Become a Telecommunications Technician in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become a telecommunications technician. Learn about job duties, education requirements, job outlook, and salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Electronics & Communications Engineering degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Telecommunications Technician Do?

Telecommunications technicians install and repair equipment that is used to transmit communications signals. Technicians are generally responsible for inspecting equipment at a client's house, as well as fixing or replacing it as needed. They use a variety of diagnostic equipment and tools to test these devices. As a technician, you will be in charge of making a record of the time you work as well as any changes made to equipment on the job.

Read over the chart below for a snapshot view of this career field.

Degree Required High school diploma or equivalent; some employers prefer an associate's degree
Training Required Moderate on-the-job training
Key Responsibilities Install, maintain, and repair telecommunications equipment, file maintenance reports, and modify the settings on equipment to ensure peak performance
Certification Required Certification is required for some technicians and varies by employer
Job Growth (2014-2024) -4% (for telecommunications equipment installers and repairers, except line installers)*
Median Salary (2015) $54,570 (for telecommunications equipment installers and repairers, except line installers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is a Telecommunications Technician?

A telecommunications technician is a worker skilled in the installation, maintenance and repair of telephony equipment. Your specific duties may include inspecting equipment for defects, testing circuits and components in defective equipment, determining the extent of repair needs, repairing or replacing damaged wires and components, rearranging connections to comply with a new wiring topology, and testing repaired equipment and circuits. Polarity probes, circuit diagrams, and volt meters are among the testing tools you'll typically use for these tasks. Finally, you'll respond to customer complaints, demonstrate the use of new equipment, and file maintenance reports.

Step 1: Earn a High School Diploma

You will need a high school diploma or G.E.D. to enroll in a telecommunications training program, but high school courses can also start to prepare you for your career. Mathematics, physics, computers, and electronics are often considered relevant for a technical education. English or speech can enhance your written and verbal communication skills.

Step 2: Earn a Certificate or a Degree

Most employers prefer for you to have completed at least some college courses. Figures from O*Net Online show about 51% of technicians have a post-secondary certificate and another 21% have associate's degrees. A degree is especially helpful if you want to work in a central telecom office or in a non-residential setting. A bachelor's degree may qualify you for more complex positions within the industry.

Programs at the certificate, associate's degree, and bachelor's degree levels cover such topics as telecommunications electronics, wireline networks, and fiber optic networks. However, certificate programs typically don't go beyond introductory content, whereas associate's and bachelor's degree programs often dedicate multiple classes to a topic. Analog and digital switching, telephony computer applications and technical math are possible additional course topics in associate's degree programs. Bachelor's degree programs might add telephony system design, network engineering, and Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP).

Step 3: Obtain a Job

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that approximately 219,100 people worked as telecommunications technicians in 2015 (www.bls.gov). From 2014 to 2024, employment is projected to decrease 4%, which is slower than the average for all occupations. This is due to new telecommunications equipment needing less maintenance. You're most likely to find work with a wired telecommunications carrier because they're the biggest employer of technicians, according to the BLS. Building equipment contractors, electronics maintenance firms and cable TV providers are among your other possible employers. As of May 2015, the median annual salary for technicians was $54,570.

Step 4: Obtain Certification

Certification is available with at least two industry organizations. You can earn the SIP School Certified Associate (SSCA) from the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) and four broadband-related certifications from the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE).

You have to complete TIA's Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) training course to obtain SSCA certification. Training covers SIP servers and messaging, security, firewalls, trunking, and unified communications. SIP is the chosen protocol for VoIP.

SCTE credentials include the Broadband Premises Technician (BPT), Broadband Distribution Specialist (BDS), Broadband Transport Specialist (BTS), and the Broadband Telecom Center Specialist (BTCS). Each certification requires a 50-question certification exam with a passing score or 76% or better. SCTE certifications are valid for three years. You can renew any of the four certifications by retaking the exam or by completing 12 recertification units.

Step 5: Advance Your Career

With enough experience you could become a service manager or supervisor in the telecommunications industry. With further training, you could also become a diagnostic specialist who helps less experienced technicians solve networking problems. You could collaborate on new telecom equipment designs with electronics engineers. Finally, you could establish your own telecommunications repair business or transition into equipment sales as a manufacturer's rep.

What Are Some Related Careers?

A central office technician is in charge of maintaining and setting up switches, routers, fiber optic cables, and more at central office switch hubs, which is where data sent over communication lines is processed and routed. Station installers and repairers install and repair telecommunications equipment at a customer's home, such as modems and telephones. Headend technicians monitor signals sent through television, performing a similar job to central office technicians.

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