Communications Technology Degrees: Masters, PhD & Online Course Info

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What jobs can you get with a master's degree or Ph.D. in communications technology? Get the facts about requirements, online options, courses and training programs.
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Master's Degree or Ph.D. in Communications Technology at a Glance

Communications technology degree programs may be known by many names, depending on the school offering it. Telecommunications and networking, telecommunications engineering and information sciences all focus on the technology that makes a wide variety of communication possible. Telecommunications and information systems are converging, and a communications technology degree program can help you be well positioned to meet the demands of this rapidly-changing field. A master's degree can provide you with expertise in your choice of communications specialties, including computer information systems, telecommunications, networks or satellite communications, any of which could qualify you to find employment as an engineering supervisor or as a project manager in the public or private sector. A Ph.D. in a communications technology field can prepare you for a job as a research scientist or as a communications technology professor at a college.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), communications technology jobs are projected to grow about six percent from 2010-2020, which is slower than the average for all occupations. Job growth for research scientists who hold a Ph.D. was projected to grow at 19% from 2010-2020, which is about average.

Master's Ph.D.
Who Is This Degree For? Individuals with a bachelor's degree who want to enhance existing professional skills or advance their careers Individuals with a master's degree who want to engage in research or teach at a university
Common Career Paths (with approximate annual median salary) - Electrical engineer ($86,000)*
- Engineering manager, wired communications ($122,000)*
- Telecom applications engineer ($117,000)**
- Applications engineering manager ($139,000)**
- Research scientist ($101,000)*
- College professor in engineering ($91,000)*
Time to Completion 1-2 years full time 3-6 years full time
Common Graduation Requirements - 2-5 core courses
- Roughly 10-15 courses in engineering and communications technology relevant to your selected specialty
- Thesis
- Roughly 12-18 courses in research, engineering, communications and technology related to selected specialty
- Teaching practicum
- Research
- Dissertation
Prerequisites - Bachelor degree in engineering (some schools require minimum grade point average (GPA)
- Minimum required Graduate Record Exam (GRE) score
- Letters of recommendation
- Essay stating background, objectives and goals
- Master's degree (some schools require minimum GPA)
- Minimum required GRE score
- Letters of recommendation
- Essay stating background, objectives and goals
Online Availability - Yes - No

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011 salaries, **Salary.com

Communications Technology Master's Degree Programs

A master's degree in communications technology is for the professional who already has a bachelor's degree and who may already have extensive experience in this field. Many disciplines exist within this field. You will have the opportunity to develop and enhance problem solving, design, development and analytical skills using the latest technology in this industry. Courses are designed to provide theory and practical experience within your chosen specialty and with the more advanced aspects of the technology in general. You will be required to demonstrate your proficiency in the relevant science and in your chosen specialty to earn your master's degree.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Many schools offer a choice of specialties, and you can design a master's degree program that gives you a competitive edge in the specialty you want
  • A master's degree program can prepare you to supervise a project or manage an engineering department
  • This degree program is available both as an online option and as a part-time option, making it readily available to students who work

Cons

  • You may be competing for the same positions against candidates who have a bachelor's degree and extensive job experience
  • Job growth in this field was projected to be slower than the national average from 2010-2020*
  • While some aspects of this technology are interchangeable with most disciplines, there are aspects that are applicable only to select disciplines, which could narrow your job opportunities

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Courses and Requirements

In addition to core courses in the more advanced aspects of communications technology, you will be required to take graduate-level courses within your selected specialty. With the assistance of your faculty advisor, you can design your own program that is consistent with your educational and career goals, and is designed to increase your proficiency in your chosen specialty. You may be required to demonstrate your proficiency with a practicum or research and a thesis. Courses generally include:

  • Networks and networking
  • Wireless systems
  • Security
  • Antennas
  • Optical communication systems
  • Fields and waves
  • Digital systems
  • Research and thesis

Online Course Info

Master's degree programs are available as fully online or partially online classes. The admission and graduation requirements are generally the same as for students who attend classes on campus.

Getting Ahead with this Degree

If you aspire to manage an engineering department, you should take the business classes offered by the school to improve your business management and project budgeting skills. Project managers who can manage their departments within budgetary constraints and meet scheduled deadlines have a competitive edge over candidates whose primary focus is the technology.

