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Radio and Telecommunications Equipment Installers and Repairers - What They Do


How to Advance (Advancement)
This is an occupation where the technology is changing rapidly. Workers must keep abreast of the latest equipment available and know how to repair it. Telecommunications equipment installers and repairers often need to be certified to perform certain tasks or to work on specific equipment. Certification usually requires taking classes. Some certifications are needed to enter the occupation; others are meant to improve one's current abilities or to advance in the occupation.

The Society of Cable and Telecommunications Engineers and the Telecommunications Industry Association offer certifications to workers in this field. Telecommunications equipment manufacturers also provide training on specific equipment.

Experienced repairers with advanced training may become specialists or troubleshooters who help other repairers diagnose difficult problems, or may work with engineers in designing equipment and developing maintenance procedures. Home installers may advance to wiring computer networks or working as a central office installer and repairer. Because of their familiarity with equipment, repairers are particularly well qualified to become manufacturers' sales workers. Workers with leadership ability also may become maintenance supervisors or service managers. Some experienced workers open their own repair service shops, or become wholesalers or retailers of electronic equipment.

Employment
Radio and telecommunications equipment installers and repairers held about 208,800 jobs in 2008. About 203,100 were telecommunications equipment installers and repairers, except line installers. The remaining 5,700 were radio mechanics.

Telecommunications equipment installers and repairers work mostly in the telecommunications industry. Increasingly, however, they can be found in the construction industry working as contractors to the telecommunications industry.

Radio mechanics work in the electronic and precision equipment repair and maintenance industry, the telecommunications industry, electronics and appliance stores, government, and other industries.

Job Outlook
Little or no change in employment of radio and telecommunications equipment installers and repairers is projected. Job opportunities vary by specialty; good opportunities are expected for central office installers and repairers, but station installers and repairers can expect keen competition. Job prospects are best for those with computer skills and postsecondary training in electronics.

Job Growth
Little or no change in employment of radio and telecommunications equipment installers and repairers is expected during the 2008-18 period. Over the next decade, telecommunications companies will provide faster Internet connections, provide video-on-demand, add hundreds of television stations, and many services that haven't even been invented yet. Although building the new networks required to provide these services will create jobs, these gains will be offset by a decline in maintenance work. The new equipment requires much less maintenance work because it is newer, more reliable, easier to repair, and more resistant to damage from the elements.

The increased reliability of radio equipment and the use of self-monitoring systems also will continue to lessen the need for radio mechanics. However, technological changes are also creating new wireless applications that create jobs for radio mechanics.

Applicants with computer skills and postsecondary training in electronics should have the best opportunities for radio and telecommunications equipment installer and repairer jobs, but opportunities will vary by specialty. Good opportunities should be available for central office and PBX installers and repairers experienced in current technology, as the growing popularity of VoIP, expanded multimedia offerings such as video on demand, and other telecommunications services continue to place additional demand on telecommunications networks. These new services require high data transfer rates, which can be achieved only by installing new optical switching and routing equipment. Extending high-speed communications from central offices to customers also will require telecommunications equipment installers to put in place more advanced switching and routing equipment, but opportunities for repairers will be limited by the increased reliability and automation of the new switching equipment.

Station installers and repairers can expect keen competition. Prewired buildings and the increasing reliability of telephone equipment will reduce the need for installation and maintenance of customers' telephones, as will the declining number of pay telephones in operation as use of cellular telephones grows. However, some of these losses should be offset by the need to upgrade internal lines in businesses and the wiring of new homes and businesses with fiber optic lines.

Radio mechanics should find good opportunities if they have a strong background in electronics and an ability to work independently. Increasing competition from cellular services is limiting the growth of radio services, but employers report difficulty finding adequate numbers of qualified radio mechanics to perform repair work.

Earnings
In May 2008, median annual wages of telecommunications equipment installers and repairers, except line installers, were $55,600. The middle 50 percent earned between $42,930 and $63,030. The bottom 10 percent earned less than $31,330, whereas the top 10 percent earned more than $69,470. Median annual wages of these workers in the wired telecommunications carriers industry were $57,160 in May 2008.

Median annual wages of radio mechanics in May 2008 were $40,260. The middle 50 percent earned between $30,680 and $51,560. The bottom 10 percent earned less than $24,610, whereas the top 10 percent earned more than $63,600.

About 32 percent of radio and telecommunication equipment installers and repairers are members of unions, such as the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW.)

Telecommunications equipment installers and repairers employed by large telecommunications companies who also belong to unions often have very good benefits, including health, dental, vision, and life insurance. They also usually have good retirement and leave policies. Those working for small independent companies and contractors may get fewer benefits.

Radio mechanics tend to work for small electronics firms or government. Benefits vary widely depending upon the type of work and size of firm. Government jobs usually have good benefits.

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