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Working As A Communications Engineer

  • Interacting With Computers
  • Getting Information
  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems
  • Drafting, Laying Out, and Specifying Technical Devices, Parts, and Equipment
  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Mostly Sitting

  • $77,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Communications Engineer Do

Electrical engineers design, develop, test, and supervise the manufacturing of electrical equipment, such as electric motors, radar and navigation systems, communications systems, or power generation equipment. Electrical engineers also design the electrical systems of automobiles and aircraft.

Electronics engineers design and develop electronic equipment, such as broadcast and communications systems, from portable music players to global positioning systems (GPSs). Many also work in areas closely related to computer hardware.

Duties

Electrical engineers typically do the following:

  • Design new ways to use electrical power to develop or improve products
  • Perform detailed calculations to develop manufacturing, construction, and installation standards and specifications
  • Direct the manufacture, installation, and testing of electrical equipment to ensure that products meet specifications and codes
  • Investigate complaints from customers or the public, evaluate problems, and recommend solutions
  • Work with project managers on production efforts to ensure that projects are completed satisfactorily, on time, and within budget

Electronics engineers typically do the following:

  • Design electronic components, software, products, or systems for commercial, industrial, medical, military, or scientific applications
  • Analyze customer needs and determine the requirements, capacity, and cost for developing an electrical system plan
  • Develop maintenance and testing procedures for electronic components and equipment
  • Evaluate systems and recommend design modifications or equipment repair
  • Inspect electronic equipment, instruments, and systems to make sure that they meet safety standards and applicable regulations
  • Plan and develop applications and modifications for electronic properties used in parts and systems in order to improve technical performance

Electronics engineers who work for the federal government research, develop, and evaluate electronic devices used in a variety of areas, such as aviation, computing, transportation, and manufacturing. They work on federal electronic devices and systems, including satellites, flight systems, radar and sonar systems, and communications systems.

The work of electrical engineers and electronics engineers is often similar. Both use engineering and design software and equipment to do engineering tasks. Both types of engineers also must work with other engineers to discuss existing products and possibilities for engineering projects.

Engineers whose work is related exclusively to computer hardware are considered computer hardware engineers.

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How To Become A Communications Engineer

Electrical and electronics engineers must have a bachelor’s degree. Employers also value practical experience, so participation in cooperative engineering programs, in which students earn academic credit for structured work experience. Having a Professional Engineer (PE) license may improve an engineer’s chances of finding employment.

Education

High school students interested in studying electrical or electronics engineering benefit from taking courses in physics and mathematics, including algebra, trigonometry, and calculus. Courses in drafting are also helpful, because electrical and electronics engineers often are required to prepare technical drawings.

In order to enter the occupation, prospective electrical and electronics engineers need a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, electronics engineering, or electrical engineering technology. Programs include classroom, laboratory, and field studies. Courses include digital systems design, differential equations, and electrical circuit theory. Programs in electrical engineering, electronics engineering, or electrical engineering technology should be accredited by ABET.

Some colleges and universities offer cooperative programs in which students gain practical experience while completing their education. Cooperative programs combine classroom study with practical work. Internships provide similar experience and are growing in number.

At some universities, students can enroll in a 5-year program that leads to both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree. A graduate degree allows an engineer to work as an instructor at some universities, or in research and development.

Important Qualities

Concentration. Electrical and electronics engineers design and develop complex electrical systems and electronic components and products. They must be able to keep track of multiple design elements and technical characteristics when performing these tasks.

Initiative. Electrical and electronics engineers must be able to apply their knowledge to new tasks in every project they undertake. In addition, they must engage in continuing education to keep up with changes in technology.

Interpersonal skills. Electrical and electronics engineers must be able to work with others during the manufacturing process to ensure that their plans are implemented correctly. This collaboration includes monitoring technicians and devising remedies to problems as they arise.

Math skills. Electrical and electronics engineers must be able to use the principles of calculus and other advanced math in order to analyze, design, and troubleshoot equipment.

Speaking skills. Electrical and electronics engineers work closely with other engineers and technicians. They must be able to explain their designs and reasoning clearly and to relay instructions during product development and production. They also may need to explain complex issues to customers who have little or no technical expertise.

Writing skills. Electrical and electronics engineers develop technical publications related to equipment they develop, including maintenance manuals, operation manuals, parts lists, product proposals, and design methods documents.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Licensure is not required for entry-level positions as electrical and electronics engineers. A Professional Engineering (PE) license, which allows for higher levels of leadership and independence, can be acquired later in one’s career. Licensed engineers are called professional engineers (PEs). A PE can oversee the work of other engineers, sign off on projects, and provide services directly to the public. State licensure generally requires

  • A degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program
  • A passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam
  • Relevant work experience
  • A passing score on the Professional Engineering (PE) exam

The initial Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam can be taken right after graduation from a college or university. Engineers who pass this exam commonly are called engineers in training (EITs) or engineer interns (EIs). After getting work experience, EITs can take the second exam, called the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam.

