Earning a master’s in telecommunications engineering, one of the highest-paying master’s degrees, is part of the process you may go through to become a telecom engineer or to advance your career in this field. Telecommunications engineering is a narrow discipline compared to, say, electrical engineering, but the occupation is still broader than you might realize. Some of the job titles a telecom engineer might hold include telecom equipment engineer, telecom network engineer, telecom engineering consultant and senior telecom engineer. Although each job title comes with its own set of responsibilities, most telecommunications engineers fit into one or more distinct roles in the field.
Telecom Equipment Engineer
As a whole, the field of telecommunications engineering encompasses hardware and software – the physical components of systems and infrastructure as well as the programs and applications used to run them. A telecom equipment engineer is someone who designs and oversees the production of the hardware components that make up telecommunications equipment.
Telecommunications systems are made up of many different physical components. Transmission lines like standard copper cables and fiber-optic cables, which can be run above or below ground, are used for broadcast and Internet connections. Routers and modems allow access to wireless networks. A 200-foot-high cell tower is part of a telecommunications system, but so is the mobile phone that fits in your pocket. Someone has to design and develop the equipment used in the telecommunications industry, and that someone is a telecom equipment engineer.
The market for high-tech telecommunications equipment keeps growing as major multinational telecom utility providers upgrade their networks and infrastructure, according to The Houston Chronicle.
Telecom Network Engineer
Data transmission couldn’t happen without networks in place. A telecommunications network consists of each of the distinct nodes that are connected through technological links. A node is a device, like a computer station, modem or printer, that is connected to the network. If you get hired for a role as a telecom network engineer, you will be responsible for designing, developing, installing, deploying, maintaining or troubleshooting the telecommunications network that keeps nodes connected to the telecom system.
Although the term “networking” may make you think of computers, the networks that apply in telecommunications can also include mobile and landline phone networks, cable networks and radio networks.
Telecom Engineering Consultant
A telecom engineering consultant is an engineering professional who works in a consulting capacity rather than as an in-house employee. Consulting telecommunications engineers help clients analyze their telecom needs and plan to meet them. Some duties a telecom engineering consultant may perform include helping clients choose the right equipment for their telecommunications system and assisting in the planning of telecom networks and infrastructure. Telecom engineering consultants often work for engineering consulting firms or technical and professional consulting firms more generally, although some consulting telecom engineers are self-employed.
Consultants in the field of telecommunications engineering may further specialize in different areas, with job titles such as systems integration consultant, network deployment consultant and network and security consultant.
Senior Telecom Engineer
As you acquire more experience in telecommunications engineering, you may have the opportunity to take on more high-level job duties and advance to senior-level positions. Whether they work in telecom equipment engineering, telecom network engineering or any number of other roles, senior telecommunications engineers enjoy more prestige, more authority and higher earning potential. Some senior telecom engineer job roles are open to professionals with just five years of work experience in the field, but don’t be surprised if you encounter other job listings that call for 10 or even 15 years of experience to be considered a contender for a senior telecom engineering job.
Senior telecom engineer positions are also more likely to require or give preference to candidates with a master’s degree, whereas a graduate-level education isn’t a requirement for roles with less seniority.
Roles in Telecom Engineering
Although telecommunications engineers go by somewhat different job titles, the primary function of their jobs usually fits into one or more established roles. Designing telecom engineering systems, including the equipment and the software, is a core function of telecom engineers. So is developing the procedures that are used to keep telecommunications systems running correctly and test them for performance and security. Evaluating proposed designs and existing telecom systems for improvements and renovations is another role telecom engineers may hold. Finally, troubleshooting and debugging out-of-order telecommunications equipment may be part of your job function as a telecom engineer.
Not all telecom engineers are responsible for all aspects of the telecommunications engineering process. Once you have an idea of what part of the process you enjoy and excel at, you can build a career that prioritizes that role.