Telecommunications equipment installers and repairers, also known as telecom technicians, set up and maintain devices or equipment that carry communications signals, connect to telephone lines, or access the Internet.

Duties

Telecommunications equipment installers and repairers typically do the following:

  • Install communications equipment in offices, private homes, and buildings that are under construction
  • Set up, rearrange, or replace routing and dialing equipment
  • Inspect and service equipment, wiring, and phone jacks
  • Repair or replace faulty, damaged, or malfunctioning equipment
  • Test repaired, newly installed, or updated equipment to ensure that it works properly
  • Adjust or calibrate equipment settings to improve its performance
  • Keep records of maintenance, repairs, and installations
  • Demonstrate and explain the use of equipment to customers

Telephone, computer, and cable telecommunications systems rely on equipment to process and transmit vast amounts of data. Telecommunications equipment installers and repairers—often called telecom technicians—install and service this equipment.

Telecom technicians use many different tools to inspect equipment and diagnose problems. For instance, to locate distortions in signals, they may employ spectrum analyzers and polarity probes. They also commonly use hand tools, including screwdrivers and pliers, to take equipment apart and repair it.

Many technicians also work with computers, specialized hardware, and other diagnostic equipment. They follow manufacturer’s instructions or technical manuals to install or update software and programs for devices.

Those who work at a client’s location must track hours worked, parts used, and bills collected. Installers who set up and maintain lines outdoors are classified as line installers and repairers.

The specific tasks of telecom technicians vary depending on their specialization and where they work.

The following are examples of types of telecommunications equipment installers and repairers:

Central office technicians set up and maintain switches, routers, fiber optic cables, and other equipment at switching hubs, called central offices. These hubs send, process, and amplify data from thousands of telephone, Internet, and cable connections. Technicians receive alerts on equipment malfunctions from auto-monitoring switches and are able to correct the problems remotely. 

Headend technicians perform similar work to central office installers and repairers, but work at distribution centers for cable and television companies, called headends.

PBX installers and repairers set up and service private branch exchange—or PBX—switchboards. This equipment relays incoming, outgoing, and interoffice telephone calls at a single location. Some systems use computers to run Internet access, network applications, and telephone communications, and support Voice over Internet Protocol—or VoIP—technology.

PBX installers connect telecom equipment to communications cables. They test the connections to ensure that adequate power is available and communication links work properly. They install frames, supports, power systems, alarms, and telephone sets. Because switches and switchboards are computerized, PBX installers also install software or program the equipment.

Station installers and repairers—sometimes known as home installers and repairers—set up and repair telecommunications equipment in customers’ homes and businesses. For example, they set up modems to install telephone, Internet, or cable television services.

When customers have problems, station repairers test the customer’s lines to determine if the problem is inside or outside. If the problem is inside, they try to repair it. If the problem is outside, they refer the problem to line repairers.

Work Environment: 

Telecommunications equipment installers and repairers held about 217,200 jobs in 2012.

The industries that employed the most telecommunications equipment installers and repairers in 2012 were as follows: 

Wired telecommunications carriers 55%
Building equipment contractors 12
Other telecommunications 6
Cable and other subscription programming 5
Wireless telecommunications carriers (except satellite) 4

Central office technicians generally work in climate-controlled central offices or electronic service centers. PBX and station installers and repairers travel frequently to installation and repair sites, such as homes and offices. Equipment installation may require climbing on rooftops and into attics, and climbing ladders and telephone poles.

Telecom technicians occasionally work in cramped, awkward positions where they often stoop, crouch, crawl, or reach high to do their work. Sometimes they must lift or move heavy equipment and parts. They also may work on equipment while it is powered, so they need to take necessary precautions.

Injuries and Illnesses

Telecom technicians have a higher rate of injuries and illnesses than the national average. Although minor falls, burns, and electrical shocks are common, the work is generally not dangerous when safety precautions are taken.

To reduce risk of injury, workers wear hardhats and harnesses when working on ladders or on elevated equipment. To prevent electrical shocks, technicians also may lock off power to equipment under repair.

Work Schedules

Most telecom technicians work full time.

Some businesses offer 24-hour repair services. Telecom technicians in these companies work shifts, including evenings, holidays, and weekends. Some are on call around the clock in case of emergencies.

Education and Training: 

Telecom technicians typically need some postsecondary education in electronics, telecommunications, or computer technology and receive on-the-job training. Industry certification is required for some positions.