Several states require engineers to take continuing education courses to keep their license. Most states recognize licensure from other states if the licensing state’s requirements meet or exceed their own licensure requirements.

Advancement

Electrical and electronic engineers may advance to supervisory positions in which they lead a team of engineers and technicians. Some may move to management positions, working as engineering or program managers. Preparation for managerial positions usually requires working under the guidance of a more experienced engineer. For more information, see the profile on architectural and engineering managers.

For sales work, an engineering background enables engineers to discuss a product's technical aspects and assist in product planning and use. For more information, see the profile on sales engineers.

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Communications Engineer Career Paths

Communications Engineer
Systems Engineer Systems Administrator Information Technology Manager
Senior Information Technology Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Systems Engineer Consultant Project Manager
Service Delivery Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Systems Engineer Consultant Information Technology Manager
Information Technology Operations Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Network Engineer Consultant Product Manager
Senior Product Marketing Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Network Engineer Information Technology Manager Information Technology Project Manager
Information Technology Infrastructure Manager
11 Yearsyrs
Network Engineer Network Administrator Senior Systems Engineer
Manager, Systems Engineering
9 Yearsyrs
Engineer Project Manager Information Technology Director
Director Of Information Technology Services
12 Yearsyrs
Engineer Research And Development Engineer Test Engineer
Test Engineering Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Engineer Quality Assurance Engineer Information Technology Consultant
Information Technology Systems Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Senior Systems Engineer Lead Technician Technical Manager
Technical Operations Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Senior Systems Engineer Senior System Administrator
Data Center Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Senior Engineer Senior Project Engineer Senior Process Engineer
Engineering Group Leader
7 Yearsyrs
Senior Engineer Senior Development Engineer Senior Design Engineer
Senior Engineering Team Leader
8 Yearsyrs
Senior Network Engineer Senior Engineer Project Lead Engineer
Lead Engineer And Project Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Senior Network Engineer Lead Engineer Senior Engineering Technician
Engineering Laboratory Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Senior Network Engineer Senior Software Engineer Senior Technical Consultant
Vice President, Technology
11 Yearsyrs
Project Manager Program/Project Manager
Custom Project Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Radio Frequency Engineer Senior Test Engineer Test Engineering Manager
Director Of Testing
11 Yearsyrs
Radio Frequency Engineer Program Manager Operations Program Manager
Global Operations Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Telecommunications Analyst Telecommunications Specialist
Telecommunications Manager
6 Yearsyrs
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Average Length of Employment
Engineer 3.3 years
Top Careers Before Communications Engineer
Engineer 7.1%
Technician 3.7%
Consultant 3.4%
Top Careers After Communications Engineer
Engineer 6.8%
Consultant 4.1%
Manager 2.7%

Do you work as a Communications Engineer?

Average Yearly Salary
$77,000
Show Salaries
$56,000
Min 10%
$77,000
Median 50%
$77,000
Median 50%
$77,000
Median 50%
$77,000
Median 50%
$77,000
Median 50%
$77,000
Median 50%
$77,000
Median 50%
$107,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Apple
Highest Paying City
San Francisco, CA
Highest Paying State
Massachusetts
Avg Experience Level
3.5 years
How much does a Communications Engineer make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Communications Engineer in the United States is $77,735 per year or $37 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $56,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $107,000.

The largest raises come from changing jobs.

See what's out there.

