Pros / Fast-growing profession now classified within computer careers.

Cons / Telecommunications specialists need to keep abreast of new phone technologies.

 Verdict / Choose this career path if you like being on the cutting edge of technology.

Editor’s Note: This product has been removed from our side-by-side comparison because it has been replaced by another review. You can still read our original review below, but Top Ten Reviews is no longer updating this product’s information.

The winner of our Top Ten Reviews Silver Award in computer careers is the telecommunications specialist: a kind of computer administrator that works with telephones as they relate to computer systems. You may design data communications systems including voice and video transmissions, supervise the installation of telephone systems and provide maintenance to systems once they are installed. In addition, you test lines, oversee equipment repair and keep a log of system-related activities. Telecommunications specialists have a unique profession among computer careers because it is quickly changing as technology evolves and as more individuals and businesses choose to subscribe to digitized or wireless phones as their primary phone number.

For example, some mid-sized to large businesses are adopting voice over internet protocol (VoIP) phone systems that actually identify each phone unit as a hardware device that you connect to your computer – in the same category as a mouse or keyboard. Although the phone works the same as a regular office phone, it can also be operated through a computer-based application, and with the just the click of a mouse, you can dial a phone number listed in your MS Outlook directory. With technologies such as this, trade skill jobs within the telecommunications industry, such as telecommunications equipment installers and repairers, line installers and telephone operators are expected to decline significantly over the next 10 years as telecommunications systems become more computerized.

Telecommunications specialists are now classified among other computer careers, and you will need education in areas such as computer programming, software design, laser and fiber optic technology, and wireless technology. Keeping abreast of new technologies as well as the regulations that govern them, will be very important in order to stay marketable. More technical positions in the telecommunications specialist profession are expected to grow an estimated 53 percent over the next 10 years.

Alternatives to the traditional "Baby Bell" phone services hit the market when the Telecommunications Act of 1996 deregulated the telephone industry, removing barriers to entry that have allowed competing telephone providers to enter the market. As a result, telecommunications jobs soared from the mid-1990s to the first few years of the 21st century. Cell phones, smart phones, VoIP phones and cable telephone services allow for two-way voice communications, voice messaging and facsimiles using a computer network protocol instead of the public switched telephone network (PSTN), or the worldwide network that houses traditional "land lines."

In 2010, the U.S. Department of Commerce provided stimulus grants in the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program to fund the installation of high-speed fiber optic systems in communities throughout the United States. The projects are expected to provide jobs at every level in the cable and telecommunications industry including jobs as a telecommunications specialist. Although some of the positions are temporary and involve building the initial infrastructure, the positions provide great experience and training. The ongoing, widespread installation of fiber optic cables, which increase bandwidth, or transmission capacity, provide for faster high-speed internet and optimized telephone communications. Faster high-speed internet will improve access to live-stream internet broadcasts, such as internet radio and television. It will also provide smoother resolution for video conferencing and other technologies that require a higher bandwidth.

Engineers are also exploring methods to expand capacity in wireless telecommunications to improve internet access on smart phones. With a faster connection, consumers will be able to perform more functions on cell phones that they used to perform exclusively on a PC. Videos, music and software can more easily be downloaded onto smart phones with such a connection, and the phones will be able to store more data as compact operating systems continue to get more sophisticated. With all these developments, it is easy to see how careers in this profession are now classified as computer careers.


A Telecommunications Specialist's Typical Work Day

Robert is a telecommunications specialist that works for a voice over internet protocol (VoIP) business phone system provider. He coordinates with network administrators and web developers that work for various business clients to install needed software and to meet compatibility requirements as part of the process of configuring new phone systems. Because of its technical nature, Robert's job is classified among other computer careers.

The VoIP phones that Robert's company sells operate somewhat differently than traditional phones. Even basic functions such as dialing or answering a call can all be performed through a desktop application using a computer keyboard, so training is an important part of any package that the company offers. Although sales representatives train clients in utilizing all the features that the phones offer, Robert also provides a substantial amount of training, particularly to a business client's more technical staff. Most of the individuals in computer careers with whom he works are fascinated with the technology, which gives more options to call centers, and to staff who travel frequently.

And Robert's company is getting a lot of business, which means better job security. The VoIP phones often require a substantial initial investment, but the return on investment is quick because they end up costing much less money month-to-month and provide more features than traditional phone systems. Companies are impressed with the ability the phones have to streamline operations, thus saving them time and money. Sometimes it takes a little while for staff to get used to the new phone systems, especially receptionists who are used to operating traditional switchboards, but businesses include the transition period as the cost of doing business. The newness of VoIP business phones attracts technical product and service companies who already work with various kinds of cutting-edge technology. The phones also attract businesses that need to upgrade antiquated phone systems and want a system that will last them for years to come.

There is some risk to working for a company that sells such a new technology, but Robert knows telephones and the internet are merging one way or another. Most of the telecommunications jobs he has seen posted require a background in information technology, whether the jobs involve wireless technology, cable-based telephone services or VoIP.

Just a year ago, Robert completed an associate's degree for telecommunications specialists at a local vocational college that included classes in computer programming, networking and web development. The program has only been available for a few years at his school, and because of frequent changes in the technology, the curriculum has to be adjusted on a regular basis. As a result, to keep himself up-to-date, he relies on frequent on-the-job training, monthly newsletters from his college, as well as the media.

The technology advancements happening now with VoIP phone systems for businesses compares to the mass production of more reliable cell phones about ten years ago when cell towers began to dot the globe. Robert knows that cutting-edge computer careers such as being a telecommunications specialist are changing the face of business today and for the future.