With a master’s degree in telecommunications engineering, one of the highest-paying master’s degrees out there, you could earn a great living as a telecom engineer. Of course, the path to becoming a telecom engineer is more extensive than that. It generally starts with earning a bachelor’s degree and encompasses acquiring work experience, securing professional credentials and, for some telecom engineers, going to graduate school.
Earn a Bachelor’s Degree
Engineers generally need at least a bachelor’s degree. Some schools offer a bachelor’s degree in telecommunications engineering specifically. In an undergraduate degree program in telecommunications engineering, you will complete coursework in the foundations of telecommunications, telecommunications network management and legal issues in telecommunications. You will study topics in fiber-optic communications, analog and digital communications, satellite transmission and switching and automata theory. Your core coursework is also likely to include more general engineering topics, including mathematics and statistics, mechanical engineering fundamentals, computer systems and network engineering and programming in C language.
If a bachelor’s degree in telecommunications engineering isn’t an option at your school, you can still work toward becoming a telecommunications engineer by studying a related, less specialized area of engineering. A major in electrical, electronics or computer engineering can provide an excellent foundation for a future career as a telecom engineer. You might also consider a background in civil engineering, especially if you aspire to work on large infrastructure projects. Make sure to look for classes that are as relevant to your area of focus as possible, even if you don’t have the opportunity to complete a formal concentration or specialization in telecom engineering. For example, you might study digital signal processing, telecommunications networks and the Internet of Things.
Another option for undergraduate study is a bachelor’s degree in the Internet of Things, which generally refers to the study of physical devices that contain Internet-enabled sensors, such as smartwatches, security systems and telecommunications components.
Gain Work Experience
One way to build your career in the telecommunications engineering niche is through gaining work experience in the field. Entry-level and junior telecom engineering roles may not require much specialized knowledge of the telecommunications engineering industry. Instead, you can learn through on-the-job training to apply your knowledge of one of the more prominent engineering disciplines, like electrical, computer or civil engineering, to work in this specialty area. As you grow your specialized skills and areas of knowledge, you can move up into telecommunications engineer roles with more seniority and more extensive job duties.
You don’t have to wait until after you graduate to start gaining real-world work experience. An internship that provides any amount of hands-on engineering experience is valuable, and one related to the telecommunications field is even more so.
Get Professional Credentials
Having the right professional credentials will open up your career to new opportunities. Which credentials you need will depend on your state as well as your desired career path.
For some telecommunications engineer jobs in some states, you may need a Professional Engineer (PE) license. Acquiring your license usually means passing the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Exam, gaining at least four years of experience as an engineer-in-training, and then taking the relevant PE Exam. For aspiring telecom engineers, the PE Electrical and Computer: Electronics, Controls, and Communications exam is typically the most relevant PE Exam. The content of this test measures your knowledge of general electrical engineering topics as well as digital systems, electromagnetics, electronics, control systems and communications.
Beyond licensure, you may benefit from seeking professional certifications and credentials. One credential to consider is the Internet Protocol Engineering Professional (IPEP) designation offered by the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) and the International Society Broadband Experts (ISBE). You might also seek certification as an iNARTE Telecommunications Engineer from the International Association for Radio, Telecommunications and Electromagnetics.
The Building Industry Consulting Service International (BICSI) also offers credentials that may be relevant to telecom engineers, including the Registered Communications Distribution Designer and Registered Telecommunications Project Manager designations.
Consider a Master’s Degree
A master’s degree in telecommunications engineering is another part of the process of getting certain jobs in the telecom engineering field. You don’t need a graduate degree to work in telecommunications engineering, but you may need one to move up in the field. Master’s degrees may be required or preferred for senior telecommunications engineer roles. Even if a master’s degree is optional for the job you want, the specialized graduate-level knowledge you gain while pursuing that degree is important. If you majored in a general engineering discipline, a graduate school program may be your first opportunity to take formal coursework in the specialized area of telecommunications engineering principles and practices.
You don’t necessarily have to wait until you have experience and professional credentials to go to graduate school. Some master’s in telecom engineering programs accept recent graduates without work experience, and some schools offer “4+1” accelerated programs.
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