Become an Electronic Communications Engineer
Find out how to become an electronic communications engineer. Research the education requirements and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in engineering.
Do I Want to Be an Electronic Communications Engineer?
Electronic communications engineers research and develop communications systems and products, such as broadcasting equipment, satellite communication systems and wireless devices. They often work in comfortable office environments but might get to travel to job sites to assess problems in person.
Usually, these engineers work a regular work schedule but might have to work overtime to deal with emergency situations. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, electronic and electrical engineers made a median annual wage of nearly $90,000 in May 2012, well above the median for other professions; however, their job growth was below average - an increase of only 4% in job opportunities between 2012 and 2022.
Although technical skills in math and science are important to this career, engineers also must have good communication skills because they may be called upon to work in teams or with others outside their field. Most professionals in this field possess at least a bachelor's degree in electrical or electronic engineering. The following table contains the main requirements for being an electronic communications engineer:
|Degree Level||Bachelor's degree required; some more advanced positions may prefer a graduate degree*|
|Degree Field||Computer or electrical engineering*|
|Licensure||Licensure as a Professional Engineer (PE) is encouraged*|
|Experience||Experience required for most positions***|
|Computer skills||Field-specific software, such as CAD, Ansoft Simplorer, C++**|
|Key Skills||Math skills, communication skills, detail oriented*|
|Technical Skills||Knowledge of and ability to use tools such as signal generators, wave meters and electronics counters**|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*Net Online, ***CareerBuilder.com (December 2012).
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
The baseline education for an electronic communications engineer is usually a bachelor's degree in an engineering discipline. The most relevant majors for this field are electrical or electronic engineering, which may include courses in microcomputers, electronics and digital systems. Some schools offer an electrical engineering degree with a concentration in communications. For schools that do not, students may want to take elective communications classes to supplement their electrical or electronic engineering coursework. Communications classes may cover topics like digital, wireless and fiber optic communication systems.
Step 2: Consider a Graduate Degree
While entry-level engineering positions usually are available with only a bachelor's degree, more advanced positions may require a master's degree. A doctoral degree may be necessary for engineers seeking careers in academia or research. According to December 2012 job postings on CareerBuilder.com, in some cases employers prefer candidates who have completed a master's degree program in electrical or electronic engineering. Additionally, new engineers may gain an advantage in securing entry-level employment with a more advanced degree.
Step 3: Become Licensed
An engineer must be licensed by his or her state as a professional engineer (PE) in order to engage in certain professional activities, such as signing design plans, providing consultant services and promoting their services publicly. Although licensure may not be required for all engineering jobs, it can expand career opportunities.
The PE license is obtained after passing two exams administered by state licensing boards. The first, the Fundamentals of Engineering exam, may be taken at the end of a 4-year engineering program approved by ABET (formerly known as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology). The second, the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam, is taken after four years of experience working under a professional engineer and is offered in a variety of engineering disciplines, including electrical and electronics.
Step 4: Get an Entry-Level Job
Once with an undergraduate or graduate degree, aspiring electronic communications engineers may find jobs in a variety of industry fields and companies, particularly those related to information technology (IT). Job duties may include designing, installing and maintaining communication networks and systems; providing assistance to network users; overseeing security measures and keeping in contact with equipment vendors.
- Consider optional certification. Once an engineer has been in practice for a period of time, certification may be a good career move to show future employers and clients the engineer's level of knowledge in his or her field. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Communications Society offers the Wireless Communication Engineering Technologies (WCET) certification. Generally, candidates with a bachelor's degree or the equivalent and at least three years of relevant work experience are eligible to take the certification exam.
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