Becoming a Radio Technician: Career, Salary Info & Job Description

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A radio technician's median annual salary is around $56,000. Is it worth the training and licensure requirements? See real job descriptions and get the truth about career outlook to find out if becoming a radio technician is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career as a Radio Technician

If you are interested in working in electronics and don't want to stay in school for an extended period, then working as a radio technician might be for you. Therefore, you need to understand the pros and cons of becoming a radio technician so you can decide. for yourself.

PROS of a Career as a Radio Technician
Limited education required (associate's degree or paid apprenticeship)*
Employer may provide training in new service procedures and equipment*
Good salary ($56,000 median wage as of May 2014)*
Full-time work*

CONS of a Career as a Radio Technician
Little to no job growth (about 1% from 2012-2022)*
Must be able to distinguish different colors*
Hazardous - electrical shock, burns and falls*
May be on call 24 hours a day*

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

Career Information

Job Description

The primary job of a radio technician is to service radio receiving and transmitting equipment. The equipment can be stationary (mounted on a tall building or a transmission tower) or a 2-way radio system, such as ship-to-shore, taxis or emergency vehicle communication systems. As a radio technician, you repair and test equipment. This may entail replacing parts that no longer work properly, calibrating components, adjusting receivers and testing emergency transmitters.

Employment and Salary Information

According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), radio technicians made a median salary of $56,000 yearly in 2014. The employment outlook for radio technicians is poor, anticipated to increase only 1% from 2012-2022. Radio equipment's increase dependability, along with the growth of self-monitoring radio equipment, may result in a decrease in the number of jobs for radio technicians. However, the continued need for service and repair to existing equipment is expected to increase the need for radio technicians, according to BLS.

Training Requirements

What Employers Are Looking for

Employers generally look for applicants with a high school diploma, some postsecondary school courses or an associate's degree. You may also train by entering an apprenticeship program to become a radio electrician, radio mechanic or radio repairer. As an apprentice, you take classes and work in the field while learning your trade. Radio technicians need good color vision, as well as good communication, technical and troubleshooting skills.

If you plan to maintain and repair ship or airline 2-way radios or ship or airline radio stations, you need a commercial operator license issued by FCC (Federal Communications Commission). You must pass examinations in maintenance practices, electronics and radio law.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Most employers looking for radio technicians seek candidates who have work experience similar to the advertised job. Some employers may request a certain level of education, generally an associate's degree. Here are three recent online job posts from March 2012 for radio technicians.

  • An emergency radio services company in Indiana is looking for a radio technician to service, program, maintain and install 2-way radios. An applicant needs an associate's degree in electronics, 2 years of experience and ETA (Electronics Technicians Association) certification.
  • A radio company in Virginia seeks an electronic radio technician to service, install and repair Kenwood and Motorola radios, de-install and program radios and repair 2-way radios. They are looking for someone with five years of experience.
  • An employer in the aircraft industry in New York is looking for an aircraft radio technician to troubleshoot interference problems of a radio frequency. Candidates need experience doing this type of work.

How to Get an Edge in the Field

The BLS suggests that getting certified may help in your job search. The ETA (Electronics Technicians Association) and International Society of Certified Electronics Technicians both offer a variety of certifications. ETA's Radio Frequency Identification Technical Specialist certification might be especially helpful for you. Additionally, the BLS indicates that individuals with a college degree will likely be preferred by employers, so you might consider earning an associate's or bachelor's degree in telecommunications technology or electronics.

Other Careers to Consider

Does becoming a radio technician appeal to you, but the job prospects make you wonder if you will obtain a job? An alternative career with approximately the same education requirements and salary - but substantially better job prospects - is an electrician. According to the BLS, electricians made a median salary of $49,000 per year in 2011 and only need a high school diploma. To train, you complete an apprenticeship where you can earn money while training. Jobs for electricians were expected to increase 23% from 2010-2020, according to BLS.

Another job with similar education requirements, but higher pay and better job prospects is a telecommunications equipment repairer and installer. This career requires you to set-up or install and maintain equipment used to access the Internet, make a connection to phone lines or convey communications signals. Telecom technicians made a median wage of $54,000 in 2011. Employment for telecommunication equipment repairer and installer was expected to increase 15% from 2010-2020.

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