Postsecondary education in electronics and computer technology is important for telecommunications equipment technicians. For more complex work, a 4-year degree may be the best preparation. Industry certification is required for some positions.
To keep pace with rapidly expanding telecommunications technology, telecom technicians increasingly need advanced training. As a result, many employers prefer candidates with formal postsecondary education in electronics and a familiarity with computers.
Telecom technicians may get training through a certificate or 2-year associate’s degree program in electronics repair, computer science, or related subjects. Equipment and software manufacturers also offer educational and training programs on specific products.
Central office technicians, headend technicians, and those working with commercial communications systems are increasingly expected to have a bachelor’s degree. By contrast, educational requirements are generally lower for workers such as station installers and repairers.
Because technology in this field evolves quickly, telecom technicians must continue to educate themselves over the course of their careers. They may attend manufacturers’ training classes, read equipment manuals, or get hands-on experience with the latest equipment.
Most telecom technicians complete some on-the-job training. Generally, this training involves informal hands-on work with an experienced technician. Training may last several weeks to a few months. Workers who have completed postsecondary training often require less on-the-job instruction than those who have not.
Large companies also may send new employees to training sessions to learn about new equipment, procedures, and technology offered by equipment manufacturers or industry organizations.
Some technicians must be certified to do certain tasks or to work on specific equipment. Certification requirements vary by jurisdiction, employer and specialization.
Organizations such as the Society of Cable and Telecommunications Engineers and the Telecommunications Industry Association offer certifications for telecom technicians. Some manufacturers also provide certifications for working with specific equipment.
Experienced repairers with advanced training may become specialists or troubleshooters who help other repairers diagnose difficult problems.
Because of their familiarity with equipment, repairers are particularly well qualified to become manufacturers' sales workers.
Home installers may advance to wiring computer networks or working as a central office installer and repairer.
Bookkeeping skills. When working at clients’ locations, telecom technicians must often track hours worked, parts used, and bills collected.
Color vision. Installers and repairers must be able to distinguish different colors because the wires they work with are color coded.
Customer-service skills. Many telecom technicians work in customers’ homes and offices, so it is important that they be friendly and polite. Also, they often must explain how to maintain and operate complicated equipment to people who have little or no technical knowledge.
Manual dexterity. Many telecom technician tasks, such as repairing small devices, connecting or attaching components, and using handtools, require a steady hand and good hand–eye coordination.
Technical skills. Telecom technicians frequently work with computers, sophisticated diagnostic equipment, and specialized hardware. Therefore, they must be familiar with these devices, their internal parts, and the appropriate tools needed to use, install, or fix them.
Troubleshooting skills. As telecommunications equipment becomes more sophisticated, malfunctions become more difficult to identify. As a result, technicians must be able to devise solutions to complex problems that are not immediately apparent.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition