TV and Radio Reception Systems Technician

The Job and What's Involved

TV and radio reception systems technicians install, maintain and repair equipment used in homes, hotels and business premises so that people can watch TV stations or receive digital radio broadcasts.

They install and maintain aerials or satellite dishes and set-top boxes for digital or satellite broadcasts.

Their work involves installing new systems, upgrading existing ones and repairing, tuning and realigning equipment.

Their main tasks include:

  • Deciding on the best location for equipment.
  • Planning how to route the cables.
  • Installing aerials or satellite dishes.
  • Installing any equipment needed inside, such as digital or Freeview boxes.
  • Testing the equipment.
  • Checking and recording the signal levels received.
  • Connecting signal outlet sockets.
  • Installing the reception equipment.
  • Advising the householder or business on how to use the equipment.

Technicians use vans to transport their equipment, which may include ladders, scaffolding, personal protection equipment, wiring tools and test equipment.

On more complex installations, they may have to follow detailed plans and drawings. Some of the work is done at heights, so they have to be safety conscious, both for themselves and for other people nearby.

The job includes installing equipment in homes or places of work, so technicians need to work carefully and cleanly around furniture and fittings. They usually need to explain to the user how their equipment should be operated. In some cases, they may look for opportunities to sell related equipment or services for their company and will explain the features and benefits to the potential customer.

Technicians' hours vary, but often include weekends and evenings. Emergency call-outs or fitting in with when householders or businesses are available may mean they have to work outside usual office hours. They usually travel from site to site and may complete several installations in one day.

There can be opportunities for flexible and part-time working, especially for freelance, contracted or self-employed technicians.

The work often involves working outside at heights in hot or cold weather. Inside work could be in individual homes, offices or business premises.

Salaries may start at around £12,000 a year. Skilled technicians may be able to earn £20,000 or more.

A highly experienced systems installer could earn more than £35,000.

For self-employed technicians, earnings depend on the amount of business they have and the rates they charge.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

TV and radio reception systems technicians are employed by specialist contracting firms that provide installation services, and by organisations such as major satellite TV and cable companies. Some technicians are self-employed and offer an installation or sales and installation service.

It is estimated that there are over 25,000 TV and radio reception systems technicians in the UK. There are around 1,500 registered digital installers and a further 300 associate registered digital installers.

The world of television and radio broadcasting is continually changing and evolving. Aerial and satellite companies are currently very busy because of the switchover to digital TV and there has been an increasing demand for technicians. This is likely to continue until 2012 (when the switchover is due to be completed), after which demand is likely to level out.

The tabloid newspapers carry regular adverts in their jobs or classified sections for aerial and satellite installing companies, and jobs are advertised on many specialised websites.

The Confederation of Aerial Industries Ltd (CAI)'s quarterly journal Feedback (available from the CAI office) carries job adverts.

Education and Training

The main openings are for trainee installers. There are no set requirements, but three or four relevant GCSE's (A*-C) including English and ICT, or equivalent qualifications, can be an advantage.

Although not required for entry, qualifications in electronics, computing or telecommunications subjects can be useful. Examples include BTEC Certificates and Diplomas or City & Guilds qualifications. The Diploma in engineering, or in information technology, could also be good preparation. Previous electronics experience can be an advantage.

All applicants need to be physically fit and able to work at heights to do this type of work.

A driving licence is essential for working installers, but young people may be able to start work as trainees before they pass their driving test.

Some companies may require a basic police check, through the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB), as the work can involve calling on people who are vulnerable, such as older or disabled people.

An Apprenticeship scheme is being developed. See the CAI website for the latest information on this.

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 further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

The most common method of training is on the job with an employer.

The CAI offers a range of one and two-day courses. They include Radio and TV Aerial Installation Techniques, Basic Satellite Installation Techniques, and Working at Heights with Ladders.

Technicians may work towards NVQ Levels 2 and 3 in electrical and electronics servicing (signal reception), which relate to TV and radio antenna installation. Level 2 is concerned with individual aerials and dishes in the home, and Level 3 with signal distribution systems in multi-dwelling units (blocks of flats) or commercial buildings.

Technicians can become registered digital installers (RDI). They need:

  • An NVQ Level 2 in electrical and electronic servicing (signal reception).
  • Public liability insurance.
  • To have completed a working at heights course
  • To submit a satisfactory CRB disclosure.

Installers who are working towards the NVQ but meet the other requirements for registration can become associate registered installers (ARDI).

Some satellite systems and antenna manufacturers also run their own short courses.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

TV and radio reception systems technicians need:

  • To be able to work out solutions to installation problems.
  • A head for heights and good colour vision.
  • Practical manual skills.
  • The ability to explain technical matters in simple terms.
  • The physical strength to carry ladders and equipment.
  • An understanding of safe working practices.
  • A polite, pleasant manner.

Your Long Term Prospects

With experience, technicians could progress to supervise a team of installers. Some technicians may specialise in a particular area of the job; others may become self-employed after qualifying.

Further study can make it possible to move into a related area, such as digital systems integration or telecommunications.

Get Further Information

Confederation of Aerial Industries Ltd (CAI),
Communications House, 41a Market Street,
Watford WD18 0PN
Tel: 01923 803030
Website: www.cai.org.uk

Registered Digital Installer - Licensing Body,
E-space South, 26 St Thomas Place,
Cambridge Business Park, Ely,
Cambridgeshire CB7 4EX
Tel: 01353 644040/1
Website: www.rdi-lb.tv

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