A master’s degree in telecommunications engineering is one of the highest-paying master’s degrees, but it isn’t the only path into the telecom engineering field. If you’re wondering whether you can leverage your interest in and skills using computers to break into the field of telecom engineering, you’re in luck. Telecom engineers come from a few different backgrounds, including computer science. Here are some things you should know about majoring in computer science with the aim of becoming a telecom engineer.
Majoring in Computer Science
Computer science is an excellent choice for aspiring telecom engineers. In fact, computer science happens to be one of the academic backgrounds most preferred by graduate telecommunications engineering programs. Telecommunications engineering is generally viewed as a subdiscipline within the larger area of work and study that encompasses electrical, computer and electronics engineering. A computer science background will give you a good foundation for the computer-focused tasks you would encounter as a telecom engineer.
Telecommunications is a specialized area of computers, different from general computer programming or computer security, for example. The greater the amount of specialized coursework relevant to telecommunications that you take, the better prepared you will be to work in this area. Although understanding the breadth of the computer science field is valuable, so is developing a stronger knowledge base that is pertinent to telecommunications.
Some bachelor’s in computer science programs offer specialized sequences of courses, such as formal concentrations or certificate programs, in telecommunications. Some of the classes you might take in a computer science program that emphasizes telecommunications include data communications, digital computer organization, wireless security and Voice Over IP. You may devote some courses to studying specific parts of telecommunications systems, such as routers. Other classes focus on the design of local area network (LAN) and wide area network (WAN) systems. Throughout your coursework in telecommunications, you will study different aspects of networking, such as networking fundamentals, networking operating systems, networking regulation and wireless networking.
Because networking is so important to computer science and specifically telecommunications, an internship that provides real-world experience handling networking responsibilities may be encouraged or required.
The Computer Skills Most In-Demand in Telecom Engineering
Telecom engineers need a strong repertoire of computer technology skills, which is something that majoring in computer science can give you. Network monitoring software, like Cisco Traffic Analyzer, Wireshark or Nagios, is one type of computer technology telecommunications engineers need to know how to use, according to O*NET. Proficiency in using development environment software, like Microsoft Visual Basic Scripting Edition, Microsoft PowerShell and Apache Kafka, is also important. The computer languages most important for telecommunications engineers to know include Java, Perl and structured query language (SQL), according to O*NET. The use of access management software is also common in this career field.
Interacting with computers by developing software, configuring functions and inputting and processing data is one of the most important activities of a telecom engineer’s job, second only to making decisions to solve problems, O*NET reported.
Engineering Degree Paths to Consider
The one drawback of choosing a computer science program to become a telecom engineer is that the curriculum won’t teach you the foundations of engineering, a field that prioritizes design. If you want to work in an area of telecommunications that is farther removed from software development, it may help to consider an engineering program of study either instead of or in conjunction with your computer science degree.
You might, for example, decide to double major in computer science and computer engineering, allowing you to explore the field of computers from different perspectives and become familiar with working with both software and hardware. Another option is to minor in computer engineering to get a taste of what the engineering side of computer work has to offer and develop the foundations of engineering design.
Alternatively, you could decide to go for a telecommunications engineering master’s degree after earning a more general bachelor’s degree in computer science. This may be a great choice for students who are thinking about a telecommunications career but want to keep their options open and avoid choosing an undergraduate program of study that is too narrowly focused. You might also take this path if you don’t become interested in telecommunications specifically until after you finished studying computer science and got some work experience under your belt.
If you majored in computer science without knowing what you wanted to do and found an entry-level telecommunications job, a master’s degree program that provides more extensive specialized knowledge in telecommunications can help you move up in your career.