Microwave Antenna Engineer Careers: Salary & Job Description

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Learn about a microwave antenna engineer's job duties, salary and educational requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of a microwave antenna engineer's career.
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Pros and Cons of being a Microwave Antenna Engineer

Microwave antenna engineers, a type of electronics engineers, have the job of designing and implementing short (micro) wave antenna systems. Read the following pros and cons to find out if this career is right for you.

Pros of Becoming a Microwave Antenna Engineer
Average annual wage of about $99,660 as of 2014*
Anticipated job growth in engineering services firms*
Employment can be found in a variety of sectors*
Full time employment is the norm with overtime a possibility*

Cons of Becoming a Microwave Antenna Engineer
Slight decline in jobs expected from 2014-24*
Formal education is required for this field*
Must have strong aptitude for math and science*
Licensure requirements may apply*

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

Career Info

Job Duties

Microwave antenna engineering falls under the electronics engineering subspecialty of electrical engineering. An engineer working in the area of microwave antennas spends their time designing, developing, and testing the components of a microwave antenna system including the reflector, array systems, transmitters, receivers, frequency synthesizers and circuits. The microwave antenna engineer may also be involved in technical analysis, design improvement and laboratory testing. Microwave antenna engineers work mostly indoors but may have to perform outdoor site visits.

Salary and Job Prospects

As of May 2014, the BLS reported the average annual wage for electronics engineers was around $99,660. Also as of May 2014, states with jobs offering the best pay for electronics engineers are located on the east and west coasts of the United States.

Microwave antenna engineers find work in communications, software publishing, securities and scientific research and development sectors, to name a few. The BLS reported two of the industries with the highest levels of employment of electronics engineers are wired telecommunications carriers followed by the federal government and a close third of architectural services. Job opportunities for electronics engineers are expected to decline by 1% from 2014-2024 due in large part to a decline in the manufacturing industry. Engineering firms may see an increase in the need for electronics engineers as the industry continues implementing more high-quality portable computing devices.

Education and Training

Electronics engineering is a field that requires a four year undergraduate degree at a minimum. The undergraduate program usually includes laboratory studies and a field component and some schools offer cooperative programs that allow the student to gain hands on experience prior to graduation. Electrical and electronics engineer degree programs are also offered at the graduate level for those who aspire to management, supervision or research positions. Certain undergraduate programs may offer a five year option which allows the student to complete both the bachelor and master's degrees.

Licensure is not a requirement but is strongly recommended for those who wish to work in the government sector. Gaining licensure requires passing two exams (fundamentals and professional) in addition to having graduated an accredited engineering degree program. Those who do gain licensure are designated as professional engineers (PEs) and may have to take continuing education units in order to maintain their status depending on their state's requirements.

Top Skills

It should come as no surprise that some of the top skills for electronics engineers are critical thinking and complex problem solving. Designing and developing microwave antennas also requires the engineer to understand the implications of new and existing information, the ability to weigh the costs and benefits of various decisions and the ability to monitor processes and make corrections as needed.

Jobs from Real Employers

Microwave antenna engineering is a highly specialized niche within the field of electronics engineering. Employers in this field are seeking employees with a combination of experience and a solid educational background. Here are some examples of job postings from May 2012:

  • A wireless communications company in California is seeking an antenna engineer. The incumbent will support design and development of antenna systems. This position requires a candidate with a master's degree with an emphasis on antennas.
  • A Maryland company seeks an RF Engineer who will provide support for the design, development and testing of radio frequency and/or microwave systems. The employer seeks candidates with a bachelor degree in engineering or applied science. This position requires the job candidate to take a polygraph exam.
  • A California company involved in the defense-aerospace industry is looking for a microwave engineer. They would prefer a candidate with experience in the tools used for the design of large dish antennas and feeds. This position requires a bachelor degree.

How Can I Stand Out?

Beating out the competition in the field of electronics engineering will depend largely upon staying aware of the latest innovations in the field, nurturing professional relationships and honing management skills. One of the best ways to remain on top of the latest innovations is to join a professional organization. The Microwave Theory and Techniques Society (as subgroup of The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) offers members group-specific publications like magazines and e-newsletters, conferences and educational support such as a PhD sponsorship initiative and fellowships. These are all aimed at keeping members abreast of changes in the field as well as advancing the profession itself.

Acquiring management skills in this field can make the electronics engineer more attractive to an employer and may open the door to career advancement. Certain companies who hire or promote from within may offer employees the opportunity for mentorship with management or allow them to take company sponsored training centered on management practices. An employee with management training stands apart from his fellows by virtue of having a skill set that is in addition to but distinct from the electronics engineer's training.

Alternative Careers

If the highly specialized field of microwave antenna engineering isn't for you but you do want a career in engineering or science, read on to see some of the alternatives.

Sales Engineer

Sales engineers prepare presentations and sales pitches to potential buyers. One part salesman and one part engineer, these workers help clients (and potential clients) figure out how best to meet the company's engineering needs. Entry into this field does require a bachelor degree. The BLS recommends the degree be in engineering or another closely related field. While these engineers will work primarily in sales, it is very important for them to keep up with innovations and changes to the engineering field. This knowledge is essential for them to be able to sell their employers products and services. The BLS states that workers in this field had a mean annual wage in May of 2011 of about $97,000. Expected growth rate for this field is 14% during the 2010-2020 decade.

Biomedical Engineer

Biomedical engineers design systems, products and machines for use in advancing patient care. These are the engineers that design artificial body parts and the machines used in diagnosing patients. A bachelor degree is required for entry into the field. Aspiring biomedical engineers typically study engineering and biological sciences concurrently or they can obtain an engineering degree and obtain on the job training. With an impressive 62% projected career growth from 2010-2020, the field of biomedical engineering could be the perfect alternative for those interested in both engineering and the biological sciences. The BLS reports an annual mean wage of about $88,000 as of May 2011.

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