Fiber Tech Job Opportunities
The key to excelling as a fiber optic technician, or a line installer/repairer, is long-term on the job training. While formal education plays a role in the careers of most fiber optics techs, the bulk of one's knowledge in the field will most likely be gleaned from learning while working. To that end, here is an overview of becoming a fiber optic technician.
The Role of Education and Training
While most line installers, or techs, have a high school diploma or equivalent, it is the training that is received on the job that takes one from entry-level technician to expert. The high school diploma is often required by companies hiring fiber optic techs, and more advanced education is nothing but a benefit in obtaining a position in the field. Colleges and universities - including community colleges - will often offer coursework and certificate programs in the field of telecommunications or a related field.
Such certificate programs stress hands-on field work, so while there is always theory taught in the classroom, even within the context of formal fiber optics education most of the emphasis is placed on actual experience. There are also 2-year associate's degrees available from many community colleges that will include coursework on electronics, microwave transmission, electricity, etc. Such programs are designed to blend theory with hands-on training to give the individual an advantage in obtaining employment in the field of telecommunications or fiber optics.
While certainly not an absolute necessity for a fiber tech, there are several trade groups that offer certifications for line installers/fiber techs. These include certifications from the National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee and the Fiber Optic Association. It is also worth noting that apprenticeships are very common in the field of fiber optics.
Advancing in Your Fiber Optics Career
Entry-level workers will typically engage in additional classroom training after they are hired. After 3-5 years of experience, during which time they will train in such simple tasks as tree trimming and ground work, they will typically begin to string cable, splice lines, conduct service installations and work on troubleshooting, especially when working within the context of networking. After the 3-5 year threshold, most fiber techs will work without supervision and begin to work with more junior techs on jobs.
What do Fiber Techs Actually Do?
There are a number of different types of positions even within the "fiber tech" job description. However, in a very general sense, fiber techs install and maintain the fiber optic lines and cables used by a variety of utilities and companies in their communications. These include telephone companies, cable companies, Internet service providers, companies with large networking needs, and many others. Those in the field will also regularly test and troubleshoot cabling and networking equipment and often work closely with network technicians in correcting problems with computer networks.
Is the Pay Good?
Generally speaking, the pay for fiber optic techs is pretty good. Entry level positions may start as low as about $30,000 per year, but that is generally the exception on the low side and most entry level techs can expect to earn over $40,000 per year. On the high side, the top 10% of techs earn over $80,000 per year, though it is important to note that those earning that type of annual salary are typically among the most experienced in the field.
Recently, it has been determined that the median annual wage of fiber optic techs was just under $60,000.