Education

Postsecondary education in electronics, telecommunications, or computers is typically needed for telecom technicians. 

Technical programs with courses in basic electronics, telecommunications, and computer science offered in community colleges and technical schools may be particularly helpful. Most programs lead to a certificate or an associate’s degree in electronics repair, computer science, or related subjects.

Some employers prefer to hire candidates with an associate’s degree, particularly for positions such as central office technicians, headend technicians, and those working with commercial communications systems.

Training

Once hired, telecom technicians receive on-the-job training, typically lasting a few months. Training involves a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on work with an experienced technician. In these settings, workers learn the equipment’s internal parts and the tools needed for repair. Technicians who have completed postsecondary education often require less on-the-job instruction than those who have not. 

Large companies may send new employees to training sessions to learn about equipment, procedures, and technologies offered by equipment manufacturers or industry organizations.

Because technology in this field is rapidly evolving, telecom technicians must continue learning about new equipment over the course of their careers. They may attend manufacturers’ training classes, study equipment manuals, or obtain hands-on experience with the latest equipment.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Some technicians must be certified to perform certain tasks or to work on specific equipment. Certification requirements vary by employer and specialization.

Organizations such as the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers and the Telecommunications Industry Association offer certifications for telecom technicians. Some manufacturers also provide certifications for working with specific equipment.

Advancement

Advancement opportunities often depend on previous work experience and training. Repairers with extensive knowledge of equipment may be qualified to become manufacturer’s sales workers.

Important Qualities

Color vision. Installers and repairers must be able to distinguish different colors because the wires they work with are color-coded.

Customer-service skills. Because many telecom technicians work in customers’ homes and offices, they should be friendly and polite. In addition, they often explain how to maintain and operate equipment to people who have little or no technical knowledge.

Dexterity. Many telecom technician tasks, such as repairing small devices, connecting components, and using hand tools, require a steady hand and good hand–eye coordination.

Mechanical skills. Telecom technicians must be familiar with the devices they install and repair, their internal parts, and the appropriate tools needed to use, install, or fix them. They must also be able to understand manufacturer’s instructions when installing or repairing equipment.

Troubleshooting skills. When telecommunications equipment malfunctions, technicians troubleshoot and devise solutions to problems that are not immediately apparent.

Pay: 

The median annual wage for telecommunications equipment installers and repairers was $54,530 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $30,840, and the top 10 percent earned more than $75,040.

In May 2012, the median annual wages for telecommunications equipment installers and repairers in the top five industries employing these workers were as follows:

Other telecommunications $65,540
Wireless telecommunications carriers (except satellite) 56,590
Wired telecommunications carriers 56,410
Cable and other subscription programming 49,270
Building equipment contractors 44,450

Most telecom technicians work full time.

Some businesses offer 24-hour repair services. Telecom technicians in these companies work shifts, including nights, holidays, and weekends. Some are on call around the clock in case of emergencies.

Union Membership

Compared with workers in all occupations, telecommunications equipment installers and repairers had a higher percentage of workers who belonged to a union in 2012.

Job Outlook: 

Employment of telecommunications equipment installers and repairers is projected to grow 4 percent from 2012 to 2022, slower than the average for all occupations.

Consumers, businesses, and governments will continue to demand Internet, cable, or wireless services that provide faster and better connections. Building, maintaining, and upgrading the networks and equipment that support them should create some jobs.

However, overall employment growth of telecom technicians may be offset by a decline in maintenance work. Modern equipment is more reliable, sturdier, easier to repair remotely, and more resistant to damage from the elements, limiting the need for telecom repair technicians.

Job Prospects

Although job opportunities will vary by specialty, those with postsecondary electronics or telecommunications education and strong customer-service and computer skills should have the best job prospects.

Technologies such as video on demand and broadband Internet require high data transfer rates in telecommunications systems. Central office, PBX installers, and headend technicians will be needed to service and upgrade switches and routers to handle increased usage and volume, resulting in very good job opportunities.

However, station installers and repairers can expect strong competition for most positions. Prewired buildings, the reliability of existing telephone lines, and increasing wireless technology usage may reduce the need for general installation and maintenance work.

For More Information: 

For information on career, training, and certification opportunities for telecommunications equipment installers and repairers, visit           

Communications Workers of America

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers

National Coalition for Telecommunication Education and Learning

Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers

Telecommunications Industry Association

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, 2014–2015 Occupational Outlook Handbook, http://www.bls.gov/ooh.

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