Guide to College Majors in Telecommunications

What Is Telecommunications?

When you are chatting on your cell phone as you drive to work, when you text your co-worker, when you are checking your voice mail, when you watch the evening news on television, or when you are surfing the Internet, you are utilizing telecommunications services. This is true any time an individual uses an electrical device to send a message of any kind.

The goal of telecommunications is to send a message from one point to another, without losing or altering any part of the message in the process. Four components are necessary to construct a telecommunications system: a transmitter, a channel, a line and a receiver. A transmitter is a device that codes the message into a signal. A channel then modifies and degrades the signal so that it may be connected to the line. A line, then, is the route the signal takes to get to the receiver. The receiver is equipped with a decoding ability that makes it possible to recover the original message. Once the signal is decoded by the receiver the process is complete, the message has been transported from one point to another.

The evolution of telecommunications technology has transformed the way we communicate and transmit information, and this industry is one of the most rapidly growing and changing industries in the economy. Clearly this industry will continue to change, and powerfully impact the way we conduct our lives.

More and more, the options and methods for studying telecommunications are expanding to include distance learning. The development of online telecommunications degree programs has enabled more students to obtain a quality education without having to relocate to a physical campus.

Students interested in telecommunications and other related careers have several degree options, ranging from certificate programs, to bachelor's degree programs, to master's degree programs. Thus, online telecommunications programs expand career opportunities for many future entry-level professionals, as well as more experienced telecommunications professionals hoping to advance their careers with distance education.

Furthermore, because the demand for better, advanced telecommunications systems increases as rapidly as the development of new technologies, it is not uncommon for telecommunications professionals to rely on distance learning to increase and advance their technical skills and update their training.

Online telecommunications programs make it possible for students to maintain commitments to full-time jobs while completing the requirements necessary to earn a degree. Pursuing a degree in telecommunications is also useful for pursuing many other related careers including computer programming, telecommunications systems managing, computer software engineering, and communication line and equipment installing.

Career Education in Telecommunications

There is a good chance that most of us utilize telecommunications services on a daily basis. As this need for qualified, well-trained telecommunications professionals increases, more schools develop training and academic degree programs to give ambitious students the technical edge necessary to secure the best jobs in this competitive industry.

Furthermore, as Internet technology continues to advance and become more wholly accessible, more telecommunications schools offer such degree programs online. Students participate in online sessions, attend web seminars with classmates, and perform interactive tutorials virtually. Online telecommunications students who enroll in distance learning degree programs enjoy a unique opportunity to tailor their own academic schedule and course load to complement existing commitments and lifestyles.

Certificates in Telecommunications

Telecommunications certificate programs offer worthwhile options to students who desire introductory coursework and training. Certificate programs are designed for students who hope to develop the skills necessary to obtain entry-level positions in the telecommunications industry. Online certificate programs encourage students to learn and develop a working knowledge of telecommunications systems, technical skills, engineering, and other related skills.

By gaining basic knowledge and developing key skills, certificate recipients can enjoy various opportunities for employment in this field. Additionally, pursuing a certificate is an appealing option because it allows students to gauge personal interest and skill without committing to a lengthier, more intense degree program. Depending on the particular school or program, a student who obtains a telecommunications certificate may be allowed to transfer this coursework towards an advanced degree if he chooses to continue his education.

Associate Degrees in Telecommunications

Earning an associate of applied science degree (AAS) generally takes one or two academic years, depending on the particular program. Compared to certificate programs, AAS degree programs delve deeper into the core skills and theories utilized in the telecommunications industry, and may also include more general education courses as well. AAS students gain basic knowledge and develop a firm grasp on telecommunications systems, technologies, and innovations.

Graduates of an online associate of applied science degree program will have various entry-level career options in the telecommunications field. Similar to certificate programs, many telecommunications schools allow students to apply credits earned in an AAS program towards a bachelor's program. This option presents students with a convenient way to space out the pursuit of continued education and stay up-to-date on the latest telecommunications technologies.

Bachelor's Degrees in Telecommunications

Earning a bachelor's of science (BS) degree can provide students with strong, thorough foundation for beginning a career in the telecommunications field. BS degree programs focus heavily on telecommunications fundamentals, technology applications, industry principles, management training, engineering, and communications. BS telecommunications programs are intense, challenging and place immense emphasis on a student's ability to understand complex, sophisticated technology and to develop a strong proficiency in industry applications.

Students who choose to pursue a bachelor's degree in telecommunications should prepare to commit to approximately four years of academic study. Distance telecommunications BS degree programs offer students quality, well-rounded education online, making the opportunity to receive necessary technical training accessible from any location with Internet access.

What Can You Do With a College Degree in Telecommunications?

There are a variety of careers available for telecommunications systems professionals.

Telecommunications Career Paths

Telecommunications Systems Managers

Telecommunications systems managers develop, modify, and monitor the various different telecommunications systems. Telecommunications systems exist to gather and transmit data quickly, and enable users to manage the functions of electronic equipment on their own. Telecommunications systems managers have to keep up with the constantly improving and changing technology and create plans to implement the latest technology on existing systems. Additionally, systems managers coordinate and supervise the efforts of teams of engineers and systems analysts. Telecommunications systems managers find the skills developed in pursuit of telecommunications degrees applicable and necessary to appropriately address the requirements of managing telecommunications systems.