Degree Alternatives

If you are interested in doing research, a master's degree can qualify you for employment in scientific research programs in the public or private sector. You will need to include theory and research methodology classes to give you the research skills that are in demand for this field.

Ph.D. in Communications Technology

A doctorate in communications technology is for the candidate who holds a master's degree and who wants to teach in a university or conduct research. Most programs provide education and practical application using cutting-edge technology, as well as advanced training in the theory and science that drive this technology. Most schools require a strong engineering background in the same or a similar field, academic excellence and a solid foundation in research methods. This program requires the candidate to conduct original research and to teach, as well as complete and defend a dissertation.

Pros and Cons of a Ph.D. in Communications Technology

Pros

  • Job prospects for professors in engineering specialties are more favorable than for other disciplines*
  • For-profit colleges are experiencing increased growth in enrollment, making this an acceptable alternative to public and non-profit schools, which are subject to government funding cuts*
  • Some programs will consider Ph.D. candidates who do not have a master's degree but who are otherwise highly qualified

Cons

  • Most Ph.D. programs have a time limit within which the requirements for graduation must be completed
  • Competition for professorships that provide opportunities for tenure is high*
  • The increase in pay for a job candidate holding a Ph.D. is not necessarily higher than the pay for master's degree holders

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Courses and Requirements

A Ph.D. is a scholarly degree, with a focus on research methodologies and on advanced theory and application of the science and technology. You will be required to take doctorate level courses, which feature the most complex aspects of the technology and its principles, as well as graduate level courses that enhance your proficiency in your chosen specialty. To earn the degree, you will be required to demonstrate a wide breadth of knowledge in this technology and that you have mastered a specialized discipline within this field with research and a dissertation. Your dissertation will have to demonstrate an original undertaking that advances the engineering practices and science of communication technology. Curriculum requirements generally include:

  • Networks
  • Wireless systems
  • Digital communication systems
  • Computer systems
  • Optical systems
  • Theory
  • Security
  • Teaching practicum
  • Research and dissertation

Online Course Info

Ph.D. programs require academic consultation with faculty advisors, research and teaching requirements. They are typically not available online.

Getting Ahead with this Degree

If you are planning on working in the public sector (who may require their engineers to be licensed) or becoming licensed as a professional engineer (PE), you will need to insure you enroll in a program accredited by ABET International, formerly the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology . This is a prerequisite for professional licensure, along with testing and work experience.

How Continuing Education Can Help You Stand Out

Colleges provide continuing education courses in the science and the technology used in this industry. The professional must keep abreast of the latest scientific developments and technological advances in order to maintain the skills and proficiency to be competitive in this rapidly changing field. Continuing education is often a requirement of professional licensure.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Purdue University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Communication
      • Master of Science in Communication
  • Campus and Online Programs
    2. Full Sail University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Fine Arts - Media Design
      • M.S. - New Media Journalism
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Johns Hopkins University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Communication
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Queens University of Charlotte

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Communication - General
      • Master of Arts in Communication - Integrated Digital Strategy Concentration
      • Master of Arts in Communication - Undecided
  • Online Programs Available
    5. American University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication
      • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication - Advocacy and Social Impact Concentration
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.A. in Communication with an Emphasis in Education
  • Syracuse, NY

    Syracuse University

  • Albany, NY

    The College of Saint Rose

Featured Schools

Purdue University

  • Master of Science in Communication

What is your highest level of education?

Full Sail University

  • Master of Fine Arts - Media Design
  • M.S. - New Media Journalism

What is your highest level of education?

Johns Hopkins University

  • Master of Arts in Communication

What is your highest level of education?

Queens University of Charlotte

  • Master of Arts in Communication - General
  • Master of Arts in Communication - Integrated Digital Strategy Concentration
  • Master of Arts in Communication - Undecided

What is your highest level of education completed?

American University

  • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication
  • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication - Advocacy and Social Impact Concentration

What is your highest level of education?

Grand Canyon University

  • M.A. in Communication with an Emphasis in Education

What is your highest level of education?

The College of Saint Rose