Communications engineer: job description

Communications engineer: job description

Communications engineers are responsible for the research, design, development and production of communications equipment and systems.
Employers seek committed, business-minded candidates with strong technical abilities.

What does a communications engineer do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Communications engineers design and modify electrical communications systems for scientific, military, industrial or commercial use. The level of in-depth technical and design work varies; after a few years of experience many communications engineers will start to move into managerial and consultancy roles.

Responsibilities typically include:

  • managing, monitoring the performance of and working as part of a team of communication engineers and planners
  • agreeing project budgets, timescales and specifications with clients and managers
  • undertaking site surveys
  • producing, testing and implementing designs
  • creating test procedures
  • producing disaster management plans
  • ensuring that objectives and deadlines are met
  • attending conferences and briefings on new products and networks
  • writing reports and documentation
  • making presentations
  • managing resources
  • liaising with suppliers, customers, directors and other teams of staff
  • undertaking relevant research
  • analysing and interpreting data
  • providing technical support
  • organising and attending meetings.

Typical employers of communications engineers

Most communications engineers work for telecommunications companies and manufacturers and installers of communication devices and systems. Self-employment via consultancy/contract work is possible for individuals with several years' experience.

Jobs are advertised online, by careers services and recruitment agencies, in newspapers and in relevant publications including The Engineer and TARGETjobs Engineering.

Qualifications and training required

Most communications engineers possess a good honours degree in a relevant subject, such as communications engineering, electrical engineering, electronic engineering, physics, telecommunications or computer science. Some employers will ask for a 2.1 degree but others will accept candidates with a 2.2 degree. Take a look at our list of engineering employers that accept 2.2 degrees.

A postgraduate qualification can also be helpful, and may be necessary for research positions. A list of accredited courses is available on the Engineering Council’s website and you can read our article on engineering postgraduate study to explore your options.

If you are aiming to work in a technician role, it is possible to enter the profession with a higher national diploma (HND) or through an advanced or higher apprenticeship in an appropriate subject such as electronic or electrical engineering. To find out more about getting into engineering via a school leaver route, visit the engineering section of TARGETcareers, our website aimed at school leavers.

Relevant experience is valuable. Some employers offer final year project work, sponsorship, vacation work or industrial placements, which can provide valuable contacts and a useful insight into the profession. Take a look at our list of engineering employers who offer industrial placements and summer internships

Achieving chartered (CEng) status with the Engineering Council can help to demonstrate your professionalism and commitment to your field. To become chartered, you will need an accredited bachelors degree with honours in engineering or technology, plus an appropriate masters degree (MEng) or doctorate (EngD) accredited by a professional engineering institution such as the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET). You will also be eligible with an integrated MSc. To find out more, take a look at our guide to chartership.

Key skills for communications engineers

Employers seek committed, business-minded candidates with strong technical abilities. To become a communications engineer, you must also have:

  • excellent communication and interpersonal skills
  • analytical and problem-solving skills
  • organisational and managerial skills
  • presentation skills
  • the ability to work well under pressure
  • teamworking skills.

Some positions require candidates to possess a driving licence.

Read our article on the skills engineering employers look for for more information and then find out how you can prove you possess these competencies at engineering assessment centres.

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