Telephone Service Technician
Telephone Service Technician
Education and Training: Varies—see profile
Salary: Median—$23.96 per hour
Employment Outlook: Poor
Definition and Nature of the Work
Telephone service technicians are one of the largest groups of telephone company workers. They repair and install telephone lines and small switchboard systems at customers' houses and offices. Working from trucks that carry the equipment they need, these technicians spend much of their time traveling from one location to another. Although many service technicians do a variety of work, most specialize in one kind of job.
Telephone installers put new phone lines in homes and offices. They install inside wiring and connect it to the service wires outside. They may have to climb a telephone pole to complete the necessary connections. The next step involves installing the terminal box, which usually requires drilling holes through walls to make connections. Once this task is complete, a telephone can be plugged in and used.
Telephone repairers test, clean, and fix or replace faulty wiring. Working closely with the central office, they locate and analyze problems with customers' inside lines. Repairers track down the source of the trouble by connecting a test set to the phone line and then testing it with the central office.
Many telephone installers become PBX installers. PBX, an acronym for private branch exchange, refers to a switchboard. PBX installers set up the telephone systems found in offices. The PBX installer's job is similar to the job of the telephone installer but requires more training. A PBX system makes it possible for private companies to direct clients' calls to the proper extensions, and it allows people who work in the same office to call each other at their desks. PBX installers also set up the equipment that radio and television stations use for broadcasting.
PBX repair workers are called in when private switchboards break down. They find out where the trouble lies and get the system up and running again. PBX repair workers also fix teletypewriters—machines that send written messages through the telephone system—as well as radio and television broadcasting equipment.
Education and Training Requirements
Education requirements for telephone service technicians vary according to the employer. Some employers require their workers to receive certification in electronics. Others require only a high school diploma or its equivalent. Most employers require potential workers to pass a test of mechanical ability. Candidates for the job must have good eyesight and cannot be color-blind. Telephone companies often offer on-the-job training, which includes classroom instruction and observation of experienced workers.
Getting the Job
Interested individuals should apply directly to the telephone companies in their area for telephone service technician openings. Most telephone service workers start out as installers and must work their way up to the position of technician. Line workers and cable splicers often apply for these jobs as well.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Training is a continual process for all telephone service technicians, and there are several possibilities for promotion. Telephone installers and repairers can become PBX installers and repair workers. Many service technicians advance by becoming skilled in both installation and repair work. With further training, service workers can become supervisors, sales and customer service workers, and communications equipment technicians. Promotions are given to reward length of service as well as ability.
Employment opportunities for telephone service technicians are expected to decline through the year 2014. Modern prewired buildings and plug-in telephones have nearly eliminated the need for telephone installers. Telephone repair will consist mainly of replacing worn-out wires. Reliable, self-monitoring, high-capacity equipment has been designed to reduce the frequency of breakdowns, further decreasing the need for repairs. However, there will be jobs for those qualified to work on PBX and other private systems. The growing popularity of voice-over Internet protocol (VoIP) systems, expanded multimedia offerings such as video on demand, and the growth of other telecommunications services will place additional demand on telecommunications networks.
Where to Go for More Information
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
900 Seventh St. NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States Telecom Association
607 Fourteenth St. NW, Ste. 400
Washington, DC 20005
Telephone service workers usually work forty hours per week but must put in overtime during emergencies. They generally work independently out in the field while their supervisors remain in the central office. Telephone service technicians deal directly with the public when they go to homes and offices, so they need a considerable amount of patience and a pleasant demeanor. They also spend a lot of time stooping, kneeling, or crouched over to access phone lines. PBX workers can make repairs indoors because they do not have to work on outside wiring. Telephone installers and repairers work both indoors and outdoors.
Earnings and Benefits
Pay scales vary in different parts of the country. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hourly salary for a telephone service technician is $23.96. Experienced technicians earn more. Benefits include overtime pay, paid vacations and holidays, and insurance and retirement plans.