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Cable Television and Telecommunications Technician Job Description, Career as a Cable Television and Telecommunications Technician, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: High school plus training

Salary: Median—$17.36 per hour

Employment Outlook: Poor

Definition and Nature of the Work

Cable television and telecommunications technicians install, maintain, and upgrade cable systems. They also perform repair work and respond to service problems at the homes of cable users. Their main goal is to keep a cable system operating efficiently.

Cable technicians generally start out as cable system installers. Installers prepare a subscriber's home for cable reception by connecting the cable system to one or more television sets or to one or more computers for high-speed Internet service. Installers explain to subscribers how to operate the cable system and how they can upgrade or downgrade their services. If a customer no longer wants the cable system, installers remove it. Installers may also be responsible for servicing feeder lines, which connect the main cable to small groups of homes, and droplines, which are the direct cable lines to a subscriber's home. In general, installers perform light troubleshooting work when customers have minor problems with their cable units.

Trunk technicians must have more advanced technical skills than installers. Trunk technicians continuously maintain the main line, or trunk line, of the cable system. This work is very important because the trunk line is the main artery of a cable system and a malfunction could shut down service in a large area. Trunk technicians are responsible for correcting any technical failure in the trunk line, the feeder amplifier, or the booster.

Service technicians respond to problems reported by a subscriber. These technicians generally repair amplifiers, cable poles, or lines. They may also correct electrical malfunctions occurring in the cable system. They practice preventive maintenance by electronically scanning the cable system periodically. By catching minor problems early, they can prevent major disruptions in cable service later.

Not all cable television and telecommunications technicians work in the field. Bench technicians, who are highly specialized electronics technicians, operate the cable system's repair facility. They examine broken and malfunctioning cable equipment, repair it, record the repairs, and return the equipment to the field.

Chief cable technicians are the most highly skilled of the cable technician staff. They supervise the work of other technicians. They are ultimately responsible for ensuring high-quality signal delivery to customers. Chief cable technicians also set employee performance standards, conduct interviews, and handle personnel matters. They do not work out in the field unless serious or complex problems arise.

Education and Training Requirements

Cable television and telecommunications technicians need at least a high school education, an aptitude for math, and an interest in installing or repairing electronic equipment.

A cable television technician needs to have training in many areas. (© Martha Tabor/Working Images Photographs. Reproduced by permission.)

Most cable television and telecommunications technicians begin their careers as installers. Training is available for high school graduates at trade schools or from a cable company's on-the-job training program. Some trade schools offer a five- to seven-week course in electronics repair and maintenance. Trunk, service, and bench technicians have specialized telecommunications training; junior colleges and technical institutes offer programs that usually last one to two years. Chief cable television and telecommunications technicians need at least two years of electronics training and a considerable amount of experience in the field.

The number of vocational schools that train cable television and telecommunications technicians is limited. The cable industry provides on-the-job training, as well as special training schools for technicians. Some community agencies and educational institutions also offer technical training programs for cable technicians.

Getting the Job

Schools that offer courses in cable maintenance often have placement offices that can help candidates find jobs. The majority of employment opportunities come from areas that already have cable service or are about to get it. The National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) provides lists of these areas. State and local government officials can help prospective cable technicians determine what opportunities exist locally.

The Television and Cable Factbook, published by Warren Communications, lists all the cable systems in the United States and Canada. Copies of the print edition can be found at most large libraries. Also available online, The Factbook is considered the industry's leading source of up-to-date information.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Cable television technicians generally advance by gaining experience in cable maintenance and servicing. Installers, trunk technicians, service technicians, and bench technicians can advance to become chief cable technicians with increased on-the-job experience or electronics training. Some technicians may elect to continue their college training and become professional engineers. Those who have the necessary teaching skills may train new cable television and telecommunications technicians.

The employment outlook for cable technicians is slower than the average through the year 2014. Most areas of the country that can be served by cable systems have already been wired, and fewer installations will be needed in the coming years. However, technicians will still be needed to service existing cable lines and to replace old wiring with fiber optic cable. Steady customer demand for high-speed Internet connections may increase the demand for cable technicians; however, the increasing use of wireless Internet systems, along with the option of satellite television, will most likely counteract any job growth in the cable television and telecommunications field. Jobs will become available as workers retire or leave their jobs for other reasons.

Working Conditions

Installers, service technicians, and trunk technicians spend most of their time outside installing or maintaining cable lines, while bench technicians perform their tasks inside the cable system's repair facility. Chief technicians normally do not go into the field unless a problem arises.

All technicians in this field should enjoy working with the public because it is a consumer-oriented industry. Cable television technicians generally work five days per week, but they may have to work some overtime.

Where to Go for More Information

Communications Workers of America
501 Third St. NW
Washington, DC 20001-2797
(202) 434-1100

National Cable and Telecommunications Association
1724 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 775-3550

Earnings and Benefits

The earnings of cable technicians depend on the worker's experience, education, and place of employment. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary of a cable television and telecommunications technician is $17.36 per hour. Chief cable technicians earn more. Benefits include paid holidays and vacations, health insurance, and retirement plans. Cable technicians also receive extra pay for overtime.

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