Communications engineer: job description

Last updated: 21 Jun 2023, 15:37

Communications engineers (also known as communications systems engineers) research, design and develop communications equipment and systems.

Sound engineer working

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

Communications engineers design, install and maintain electrical communications systems for scientific, military, industrial or commercial use. These systems can include IT, radio, CCTV, telecommunications and even communication between submarines.

Typical duties include:

  • producing, testing and implementing systems designs and test procedures
  • installing communications systems and monitoring their performance
  • working as part of a team of communication engineers and planners
  • agreeing project budgets, timescales and specifications with clients and managers
  • visiting sites to take surveys and manage installations and maintenance
  • identifying and diagnosing faults, and troubleshooting problems
  • writing reports and documentation
  • liaising with suppliers, customers, directors and other teams of staff
  • undertaking relevant research
  • providing technical support.

You’re likely to need to travel to sites to manage installation projects. You may also need to work unsociable hours, particularly if your role involves responding to emergencies.

Graduate salaries

Starting salaries for those starting out as communications engineers range from between £20,000 and £34,000, according to Glassdoor, a job comparison site. Earnings increase as you build experience, particularly if you achieve chartership.

Typical employers

  • Telecommunications companies
  • Manufacturers of communication devices and systems
  • The Royal Navy
  • The civil service
  • Construction and house-building firms
  • Transportation companies
  • Security and defence organisations
  • Oil companies
  • Health organisations
  • Universities
  • Engineering firms.

You could become self-employed and work as a contractor or consultant once you have gained experience.

Jobs are advertised on targetjobs and by careers services. You’ll also find them on specialist engineering jobs boards and on sector-specific jobs sites. Specialist engineering recruitment agencies may also be able to help.

Qualifications and training required

There are routes into this field for school leavers and graduates.

Most graduate communications engineers have 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. 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.

Relevant experience will help your job applications stand out. 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.

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.

School leavers can take a communications engineer apprenticeship, which involves studying towards a diploma while working in a relevant role.

Key skills for communications engineers

To become a communications engineer, you must have:

  • excellent technical skills
  • a drive to continue learning throughout your career
  • analytical and problem-solving skills
  • organisational and managerial skills
  • excellent communication and interpersonal skills
  • the ability to work well under pressure
  • teamworking skills.

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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