Wireless Communications Technician
Wireless Communications Technician
Education and Training: High school plus formal training
Salary: Average—$45,000 per year
Employment Outlook: Good
Definition and Nature of the Work
Wireless communications technicians help to build and maintain the infrastructure supporting wireless communications systems. Wireless communications systems encompass two-way radios, cellular phones, beepers, wireless Internet (WiFi) access, hand-held computers, vehicle location equipment, marine radios, satellite systems and related equipment, and other personal communications devices. Technicians are needed to maintain the complex networks relaying wireless signals as well as to maintain and repair personal communications devices themselves.
Wireless communications technicians must be familiar with electronics, digital radio technology, and cellular systems. They use measuring and diagnostic tools to test, adjust, and repair electronic equipment.
Technicians must be able to read work orders that describe equipment failures, and they must be able to talk to equipment operators to determine what problems exist with the equipment. If the equipment has serious problems, technicians must be able to use schematic drawings and other written specifications to locate and repair problems.
Field technicians visit sites where wireless communications break down—either work sites where personal communication devices are used or relay sites maintained by the wireless network itself. Field technicians also do regular maintenance work on personal communication devices used by corporate clients as well as periodic work to maintain the wireless networks.
Bench technicians work at repair facilities, in stores, or in service centers, where they repair wireless communication devices. Bench technicians often deal directly with consumers, advising them when it makes more sense to replace rather than repair a wireless communications device.
Some wireless communications technicians work exclusively as field technicians or bench technicians. However, the majority are employed as both.
The wireless communications industry offers employment opportunities with large telecommunications companies as well as with small-scale shops. Wireless communications technicians working for small-scale businesses may have other responsibilities in addition to equipment maintenance and repair. These responsibilities might include the purchasing of office equipment, office administration, and sales.
Education and Training Requirements
Employers prefer college graduates with formal training in electronics. Many community and technical colleges also offer programs in wireless communications technology, which take one to two years to complete. In addition, many workers in the field receive formal training and work experience in the armed forces. Formal training usually involves courses in mathematics, circuit theory, digital systems, electronics, microwave technology, and computer science. Adequate training also involves hands-on experience in which students perform diagnostic work and maintenance on equipment.
Rapidly evolving technology makes continuing education essential for wireless communications technicians. Workers in this industry must be willing and able to upgrade their skills constantly, both through informal on-the-job training and through formal continuing education courses.
Getting the Job
After receiving formal training through school or the military, job applicants can apply directly at local offices of telecommunications companies or smaller wireless service providers. Colleges and technical schools usually provide career development services to help students find jobs. Many positions in this field are posted on Internet job and career Web sites, including those maintained by telecommunications companies.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Once they are on the job, wireless communications technicians can advance to positions in service management or as business administrators. Some technicians may become "troubleshooters" who specialize in specific equipment and help other technicians deal with specific types of problems. Technicians with an entrepreneurial bent may start their own businesses that provide technical service and support.
Wireless communications technicians are expected to be in great demand as the wireless industry grows and more telecommunications businesses compete for wireless consumers.
Bench technicians generally work in clean, well-lighted, air-conditioned surroundings. They may work in stores or electronics repair workshops.
Field technicians face a variety of working conditions, including working outdoors in bad weather and working on ladders or on telephone poles. In addition, technicians may work shifts, including weekends and holidays, to repair and maintain wireless networks.
Earnings and Benefits
Salaries for wireless communications technicians increase with experience and training. Entry-level technicians employed by a telecommunications company may earn up to $35,000 per year. Mid-level technicians earn between $40,000 and $45,000 per year, whereas top technicians may earn an annual salary between $45,000 and $60,000.
Where to Go for More Information
Telecommunications Industry Association
2500 Wilson Blvd., Ste. 300
Arlington, VA 22201
Wireless Communications Association International
1333 H St. NW, Ste. 700 W
Washington, DC 20005
Wireless communications technicians generally receive benefits packages that include paid vacations and sick leave, health and life insurance, and retirement plans. Many employers also offer bonuses as incentives for meeting customer service goals.