Although the telecommunications industry employs workers in many different occupations, 56 percent of all workers are employed in either office and administrative support occupations or installation, maintenance, and repair occupations.
Telephone craftworkers install, repair, and maintain telephone equipment, cables and access lines, and telecommunications systems. These workers can be grouped by the type of work they perform. Line installers and repairers connect central offices to customers’ buildings. They install poles and terminals, and place wires and cables that lead to a consumer’s premises. They use power-driven equipment to dig holes and set telephone poles. Line installers climb the poles or use truck-mounted buckets (aerial work platforms) and attach the cables using various handtools. After line installers place cables on poles or towers or in underground conduits and trenches, they complete the line connections.
Telecommunications equipment installers and repairers, except line installers, install, repair, and maintain the array of increasingly complex and sophisticated communications equipment and cables. Their work includes setting up, rearranging, and removing the complex switching and dialing equipment used in central offices. They may also solve network-related problems and program equipment to provide special features.
Some telecommunications equipment installers are referred to as telephone station installers and repairers. They install, service, and repair telephone systems and other communications equipment on customers’ property. When customers move or request new types of service, such as a high-speed Internet connection, a fax, or an additional line, installers relocate telephones or make changes in existing equipment. They assemble equipment and install wiring. They also connect telephones to outside service wires and sometimes must climb poles or ladders to make these connections.
Cable installers travel to customers’ premises to set up pay television service so that customers can receive programming. Cable service installers connect a customer’s television set to the cable serving the entire neighborhood. Wireless and satellite service installers attach antennas or satellite dishes to the sides of customers’ houses. These devices must be positioned to provide clear lines of sight to satellite locations. (Satellite installation may be handled by employees of retail stores that sell satellite dishes. Such workers are not employed by cable and other pay television services.)
Installers check the strength and clarity of the television signal before completing the installation. They may need to explain to the subscriber how pay television services operate. As these services expand to include telephone and high-speed Internet access, an understanding of the basic technology and an ability to communicate that knowledge are increasingly important.
Telephone operators make telephone connections, assist customers with specialized services such as reverse-charge calls, provide telephone numbers, and may provide emergency assistance.
Customer service representatives help customers understand the new and varied types of services offered by telecommunications providers. Some customer service representatives also are expected to sell services and may work on a commission basis. Other administrative support workers include financial, information, and records clerks; secretaries and administrative assistants; and first-line supervisors/managers of office and administrative support workers. These workers keep service records, compile and send bills to customers, and prepare statistical and other company reports, among other duties.
Fourteen percent of the industry’s employees are professional workers. Many of these are scientific and technical personnel such as engineers and computer specialists. Engineers plan cable and microwave routes, central office and PBX equipment installations, and the expansion of existing structures, and solve other engineering problems. Some engineers also engage in research and development of new equipment. Many specialize in telecommunications design or voice, video, or data communications systems, and integrate communications equipment with computer networks. They work closely with clients, who may not understand sophisticated communications systems, and design systems that meet their customers’ needs. Computer software engineers and network systems and data communications analysts design, develop, test, and debug software products. These include computer-assisted engineering programs for schematic cabling projects; modeling programs for cellular and satellite systems; and programs for telephone options, such as voice mail, e-mail, and call waiting. Telecommunications specialists coordinate the installation of these systems and may provide followup maintenance and training. In addition, the industry employs many other managerial, professional, and technical workers, such as financial information and record clerks; accountants and auditors; human resources, training, and labor relations managers; engineering technicians; and computer programmers.
Fourteen percent of the industry’s employees are in sales and related occupations. These workers sell telecommunications services, such as long-distance service, personal answering services, voice mail, e-mail, and call-waiting telephone options.
New occupational specialties have emerged based on the industry’s innovations and new technologies. For example, some engineers research, design, and develop gas lasers and related equipment needed to send messages through fiber optic cable transmission. They study the limitations and uses of lasers and fiber optics; find new applications for them; and oversee the building, testing, and operations of the new applications.