Telecommunications Project Engineer Careers: Job Description & Salary

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What are the pros and cons of a career as a telecommunications project engineer? Get real job descriptions, career outlook and salary information to see if becoming a telecommunications project engineer is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career as a Telecommunications Project Engineer

Telecommunications project engineers are typically in charge of planning, coordinating and directing telecommunications projects. These careers can come with ups and downs, which is why it's important to look at the pros and cons of being a telecommunications project engineer before pursuing this opportunity.

Pros of Being a Telecommunications Project Engineer
High salary potential (mean annual wage of $139,000 in 2014)*
Professional certifications available**
Ability to utilize engineering and management skills*
Good growth in related wireless networking and security (12% projected growth for computer and network administrators during 2012-2022)*

Cons of Being a Telecommunications Project Engineer
High level of experience and education required (bachelor's or master's degree)*
May require state licensure for some positions*
Slightly-below-average job growth (7% from 2012-2022)*
Potential for long hours (47% of architectural and engineering managers worked over 40 hours per week)*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **American Academy of Project Management

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

As a telecommunications project engineer, you will oversee the execution of projects that involve the installation and maintenance of telecommunications systems such as phone, cable, Internet, database network or security systems. You will work closely with other managers and engineers, and you may be tasked with developing and proposing project budgets. As project engineer, you may be required to hire, train and supervise support staff.

Career Prospects and Salary Information

Telecommunications project engineers fall into the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' category of architectural or engineering managers. Job prospects for this career are highly dependent upon the industries in which they seek employment. For example, while the engineering services industry is expected to see substantial job growth, the manufacturing industry will experience a decline in employment. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projections, architectural and engineering managers across industries should expect a 7% employment increase from 2012-2022, which is below the national average for all occupations. Based on 2014 BLS data, these professionals earned a mean salary of about $139,000.

What are the Requirements?

Technical Skills and Other Qualities

In addition to engineering skills, which will require acumen in mathematics and physics as well as specific technical knowledge in electrical and mechanical engineering, project engineers may be required to possess managerial skills as well. For project managers, excellent communication skills are essential, as well as strong analytic and organizational skills. You will most likely need a background in accounting or financial management as well.

Education Requirements

According to the BLS, most engineering managers are required to have at least a bachelor's degree. Aspiring telecommunications project engineers may want to enroll in a program that focuses on telecommunications engineering. Other helpful undergraduate courses may include those in human resources management, industrial management, finances, quality control and engineering economy.

Your may also wish to complete advanced degree or certificate programs in business management. Possible master's degree programs include a Master of Engineering Management or a Master of Science in Technology Management. These programs, along with traditional Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs should provide you with a background in accounting, economics, financial management, quality control and industrial management that you may need for a career in project engineering.

Real Job Listings

Careers in telecommunications project engineering generally require an engineering degree with extensive experience with specific telecommunications functions and systems. Some positions also seek candidates with design training or experience. Here are some real job postings from May 2012 for consulting firms and companies seeking skilled professionals:

  • A project consulting firm in New York seeks a telecommunications project manager to assist with design and to oversee project operations. AutoCADD experience plus three years of relevant experience required.
  • A strategic management and information technology (IT) firm in Dallas and Boston seeks an INTEC technology architect/consultant with experience in telecommunications billing. Qualifications include a bachelor's or master's degree plus 12 years of professional experience.
  • A Texas IT firm seeks a telecom engineer to engineer public and private IP networks as well as data centers and networks. Candidate must be able to manage multiple projects concurrently. Bachelor's degree required plus five to seven years of experience in telecommunications engineering, detail design and network implementation.
  • A San Francisco telecommunications company seeks an entry-level telecommunications engineer responsible for engineering and administrative functions including network analysis as well as design and project management of rings, multiplexors and facility hubs. Bachelor's degree required in telecommunications, electrical engineering or electronics required, advanced degree preferred.

How to Stand Out in Your Field

Specialized Advanced Degrees

Beyond you baccalaureate education, you may wish to pursue an advanced degree in telecommunications engineering. Possible degree programs include a Master of Science (MS) in Telecommunication Engineering Technology or an MS in Electrical Engineering/Telecommunications Engineering. Coursework in these programs may include topics such as fiber optics, wireless systems, network engineering, advanced networks and spectral analysis.

You may also wish to pursue specialized master's degree or graduate certificate programs in project management for engineers. Such programs include an MS in Engineering Management or a Master of Project Engineering Management. These programs include coursework in accounting, financial management as well as topics such as technological enterprises.

Professional Certifications

The Telecommunications Project Management Association (TPMA) issues the Registered Telecommunications Project Manager credential, and the American Academy of Project Management (AAPM) issues the Certified Project Manager credential, which requires the completion of an approved program and three years of professional experience. The International Association for Radio, Telecommunications and Electromagnetics (iNARTE) issues junior, senior and master level certifications for telecommunications engineering professionals.

Alternative Careers in Engineering, Architecture and Telecommunications

Architect

Architects design structures using hand-drawn illustrations and computer-aided design and drafting software. They prepare presentations for clients and manage contracts and bid proposals. For a career in architecture, you will need to obtain licensure by completing a degree program approved by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) lasting generally five years. Professional architects generally work for consulting firms or find contract employment as self-employed professionals.

The BLS projects a 24% employment increase for architects from 2010-2020, with the best prospects coming for professionals practicing sustainable design for energy efficiency and environmental conservation. These professionals, based on BLS 2011 data, earned a mean salary of about $77,000.

Biomedical Engineer

One of the fastest growing fields in engineering is in biomedical systems and equipment design. Biomedical engineers design medical systems and equipment for use by clinicians and patients. For a career in biomedical engineering, you will most need to obtain a bachelor's degree through a program that may include engineering topics such as electrical circuits, mathematics and drafting. Your program may also include topics such as biology and physiology. Based on BLS projections, this small, relatively new career field should expect 62% growth from 2010-2020, with professionals earning a 2011 mean salary of about $88,000.

Network Administrator

Computer network administrators earned a mean annual salary of $74,000 in 2011, according to the BLS. Careers in the field may be obtained by completing either a bachelor's degree, associate's degree or certificate program and gaining industry experience or training. These professionals manage servers and telecommunications networks for a wide variety of businesses and organizations. You may also find work with IT firms contracted to provide network administrative services. Due to the increasing need for wireless network and security systems implementation and administration, these careers are expected to see an above-average increase in employment of 28% from 2010-2020, based on BLS projections.

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