Engineers at the Forefront of the Wireless Revolution

The wireless world is opening new possibilities for people who study engineering and electronics. Companies are looking for people to work on any device people want to take on the road, from phones to computers.

"Today you can't go anywhere without seeing people using cell phones and text messaging," says Jan Walbridge. She works for a wireless technology company.

"In congested cities, apartment dwellers often skip the land-line phone in favor of a cell. And many telecommuters rely on wireless broadband for their laptops for performance that is as good as the office network."

Being mobile is not just convenient. It also reduces costs for business by allowing employees to work while traveling, says Walbridge. With a wireless device connected to company databases, businesses can improve communication, efficiency and reliability.

A Wireless World

"We're just at the start of the wireless revolution. In the not too far distant future, we will see wireless chips in everyday devices, we will see machine-to-machine communications, and wireless will be an important competitive factor in business as well," says Walbridge.

She adds that there are thousands of wireless specialists working for this industry. And customer demand is growing. "This is a great time to be a wireless engineer," she says.

Stephen Howe is vice-president of a company that deals with cellular phone technology. "Wireless is still one of the fastest growing industries worldwide," he says.

Howe says there is a huge demand for people to get rid of home phones and desktop computers and go wireless. "Keeping in touch has become more complicated," he says. "Constant access to communication and the safety of loved ones are important factors for customers who use wireless devices."

Mobile phones and pagers as well as palmtop and laptop computers are all becoming more affordable. Battery life is increasing for wireless devices and they are getting easier for the average person to use.

"The market demands more wireless devices all the time -- connections to the Internet, cellphones or simply better remote control cars," says Spencer Watson. He tests wireless devices before they are released to the public.

"Everyone would rather be detached than attached."

Engineers Wanted

The variety of work for wireless engineers is expanding. "A wireless engineer might be designing board-level electronics or may be designing a suitable location for a cellphone tower," says Watson.

"The best part of my job is any time that I get to take a radio apart to see how it works. Or when I get to troubleshoot and fix something that is malfunctioning. I enjoy hands-on work, so any time I get to get my hands a little dirty is fun for me."

There are two types of wireless engineers at Howe's company: people who work with phones and networks and people who work on electronic switchboards.

Radio-frequency (RF) engineers test and work with handsets, phones and networks. They also design and implement networks for wireless phones. Core engineers work on electronic switchboards, connecting wireless calls to all other telephone networks.

"The wireless industry is looking for a new breed of engineers," says Howe. "Self-motivated, think-on-your-feet type people are what we want."

Connecting to Careers

"Wireless engineers come from a broad range of engineering backgrounds," says Howe.

"We look for people with education in physics, software or electrical engineering. Candidates should have a high-tech engineering background anywhere that exercises their brain on high-tech concepts."

"The most important part of wireless engineering is experience," says Watson. He got into the field with an electronic technology diploma.

According to the Occupational Employment Statistics, there are 147,670 electrical engineers employed in the U.S. They have an annual income of $78,900. The employment outlook for workers in this field is expected to remain stable through 2016.

If you like math, technology, computers and electronics, a wireless world may offer appealing careers.

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