Real Communications Engineer Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Scalability Engineer Communications Infrastructure Zillow, Inc. Jun 20, 2016 $150,000
Protocol Communication Engineer Applied Systems Engineering, Inc. Jul 09, 2016 $138,403
Search/Community Web Engineer Autodesk, Inc. Jul 06, 2013 $124,987 -
$170,400
Communications Engineer Bensussen Deutsch & Associates, Inc. Sep 01, 2013 $124,000
Unified Communications Engineer Practice Lead Spanlink Communications, Inc. Jun 20, 2010 $123,500
Unified Communications Engineer Tier III Continuant, Inc. Jun 23, 2016 $121,826
Partner Integration Communications Engineer Intent Media Inc. Oct 20, 2014 $115,000
Principal Wireless Communications Engineer RF DSP, Inc. Sep 18, 2014 $110,000 -
$130,000
Principal Wireless Communications Engineer RF DSP, Inc. Sep 04, 2014 $110,000 -
$130,000
IOS Communications Engineer Apple Inc. Aug 04, 2014 $110,000 -
$130,000
Partner Integration Communication Engineer Intent Media Inc. Jan 09, 2016 $105,000 -
$135,000
Wireless Communications Engineer Danlaw, Inc. Nov 21, 2011 $105,000
IOS Communications Frameworks Engineer Apple Inc. Jan 03, 2011 $105,000
Radio Communications Engineer Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority Dec 01, 2010 $86,549 -
$112,793
Communications Engineer KPK Technologies Inc. Oct 01, 2014 $85,717
Unified Communications Engineer II HCA Management Services LP Jan 08, 2016 $85,000 -
$95,000
Satellite Communications Engineer Tigrisnet, Inc. Jan 25, 2012 $80,266
Print Communication Engineer Financial Engines, Inc. Nov 15, 2012 $78,946
Communications Engineer Alliancebernstein L.P. Feb 05, 2016 $78,000 -
$88,000
Communications Engineer Concrete Industries One Corp. Sep 08, 2015 $77,418
Computer Communication Engineer KBI & Co., Inc. Oct 01, 2011 $67,890
Information Technology & Communications Engineer OVE ARUP & Partners PC Apr 19, 2013 $67,621
Communications Engineer KPK Technologies Inc. Oct 01, 2011 $67,000
Print Communication Engineer Financial Engines Nov 15, 2009 $66,976 -
$76,976
Unified Communications Engineer Mehra Innovations, Inc. Nov 01, 2013 $66,784
Associate Communications Engineer Nexius Insight, Inc. Sep 30, 2014 $66,000
Associate Communications Engineer Nexius Insight, Inc. Apr 10, 2014 $66,000

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Top Skills for A Communications Engineer

  1. Communication Systems
  2. Infrastructure
  3. Windows XP
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Designed communication systems to optimize processing of satellite-based intelligence data for secure, encrypted network dissemination.
  • Engineered large-scale data communication networks involving up to 5000+ locations and provided technical support for the legacy communication infrastructure.
  • Installed operating systems Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7; repaired and troubleshot CATV networks.
  • Installed and configured Cisco phones and Cisco Gateways (VG224) using both MGCP and H323 for small office remote sites.
  • Provided workable solutions to power distribution challenges and for surge protection device related to complex circuit switches and multiplexer equipment.

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Average Salary:

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Top 10 Best States for Communications Engineers

  1. Massachusetts
  2. New Hampshire
  3. Virginia
  4. California
  5. Maryland
  6. Texas
  7. Washington
  8. Vermont
  9. Connecticut
  10. New Jersey
  • (731 jobs)
  • (282 jobs)
  • (1,299 jobs)
  • (4,085 jobs)
  • (641 jobs)
  • (1,335 jobs)
  • (708 jobs)
  • (29 jobs)
  • (267 jobs)
  • (447 jobs)

Communications Engineer Demographics

Gender

Male

82.3%

Female

12.3%

Unknown

5.4%
Ethnicity

White

56.4%

Hispanic or Latino

13.8%

Black or African American

11.7%

Asian

11.1%

Unknown

6.9%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

32.8%

French

14.1%

Arabic

12.5%

Chinese

6.3%

German

4.7%

Mandarin

4.7%

Russian

3.1%

Italian

3.1%

Swedish

1.6%

Portuguese

1.6%

Nepali

1.6%

Gujarati

1.6%

Dakota

1.6%

Malay

1.6%

Aramaic

1.6%

Amharic

1.6%

Tigrinya

1.6%

Carrier

1.6%

Hindi

1.6%

Norwegian

1.6%
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Communications Engineer Education

Schools

Strayer University

9.9%

Johns Hopkins University

7.4%

More Tech Institute

7.4%

South University

6.2%

Pennsylvania State University

6.2%

George Washington University

6.2%

George Mason University

6.2%

University of Maryland - University College

4.9%

University of Colorado at Boulder

4.9%

Purdue University

4.9%

Unitek College - Fremont

3.7%

Community College of the Air Force

3.7%

University of San Francisco

3.7%

New Mexico State University

3.7%

Naval Postgraduate School

3.7%

Prince George's Community College

3.7%

New Jersey Institute of Technology

3.7%

Auburn University

3.7%

Portland State University

3.7%

Campbell University

2.5%
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Majors

Electrical Engineering

31.0%

Business

10.6%

Computer Science

9.1%

Information Technology

7.8%

Computer Networking

6.3%

Electrical Engineering Technology

4.5%

Computer Systems Security

3.8%

Management Information Systems

3.5%

Engineering

3.5%

Communication

3.3%

Computer Engineering

3.0%

Management

2.3%

Criminal Justice

2.3%

Mechanical Engineering

1.8%

Computer Information Systems

1.5%

Engineering Technology

1.3%

Project Management

1.3%

Political Science

1.3%

Digital Media

1.0%

Education

1.0%
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Degrees

Bachelors

48.0%

Masters

25.9%

Associate

12.5%

Certificate

5.6%

High School Diploma

4.7%

Doctorate

2.2%

Diploma

1.1%
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Updated May 18, 2020