A communications engineer is a professional engineer who works with one or more of a large range of communication technologies. Such an engineer may work with computer networks, Internet connectivity, satellite transmissions, cellular technology, broadcast technology, video and radio equipment, weaponry or medical imaging equipment. Functions can include research, design, implementation, modification and troubleshooting of these technologies.
The specific, day-to-day functions of a communications engineer vary significantly based on the employer, the type of technology and the current project. These engineers may work to design and troubleshoot tiny circuits or may work with the technology that manages a city-wide electrical grid. They may work in a lab or at the top of a cellular tower; they also may travel extensively or remain in a central office.
Generally, a communications engineer must be an educated, degreed electrical engineer. For some positions, he must also be certified by one or more advisory bodies. In some localities, he must further be registered in order to legally work in the community. Communications engineers can also work in highly sensitive roles and may be required to pass criminal or background investigations or obtain security clearances.
Science and mathematics are the core competencies of a communications engineer. He uses those skills to evaluate a technology or a situation requiring a technology and to develop solutions that are both functionally effective and cost effective. Such professionals may also work closely with clients or governmental agencies, so solid personal communication skills may also be important. Other key skills include problem solving, analytical skills and organization.
A communications engineer may specialize in one or more areas. Common areas include microwave technology, fiber optics and telecommunications. Additional training within the chosen area is generally required to qualify as a specialist.
These professionals can also specialize in either software or hardware, but most jobs require the ability to work with both. Even an engineer whose specialty is developing hardware, such as cell phones, routers or switches, will need to be familiar with modeling and simulation software. He may also need to be capable of working with common programs such as estimating or proposal-development software.
A communications engineer may work in a variety of settings. Cell phone, utility, cable and satellite providers employ a large number of such engineers as do Internet providers and computer networking companies. Local and national governments are another employment option. For those interested in research, foundations, universities or non-profit organizations may be a logical choice.