A High Bandwidth Career

Students entering the field of telecommunications gain access to some of the most dynamic industries—and career opportunities in top and emerging companies. Not only do communications companies need large numbers of new employees, but nearly all industries need network engineers, project leaders, and technically-astute managers/executives. Telecom is pervasive: it is at the foundation of all banking, high tech, energy, healthcare, and other industries. The tools that every industry uses are rooted in telecom.

Hot new jobs are emerging in telecom: to extend wireless broadband, provide network security, develop cloud computing, produce mobile devices, and much more. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that, “Average earnings in telecommunications greatly exceed average earnings throughout private industry.”

The telecom field has been reinventing itself since the seventies with new economic models and new technologies, and today companies offer many applications. Innovation has produced many revenue streams: not only telephones but broadband, wireless Internet, Internet security, cable television, cellular phones, web-based services, smart phone apps, and others.

The emerging electricity smart grid may be the largest of all of these—information infrastructure and energy infrastructure are merging. In the United States, much work stands to be done to integrate communications and the power grid; but 50 percent of this workforce will retire over the next ten years. Not surprisingly, CNN Money projects that the need for network engineers is poised to increase by 50 percent. Engineers and business people who know how to integrate and build this new infrastructure will find themselves in intense demand in the coming years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says, “With rapid technological changes in telecommunications, those with up-to-date technical skills will have the best job opportunities.”

Many countries are building new electricity grids, and they can leapfrog directly to smart grids. The network engineers and executives who know how to regulate, manage, design, and build these grids will hold high places in companies and agencies. The standards for smart grids are developing now, and much is going to happen in this field. Students entering the field now can help to shape it.

Like the United States, India is surging into new technologies and infrastructure, including smart grids, solar power, broadband, wireless, cyber security and more—but it has a shortage of trained and experienced workers who can build these new technologies and new infrastructure. It also has a shortage of experts in the regulatory and policy areas, a shortage of managers and corporate executives with knowledge of these fields, and a particular shortage of people who can combine together all three areas of policy, business, and technology.

Multiple Job Offers

Jose Ramon Santos, Lab Manager for the University of Colorado-Boulder Interdisciplinary Telecom Program, highlights the demand for students. He says, “In networking and security in particular there’s a huge demand for employees and not enough supply.” Students coming out of telecom programs are getting multiple job offers in the US as well as offers from companies and agencies in India and other countries. It’s an exciting time.

Students entering these fields will have to keep up with the trajectory of change. The telecom technologies of today will not be those of tomorrow. It’s a field for people who understand that, and want to benefit from that change. It’s a field for people who want to be in the center of rapidly changing life.

This growth is affected not only by technology, but also by policy, and it’s expanded by concepts from business and economics. Students will do well to combine courses and learning of public policy and business into their curriculum, and should choose programs that offer a balanced and full approach to the future of telecom infrastructure.

Along with new telecom and energy technologies will come new sets of policies designed to protect consumers and govern the emerging standards and systems. Those with expertise will be sought by top companies and enjoy job opportunities in India, the United States, and almost any country.

Cross-Disciplinary Education

When you choose a program, make sure it’s one where you will have a lot of engagement with professors who are working professionals, so you get the real-live pulse. Make sure it’s highly integrated and flexible, combining technology, policy, and business. Make sure it offers a lab-rich education to not just learn about technology but to get real hands-on experience valued by industry. And make sure you can become a multi-faceted professional able to manage and navigate the intense and rapidly changing area of communication networks.

Remember that the process of finding the right telecom program may take a year or so, and start your search for a program early. Look for schools with multidisciplinary approaches and that offer not only traditional engineering master’s degrees but also allow multiple areas of emphases in the degree so that you’ll stand out in the job market.

Your career prospects may be strongest if you combine together knowledge of several industries. Remember that executives are expected to know about business and management; policy and regulation; and technology—and also to have strong writing and communications skills. So look carefully at cross-disciplinary programs.

Also be aware of Engineering Management Programs (EMP). An EMP is the MBA for the technical mind. For example, at some universities the EMP integrates project management, product development, and business—completing the set of skills and knowledge that business leaders need. It offers the benefits of an MBA but adds the technical skills that firms demand.

As long as you have access to high-speed bandwidth, you can start by taking a graduate telecom class from a distance while you research programs in the United States and choose the right one. You can use this distance learning to refine your knowledge of telecom and the criteria you use to make your longer-term choice. Distance learning lets you get a leg up on your studies and move more quickly from the basic classes to advanced classes.

Participating in an integrated telecom program can give your career more bandwidth.