Telecom engineering happens to be one of the highest-paying master’s degrees, but many prospective engineering students haven’t even heard of the field. As an area of specialization within the field of electrical and computer engineering, telecom engineering, or telecommunications engineering, revolves around the design and application of electrical and computer technology to transmit information securely. Telecom engineers’ primary job duties include designing and implementing telecommunications systems and fixing or renovating telecommunications systems that are out of order or obsolete.
The Basic Role of a Telecom Engineer
In general, engineers use the principles of science and math to design functional solutions to problems. A telecom engineer focuses on designing, installing, implementing, improving and fixing the equipment and systems used for telecommunications. Telecommunications encompasses different ways of transmitting information using technology, from the telegraphs of the 1840s to radio and cable broadcasting and Internet connections. It isn’t only spoken or written words that can be conveyed through telecommunications systems but also images and videos, as in cable broadcasting and video messages.
Some examples of the type of work a telecom engineer may perform include developing infrastructure for wireless and satellite communications and configuring high-speed networks for computer communications. Telecom engineers work in all aspects of telecommunications technology, including wired and wireless networks and radio, cable and optical broadcasting networks. Although different job roles within the field of telecom engineering may focus on different aspects of the field, telecom engineers as a whole are responsible for tasks such as developing telecommunication infrastructure designs and putting those systems into practice for users.
As the field of telecom engineering evolves, old forms of telecommunications, like the telegraph, fall out of favor and new technologies, like 5G cellular networks, come into existence and popularity. Telecom engineers who are nimble enough to switch between evolving technologies can best navigate the growing but rapidly changing job market.
Don’t confuse telecom engineers with telecom technicians, data analysts, network administrators or telecommunication marketers. Although all of these roles relate to the telecommunications industry, only telecom engineers do the work of designing systems.
Designing and Implementing Telecommunications Solutions
A big part of a telecom engineer’s job is to design the telecommunications systems and equipment used to transmit information and communications. This work requires telecom engineers to first understand the problem that needs to be solved by evaluating users’ needs and the technical capacities of their facilities. Only once telecom engineers know what is needed out of the project can they create a design plan that fully meets those needs. Because telecommunications networks involve both hardware and software components, a telecom engineer needs to develop mechanical skills and computer hardware skills, along with advanced skills in math.
Once a telecom engineer has designed the infrastructure of the required telecommunications system, it’s time to implement it. In some cases, the telecommunications engineer will personally be the one to install the system. Other times, the telecom engineer coordinates the work of personnel like telecom technicians, whose job is to execute the plans created by the engineer according to the engineer’s design specifications.
Regardless of whether the telecom engineer installs the system themselves or coordinates the work with a telecom technician, their job isn’t over. Working with the users to make any required modifications is an important part of the job, according to O*NET.
Troubleshooting, Repairing and Renovating Telecommunications Systems
Technical difficulties are, unfortunately, part of life. When users encounter problems with their telecommunications system, they turn to a telecom engineer to restore its function. Troubleshooting network problems and repairing telecommunications equipment is part of a telecom engineer’s job, although the full scope of their work goes beyond basic technical support.
One of the most exciting things about the field of engineering is that it offers opportunities for innovation. Creative and resourceful engineers are always looking for better ways to solve problems and improve functionality, and that extends to communications engineers, as well. When an old telecommunications system is using outdated technology or encountering technical difficulties too serious to troubleshoot, a telecom engineer may be asked to renovate it with more modern technology. This improved telecommunications infrastructure can allow data and communications to be transmitted more quickly and more reliably.
Maintaining telecommunications infrastructure can also be part of the job description of a telecom engineer. Maintenance and updates can be important for keeping a telecommunications system running efficiently and securely.