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Cable Television Engineer Job Description, Career as a Cable Television Engineer, Salary, Employment

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

Education and Training: College plus training

Salary: Average—$64,416 per year

Employment Outlook: Good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Cable television engineers design, develop, and maintain wired cable television systems. Their main goal is to establish strong cable reception with minimal interference in a given service area. Some of these engineers introduce methods to improve the operation of existing cable systems and develop new ideas and plans for cable equipment.

Many cable television engineers work as part of a cable company's franchising team. They help develop competitive proposals that enable their company to win cable contracts. Cable television is regulated at the federal and local levels and sometimes at the state level. When a community wants a cable system to be installed in its area, it requests bids from cable companies that are interested in constructing the cable system. To develop these bids, cable television engineers supervise extensive topographic studies. These studies determine how difficult the construction phase of the cable system will be. The engineers project what types of electronic and electrical equipment will be needed and also select where the headend, or electronic control center of the cable system, will be located. The headend is the site of the receiving antenna and signal processing equipment that is essential to a properly functioning cable system. Cable television engineers also evaluate whether the receivers used in the cable system are properly aligned.

A cable television engineer typically works for a chief cable television engineer. The chief engineer holds the highest technical position in a cable company. This position requires extensive knowledge in the field of telecommunications. Chief engineers develop specifications and standards for cable equipment and related telecommunications equipment, direct the actual construction of cable plant facilities, and oversee all electrical installations.

Chief cable television engineers may be involved in the development of new cable markets. In this job, they provide counseling concerning franchise acquisitions and give technical updates to local government representatives. Chief cable television engineers also help develop cable system budgets and general cable growth plans.

Education and Training Requirements

Prospective cable television engineers generally need at least a bachelor's degree in electronics engineering to enter the field. Some engineering programs include work experience along with formal classroom instruction. Courses in business administration may also be helpful. Most employers require candidates to have considerable experience in the operation and maintenance of cable TV facilities, equipment, and systems.

The cable television field is rapidly evolving and changing. Engineers who participate in this area should continually upgrade their studies to keep up with new developments.

Getting the Job

Prospective cable television engineers may be able to find jobs through their college placement office. The best chances for employment are in areas where cable television has recently been set up or is soon to be franchised. Candidates should also contact local government officials to determine the status of cable in their area.

In addition, other cable systems may have been introduced recently in surrounding areas. To find out about these areas students can review The Television and Cable Factbook, published by Warren Communications. Copies of the print edition can be found at most large libraries. Also available online, The Factbook is considered the leading source of up-to-date information on cable systems in the United States and Canada. Interested individuals should also refer to trade publications and Internet job sites for job listings. Industries related to cable television, such as cable equipment suppliers, may have job openings as well.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Cable television engineers generally advance by taking on more responsibility or moving to a larger cable system. Some engineers may eventually become chief engineers or executives of cable companies. Other engineers may start their own cable companies.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 250,000 people are employed in the U.S. cable television industry. The employment outlook for cable television engineers is good through the year 2014. Cable television systems already reach approximately 70 percent of American homes, and this figure is expected to continue to increase.

Working Conditions

Cable television engineers work in a variety of outdoor and indoor surroundings. Engineers who are part of a franchising team may spend most of their time traveling and visiting possible franchise sites nationwide. Sometimes they work outdoors at noisy construction sites where the cable systems are erected. At other times they work in an office.

The standard number of hours worked by cable television engineers is thirty-five to forty per week. However, overtime is often necessary, particularly when installation deadlines must be met. Cable engineers must be able to work well with other cable system team members. Chief cable engineers must be able to speak in front of large groups of people to present the views of the cable company. They provide technical advice and counseling to various members of the company, including the operating managers, and are responsible for overseeing all the activities of the engineering staff.

Where to Go for More Information

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.—U.S.A.
1828 L St. NW, Ste. 1202
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 785-0017

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

Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers
140 Philips Rd.
Exton, PA 19341-1318
(800) 542-5040

Earnings and Benefits

Salaries for cable television engineers vary with experience and are also tied to the size and location of the cable system that employs them. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for a cable television engineer is $64,416 per year. Chief cable television engineers earn more. Benefits generally include paid holidays and vacations, health insurance, and retirement plans.

Additional topics

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