Line Installers

Line installers are responsible for the installation of new lines, and they do this by constructing utility poles, towers, and underground trenches to carry the wires and cables necessary to operate communications equipment such as telephones and televisions. After the construction phase is complete, line installers attach and mount cables to poles, towers and other similar devices. In addition to these responsibilities, duties also include setting up services for customers and installing home and business network equipment. Much of this work requires intense physical labor as well as knowledge of telecommunications technology.

Customer Service Representative

Customer service specialists and providers assist new and existing telecommunications customers with various aspects of their accounts, including repair, installation, billing, and selecting appropriate telecommunications services. Customer service representatives communicate with customers in many different ways, including in person, over the telephone, through written and e-mail correspondence, and by fax.

Often, a customer service specialist is the consumer's primary telephone and cable service provider contact. Because this is true, customer service professionals must be friendly, helpful, and able to understand the needs and concerns of consumers. Additionally, successful customer service professionals employed in the telecommunications industry benefit from an educational background specific to the industry.

Computer Software Engineers

Computer software engineers develop and build new computer software technology. Such technology is often crucial to the innovation and growth of telecommunications. This group of technology professionals works in a fast-paced environment. They build, test, and design new software that enables consumers, businesses, and other organizations with the means to utilize technological innovation.

Students interested in pursuing this path to telecommunications career opportunities should have a strong background in engineering and computer science. Computer software engineers are definitely on the cutting edge of innovation and are essential players in developing new technology. Therefore, computer software engineers who are effectively able to communicate and manage other technical professionals are considered strong candidates for telecommunications management positions.

Computer Programmers

The work of a computer programmer involves writing, applying, and testing various instructions that computers must follow to perform appropriately. Professionals in this field have a strong background in computer science and information systems. Computer programmers develop solutions and enable telecommunications systems to function optimally through use and understanding of various programming languages.

Computer programming is definitely a field that requires continuously updating and building new skills and capabilities. Professionals in this field are often the first to adopt and to master the application of new technology. If a computer programmer is inclined to fuse his technical prowess with communications skills, computer programmers are definitely in demand in the telecommunications industry.

Preparing for Telecommunications Career Opportunities

To achieve success in a telecommunications career, quality training is a necessity. Telecommunications professionals rely on technical, business, scientific and communications skills and these are skills best developed in a telecommunications degree program. An excellent telecommunications degree program also provides students with an opportunity to fuse academics with important technical and hands-on training.

Properly preparing for a telecommunications major will enhance a student's ability to succeed and obtain the training necessary to enjoy a productive career in this industry. A student considering the pursuit of a telecommunications degree should contemplate the following preparation tips and strategies.

When considering a career in any field, whether it is in law, education, or technology, successful students carefully consider the depth of their personal and career interests. While working in telecommunications can be fast-paced, exciting, and challenging to technically savvy professionals, potential students should engage in a degree program with a clear notion of what the work entails.

Telecommunications professionals must be committed to continually familiarizing themselves with the latest technology, and to developing the ability to adjust and adapt to evolving industry. Taking this into consideration, successful students in telecommunications degree programs are inspired by the challenge of developing and implementing new industry technologies, effectively communicating, and pursuing constant training and additional coursework to update technical skills.

Second, earning a college degree in telecommunications includes committed and thorough study of advanced computer science, telecommunications systems, business, business law, and industry technology. Future telecommunications students should find these subjects intriguing and thrive in related high school courses. Proper preparation for earning a telecommunications degree includes high school courses in math, science, computers, communications and social sciences.

A third way to prepare for an education in telecommunications is to compare and contrast all potential degree programs and schools to find the best personal fit. Students should note that education is an investment. They should realize that selecting the right school is essential to success and career preparation. This preparation is also a good way for a student to figure out what qualities are desirable in a degree program.

After identifying such qualities, this type of research will help a future student prepare a list of questions to ask admissions counselors to assist in his final choice of degree program. Admittedly, researching and comparing several schools takes much time and effort, but the more information a student can gather about potential telecommunications degree programs, the better informed his decision will be.

Fourth, it is also a good idea for individuals interested in pursuing a telecommunications career to speak with a current industry professional. Students will benefit from seeking out an opportunity to ask a telecommunications professional questions about day-to-day job tasks, opportunities for career advancement, additional education and training requirements, and everything else a student would want to know about his or her future career.

Many high schools also help students with this career preparation by offering job shadowing opportunities. In a job shadowing experience a student is typically given the opportunity to spend the day with a professional and observe common practices and routines. Participating in this sort of career investigative research will provide a complete picture of a potential telecommunication student's future career opportunities.

Licensing and Certification

Although most states do not require telecommunications professionals to obtain a license, many professionals in this field choose to fulfill the requirements necessary to earn certifications offered by professional associations. In any profession, certifications designate commitment, close ties to the field, and a level of achievement, education, and skill mastery.

There are multiple telecommunications related certifications and each is specific to a particular area of the industry. For example, certification programs exist for engineers, line installers, customer service specialists, and other professional groups employed by the telecommunications field. Thus, students pursuing careers in a focused area of telecommunications may find specific associations and certification bodies specializing in smaller facets of the industry.

Frequently, advanced training and education may be substituted for the lack of required licensure and professional certification. Students hoping to secure employment in telecommunications should combine available certifications in their respective, entry-level fields with continued technical training and education to make the most of their options for advanced employment opportunities. For more information about certifications available for telecommunications related professions, consult the associations featured below.

Professional Associations and Related Certification Bodies

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