Telecommunications Installer
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Occupation Overview

In spite of the 2001 economic slowdown, telecommunications is one of the most dynamic and competitive global businesses. It involves the transmission of information (voice, data, video and graphics) over copper wires, optical fibers, or satellite. The electrical impulses can be sent by a wide variety of devices including telephones, radios, televisions, computers and modems. Government deregulations of the telecommunications business and technological advances have created an explosion of new ways of communicating (e.g., cellular phone and the Internet). The Bay Area, with Silicon Valley in Santa Clara County and Telecom Valley in Sonoma County, is a leading provider of telecom products, software and services.

As advanced voice and data systems are implemented in buildings, there is a growing demand for people to install, test and maintain the sophisticated wiring required by such systems. There will be growth in both installation and repair occupations. This is one of the few "construction trades" for which the work is steady and not seasonal. As in other construction trades, the majority of workers are male.

Today's telecom installers are more highly skilled than the "telephone system" installers of the past. While a college degree is not required, special training is necessary and the pace of technology changes makes continuing education a must.

Telecom installers typically (but not always) belong to labor unions and are hired by building contractors or telecom systems service firms. Some large organizations will hire a small permanent staff of telecom installers to maintain and expand internal systems. Of course, the major telecom service companies, such as Pacific Bell, also hire telecom installers.

Telecom Installers with computer knowledge will have an advantage over those without it.


Future Growth Opportunities

Opportunities for Advancement:
Installers can be promoted to Lead Technician, Project Manager, Fiber Technician, Engineering Assistant, and sales positions.

Skills Transferable to:
Telecommunications Technician, Field Service Technician, Test Technician, Customer Service Engineer, Electrician, and Cable TV Installer/Repairer.


Job Descriptions

Most Installers and Cable Splicers belong to unions, such as the Communications Workers of America (CWA). Both union and non-union positions are listed separately below.

Entry-level positions focus on fairly basic telecom equipment such as telephones and computer modems in small networks. As people advance, they work with more complex communication systems, work with less supervision, and might even supervise others.


Cable Puller: $7 - 9 / hour (average: $8 / hour)
The Cable Puller pulls cable, which is very demanding physically. No previous experience with communications equipment is required, but it is important to have general mechanical aptitude and knowledge of how to use hand tools.

Technician I: $10 - 13 / hour (average: $12 / hour)
Technicians install modular connectors, innerduct and fiber strands, as well as termination of connectors. They have a good knowledge of using hand tools as well as a basic understanding of wiring systems for buildings. They also understand communications cable/wiring color codes.

Technician II: $12 - 35 / hour (average: $16 / hour)
These Technicians have more knowledge of, and experience with, the use of specialized tools. They can use OTDR and other basic test equipment, read schematics and plans, and install/test cable without supervision. They have strong knowledge and understanding of building cabling systems and data communications. They might need knowledge of specialized fiber optic tools and building/campus fiber optic network concepts.

Technician III: $20 - 36 / hour (average: $24 / hour)
This senior level Technician has additional responsibilities including trouble shooting voice and data communications systems and electronics. This could require thorough knowledge of fiber optic installation, including splicing and advanced test techniques. A Technician III might also be responsible for training lesser skilled employees, working alone, or directing others.


Installer: $10 - 15 / hour (average: $13 / hour)
Installers are responsible for installing poles and placing the telephone lines. Power equipment used in this process includes trenchers and plows. This position encompasses the Technician I and Technician II requirements listed above. It may take 5 years to progress from an entry-level installer to one that works independently and is at the top of the pay range.

Note: Installers often have "helpers" who perform duties requiring lesser skills, such as supplying or holding materials or tools, and cleaning work areas and equipment. Helpers are often required to be with an Installer due to safety concerns. While it pays only $7-10/hour, it is an excellent opportunity to see first-hand the type of work you can do with training.

Cable Splicing Technician: $15 - 25 / hour (average: $20 / hour)
Cable Splicing Technicians are responsible for splicing overhead and underground telephone cables, and have many characteristics of the Technician III described above. Using specialty tools to remove the sheath from the installed cable, the technician tests conductors to find their corresponding conductor in adjoining sections and splices the sections together. The Cable Splicer might also repair defective phone jacks inside homes and locate damaged areas along problematic service lines. Technicians must be able to read service orders and circuit diagrams to identify the correct splicing specifications.

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