Telecommunications: This Technology Requires Constantly Updating Your

Telecommunications as an information technology discipline covers a gamut of careers paths, jobs, and skill sets. Among other technologies, it generally comprises voice, video, Internet, cable, satellite and wireless/mobile communications. In the enterprise, any time an employee checks into voicemail, accesses the Web, talks on a cell phone or answers a page, some form of telecommunications is involved. As technology advances, more services are provided wirelessly and the way we transmit and share data goes mobile, telecom technology will become even more important to the enterprise. The increased demand for wireless services alone will add to the number of jobs and career paths available to telecoms professionals.

While the telephony of yesteryear was based on analog systems, today’s telecom is becoming ever more reliant on software and the Web. Today, technology solutions are being deployed that were not dreamt of only ten years ago. For example, current PBX systems, while still in use around the world, are slowly giving way to configurations such as the Internet-based IP-PBX. Such modern approaches make use of TDM (time-division multiplexing) technology, but can use existing analog trunk lines or digital T1 circuits to access the public telephone network.

Telecommunications is clearly a vital, growing part of the technology landscape, and its jobs are as varied as the installations and technologies are myriad. Whether you are nterested in development or design, engineering or project management, be prepared to think on your feet and learn on the fly.

According to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts, employment in the industry is expected to grow 5 percent between 2006 and 2016 as demand is fueled the increasing need for telecom services. In many cases, jobs will be created as large numbers of those already at work in the sector retire. What is more, the building of advanced communications networks that incorporate fiber optic lines, faster wireless networks, advanced switches and the like will further spur employment. In some cases, however, improved services and increased transmission capacities would not benefit the telecom professional. To have the best shot at new opportunities, telecom workers must stay not only current – but on the leading edge of technology.

Breaking into telecom can be a bit tricky, but the general road can include certificate programs, bachelor’s degrees and master’s programs. Among the many paths that can be followed are computer software engineer, network systems and/or data communications analyst, engineering, and programming.

No matter what avenue you choose, training is the most important component of a telecom career. The rapid and continual introduction of new technologies makes this industry one of the most demanding to work in. Both new workers and old hands must keep their skills up to date. No matter what your career level or path – manager, executive, or equipment technician – staying abreast of what¿s going on in both the hardware and software worlds is key.

Telecom professionals are expected to have the requisite knowledge and skills in computer programming and software design; voice-telephony technology; laser and/or fiber optic technology; data compression; wireless initiatives; and Web/broadband technologies. A bachelor’s degree in engineering or computer science is usually necessary to get started. Continuing your education – either by earning a master’s degree or pursuing other advanced programs – is essential.

Role and Career Paths

While there is no single path to a telecoms career, a degree in computer science is a good start. Other accepted degrees include those in information science or management information systems. 

If you plan to specialize in telecommunications, there are three main areas to consider: telecommunications systems management, computer software engineering, and computer programming.

Telecom systems managers are involved in the development and maintenance of systems and services. In this role, you would be tasked with staying on top of changing technologies in order to create systems that can gather and transmit data quickly and securely. These professionals are often responsible for managing teams of engineers and systems analysts.

Software engineers create the computer-related software technology used in telecommunications, which is crucial to the smooth running of an up-to-date infrastructure. Designing, building, and testing make the software engineer a key cog in the telecoms machine. A background in computer science and/or engineering is required, and most companies expect professionals to communicate effectively and manage others, as well as play a key role in developing new systems and services. A recent job description for a software engineer required a computer science degree and five years of experience.

Programmers write code, of course, and telecom programmers are no different. Here, a computer science or information systems background is necessary, but bear in mind coding for telecom applications is not  your father’s "C." Here again, continuously updating your knowledge, and learning and adopting new languages and applications, is expected in a requirement for a successful career.

In addition to working for an enterprise, myriad career opportunities are available within the telecommunications industry itself, at companies like Alcatel-Lucent, AT&T, Cablevision, Cisco, Comcast, Ericsson, Google, Intel, Microsoft, Motorola, Nokia Siemens Networks, Nortel, Siemens, Sprint, Verizon, and Vodafone. Among these companies are voice carriers, wireless companies, cable companies, and chip makers, all of which can provide interesting career choices. Jobs such as "Director, Multimedia Services Integration," "Senior Engineer, Network Transport Planning," "Senior Engineer IP Solutions" or "Software Packaging Programmer" are available at these and other telecom giants.

Skills and Attributes

  • Communications and management skills
  • Interest in continuously upgrading knowledge
  • Adaptability.