. Such programs provide hands-on training in combination with in-class studies.

Telecom Technician

Telecommunications equipment installers and repairers, also known as telecom technicians, connect and repair access lines to communication systems. This is typically a hands-on, labor-intensive position and requires a lot of time in the field. Different kinds of technicians include headend technicians, central office technicians, PBX system installers/repairers and station installers/repairers.

Requirements

Telecom technicians often need postsecondary training in the form of a certificate or associate's degree in electronics repair or computer science. A degree in electronics repair, for example, may include courses in digital circuits, microprocessors, semiconductors and computer repair basics. Even with education, telecom technicians typically undergo on-the-job-training for up to a few months, and larger employers may require you to attend training sessions through a manufacturer or professional organization. Additionally, depending on the jurisdiction or employer, you may be required to earn certification from the Telecommunications Industry Association or the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers.

In December 2012, some employers posted the following job listings online:

  • A worldwide communications company was looking to hire a central office technician in Virginia to operate systems, perform upgrades and work with data networks. The employee would receive on-the-job training.
  • Another Virginia-based posting came from a communications company hiring a full-time headend information technology technician with up to two years of experience and at least a high school diploma. A technical certificate in the field was preferred.
  • In Las Vegas a high-speed Internet provider was searching for a full-time installer/repair person with at least three years of experience in the current telecommunications market.

Standing Out

If your jurisdiction does not require licensure, you might gain an edge over the competition by obtaining certification. Additionally, the BLS notes that those with advanced, specialized training may go on to upper-level positions as specialists. For example, a technician who focuses on home installation may go on to more complex duties like wiring computer network or advance to positions in central office installation.

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