Become an RF Systems Technician: Step-by-Step Career Guide
Learn how to become a radio frequency (RF) systems technician. Research the education requirements, training information and experience required for starting a career in radio frequency.
Do I Want to Be a RF Systems Technician?
Radio frequency (RF) systems technicians, also known as radio mechanics, install, maintain, and upgrade RF systems, such as wireless Internet access points, cellular telephone antennas, satellite systems, amplifiers, two-way radios, and other radio equipment. Other tasks may include testing RF systems and signal strength, assembling systems, maintaining records, and instructing customers on how to properly use the equipment.
Most RF technician jobs involve driving to client locations. Such technicians should be comfortable with heights. There is some risk of injury associated with this career due to the fact that technicians often work on towers or other high places, closely with electricity, and use a range of potentially dangerous tools to complete their tasks. The majority of telecommunications technicians, such as RF systems technicians, work full-time, although overtime, on-call, evening, night, and weekend hours are a possibility.
There aren't any strict educational requirements to become a technician beyond having a driver's license, although aspiring RF technicians should be familiar with radio frequency equipment. Gaining postsecondary education, such as an associate's degree, may offer the skills needed for the career and help increase job opportunities. The following table includes some of the main qualifications for RF systems technicians:
|Degree Level||Varies; postsecondary training can be beneficial*|
|Degree Field||Related field, such as electronics or electrical technology*|
|Certification||Voluntary professional certification is available**|
|Experience||Varies; related experience may be preferred or required*|
|Key Skills||Problem-solving skills, ability to troubleshoot, willingness to continue learning, strong communication skills***|
|Technical Skills||Familiarity with installing, troubleshooting and testing microwave and RF systems*|
|Additional Skills||Valid driver's license, willingness to work flexible hours and work outdoors*|
Sources: *Online job listings from employers (January 2013), **iSEEK, ***O*Net Online.
Step 1: Complete Postsecondary Training
Although there are no set educational requirements for becoming a radio frequency systems technician, employers may prefer to hire candidates with at least an associate's degree. Some schools offer associate's degree programs in electronics engineering technology with wireless options. Other options include earning a degree in electrical engineering technology or computer science.
Step 2: Gain Experience
Although it's possible to gain entry-level employment in RF systems technology, many employers prefer hiring candidates with prior experience working with design, installation, troubleshooting and repairing RF systems and related technologies. Gaining experience in a related area can help give aspiring RF systems technicians familiarity with the equipment and technology that they'll be working on in the field. Entry-level technicians often work as part of a team and with substantial supervision. Some employers also require on-the-job training for new RF systems technicians.
- Look for opportunities to become professionally certified in the field. Voluntary certification may increase job opportunities, since the credentials demonstrate professional expertise. Some available options include the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID+) certification issued by CompTIA, Site Master certification issued by Anritsu and a telecommunications technician certification issued by iNARTE. Although the requirements for each credential varies by organization, candidates generally need to have some prior experience and take a certification exam.
- Research certification renewal requirements. Some organizations may require candidates to renew the certification periodically. Continuing education, training or work experience may be a condition of keeping certification current.
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