Telecommunications technicians install, test and repair networking and communications systems for an increasingly sophisticated range of voice, data and multimedia applications, such as:
Precise job roles vary but typical duties may include:
Following installation plans, technicians fit the equipment, route cables and power supplies, and make sure the software needed to run the equipment is installed and works correctly.
In the armed forces and the police and emergency services, telecommunications technicians also maintain and repair portable and fixed transmitters.
Most technicians usually work Monday to Friday, from 9.00am to 5.00pm. Some may need to work shifts, including evenings and weekends or be available on call. Overtime may be necessary to meet deadlines for some jobs. Part time opportunities are rare.
Technicians could work indoors in a factory workshop or be based at a network control centre. They may travel around a lot, working from a van to do jobs in businesses or homes, maintaining contact with their office by radio or with a mobile phone. They may also work outdoors on all kinds of industrial and commercial sites.
Some jobs can be physically demanding, involving lifting, carrying and possibly working at heights or in confined spaces.
Many tasks are carried out in dust-free or temperature controlled environments. Outside work, such as laying cables or setting up aerials, can involve working in all weathers.
Technicians are often required to wear special safety clothing or a uniform and may need a current driving licence.
Starting salaries for an apprentice technician may be around £12,000 a year. With experience, qualified technicians may be able to earn up to £32,000 a year.
Apprentices in large companies may be offered free accommodation or subsistence allowance when living away from home. Technicians usually receive additional payments for working shifts and overtime. Rates for contract work are higher.
New telecoms technologies are constantly being explored and developed. In spite of the economic downturn, there are still plenty of job opportunities throughout the country for those with the necessary technical aptitude.
Around 55,000 people work as telecommunications technicians and engineers in the UK. Employers include telephone and business network providers, mobile phone companies, cable, satellite or digital TV companies, rail and offshore oil companies, voice, data and video message installation firms, as well as public sector employers. They range from very small companies offering a wide range of work to big international organisations with highly specialised departments.
It is also possible to work for the Ministry of Defence, the police and emergency services, or in the armed forces.
Vacancies are advertised in local newspapers and on a number of recruitment websites that specialise in telecommunications jobs.
People can either train with an employer on an Apprenticeship, or take a full-time or part-time course and then apply for a trainee technician post.
To qualify for the IT and Telecoms Professionals Apprenticeship, applicants usually need four GCSE's (A*-C), including maths, English and science or technology or a relevant BTEC first diploma.
Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.
Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.
There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
For those with A levels (usually including maths and/or science subjects) or equivalent qualifications, Higher Apprenticeships are also available. They are fast track apprenticeships incorporating a foundation degree with progression to an Honours degree.
Full or part-time courses include BTEC national certificates or diplomas, higher national certificates and diplomas (HNC's/HND's) as well as foundation degrees in relevant subjects. These include telecommunications, telecommunications technology, communications technology, electronics, computing and computing sciences.
The Diploma in information technology may also be relevant for this area of work.
It would be helpful to read some of the industry magazines and look at relevant websites before applying for jobs, so that you understand some of the main technical terms.
Employees already working in telecommunications, or in the electronics or electrical industries, could study for a relevant BTEC national certificate or diploma, or an NVQ Level 3. Entry requirements may not always apply with relevant experience.
Laboratory technicians carry out routine laboratory tests and perform a variety of technical support functions to help scientists, technologists and others with their work. They can work in research and development, scientific analysis and testing, education and manufacturing.
They are employed in a wide range of scientific fields which affect almost every aspect of our lives.
Apprenticeships usually last up to around two years, and apprentices complete a mix of on- and off-the-job training, following the National Occupational Standards. NVQ's/VRQ's in subjects relevant to IT/Telecoms are available at Levels 2, 3 and 4.
Most companies provide in-service training as well as specific manufacturers' courses and vendor qualifications such as the networking qualifications offered by CISCO and Microsoft. There are also mentoring schemes organised by the professional bodies, enabling trainees to seek advice from more experienced colleagues.
Technicians who wish to progress in their career can apply for registration as a professionally recognised engineering technician (EngTech) or ICT technician (ICTTech). More details are available from www.engc.org.uk.
The e-skills portfolio from www.e-skills.com can help you to assess your current level of qualifications and training needs.
Telecommunications technicians should:
Technicians working for larger companies may be able to progress to senior technician or supervisor.
By increasing their knowledge and with additional qualifications they can progress further to become incorporated and chartered engineers, and to jobs in many areas of telecommunications, computing and electronics.
Experienced technicians can become self-employed, or work on a contract basis.
There are numerous opportunities to work abroad across the world.
Engineering Council UK (ECUK),
246 High Holborn, London WC 1V 7EX
Tel: 020 3206 0500
1 Castle Lane, London SW1E 6DR
Tel: 020 7963 8920
The Institute of Telecoms Professionals (ITP),
Sunbury TE, Green Street,
Sunbury-on-Thames, Middlesex TW16 6QJ
Tel: 01932 788861
The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET),
Michael Faraday House, Six Hills Way,
Stevenage, Hertfordshire SG1 2AY
Tel: 01438 313311
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.