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How to become a professional radio tech.

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leitung

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I was wondering, I am sure there are a few on this board, how did you become a certified radio tech? I want to work on public safety systems, and really study on Motorola Smartzone systems, digital systems such as the Motorola TRBO and future technology coming up. I am at a point in my life where going back to school is a good option, 23 years old, single, e.t.c. I am assuming a two year degree in electrical engineering is a good start. I saw some stuff on motorola's website about training, but it looks geared to those already in the industry. Also, what kind of pay, future opprotunities are we looking at?

I however dont want to be the guy climbing up to put the antenna on the top of the tower, I can't do heights.

Any help is greatly appreacated..
 

MTS2000des

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I was wondering, I am sure there are a few on this board, how did you become a certified radio tech? I want to work on public safety systems, and really study on Motorola Smartzone systems, digital systems such as the Motorola TRBO and future technology coming up. I am at a point in my life where going back to school is a good option, 23 years old, single, e.t.c. I am assuming a two year degree in electrical engineering is a good start. I saw some stuff on motorola's website about training, but it looks geared to those already in the industry. Also, what kind of pay, future opprotunities are we looking at?

I however dont want to be the guy climbing up to put the antenna on the top of the tower, I can't do heights.

Any help is greatly appreacated..
things are changing in the industry.

used to be, a general radiotelephone operators' license (GROL) from the FCC and some courses at a Vo-Tech school on electronic repair and RF was good enough, and a combination of job experience- to yield a good career as a bench tech. Most shops would send you for training on manufacturers' product lines they sold and serviced.

Today however, the typical radio systems technician is more of an IT position. All radio systems are going this way. If dealing with routers, gatweay hardware, IP traceroutes, firewalls, etc sounds foriegn, you'll need to go to school for at least basic networking, if not a bachelors in IT with some minoring in RF engineering.

The systems you mentioned above all have cores which are IP based, older legacy analog controller hardware like 6809's, ambassador audio swtiches, are all being replaced with a rack of servers and routers. RF is just the "last mile" to the subscriber radio now.

And did I mention getting a certification as a certified electronics technician (CET) should also be on your resume:
General Information About ISCET Certification
 

mmckenna

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The local county shop here starts most of their guys off in the install bay. The last two guys they hired were actually mechanics from the auto repair industry. They had some electrical/electronic background.

After a few years of crawling around in police car trunks installing radios, lights, etc, they eventually got bumped up to bench techs.

On the job training, manufacturer classes and real world experience has made them into good techs.

It seems that gone are the days of techs doing component level repairs. With the newer equipment being surface mount technology, it's getting unrealistic for smaller shops to do that sort of repair. More often board level swaps, or just sending the whole thing back to the repair depot is what happens.

I'd strongly second the network training. The latest system I am installing all connects via IP. Understanding network topology, VPN's, etc are all involved. Newer radio dispatch consoles are starting to be voice over IP, too.

Tower work can be pretty specialized, and not all techs in this area are expected to do that. Usually employers require specialized training (com train, NATE, etc.) If you are not OK with heights, I wouldn't worry to much about that. Of all the guys I know in the industry, only two of them climb towers. More often than not, they will contract that work out to specialists.

A good, well rounded background in many fields can serve you well. Most good techs that have been around for a while have a good mix of experiences. Some things that can be helpful:
Telephone/Telecom
Mobile Installation
Electrical
Electronics
Automotive technology
NETWORK!
basic mechanical skills (being able to do some basic fabrication can be a plus).

Another good place to get some experience would be by getting your amateur radio license. While it, on it's own, won't get you a job, it will get you some very basic understanding of radio systems. Often a radio tech that has been around for a while will often be a ham. Being in this line of work usually requires a lot of late hours, hard work and not necessarily the best pay. You gotta love what you do. Guys that love radio will often enjoy it as a hobby as well as a vocation. I know many commercial radio techs that are hams on the side.

You are young, so don't overlook the military as an option. 4 years of commitment will get you a world of experience and training. Don't overlook the US Coast Guard as an option, if you aren't into the whole combat thing. I did a couple of years there when I was about your age, and it was by far the best decision I ever made. No (and I mean NONE!) other option will compare to what you get out of it.

If that isn't an interest, check into the local community colleges, they can be a great inexpensive resource. Most will over some networking classes, and often they will be night classes so you can keep working during the day.

Good luck to you!
 

jhooten

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The Captain called me in his office one day and asked what the Radio Operator LP one my truck was about. I explained it to him and he said "so you know something about radios and electronics then". I replied I did. He looked at the scheduling Lt and told him to detail me to the comm shop for a quarter. Six months later I held the tittle Electronics technician and a few years later became a Telecommunications Specialist. Simple, right?
 

Thayne

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Everything above is true; I can just add always think before you speak, and act like you are a reliable person dedicated to doing a good job and be a little bit patient and you will be OK.
Then if you get where you want to be, ALWAYS think before you speak--Keeping my mouth shut was always my bugaboo:p
 

mmckenna

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Also,
Don't get too hung up on specific training. Get a good background in many areas. Most shops won't want someone who comes in "knowing it all". They usually want guys to come in with basic knowledge and skills so they can train you to do things "their" way. Each shop is going to be different, and the trick is learning as you go. This isn't an industry where you go to school, learn the trade, and then never crack a book again. It's lots of work just keeping up with technology and new systems.

Getting an interview will be the challenge. Just be cool, admit what you don't know, but talk about what you do. There is never a perfect job candidate out there, and the people doing the interviews know that. If you do try to sound like you know it all, you'll get tagged as a phony. I've chaired interview committees a few times, including some for radio tech jobs. What we always looked for was more basic knowledge, how well they communicated, basic intelligence, comfort level and verbal communication skills.

One thing I can add is that a lot of the older, more experienced techs are nearing retirement age, at least in this area. This isn't a big industry anymore, thanks to cellular. The jobs are out there, you just gotta look hard for them, then get your foot in the door. Sometimes getting your foot in the door involves taking a job that isn't exactly what you are looking for and then moving into the one you want.


Again, Good Luck to you!
 

SCPD

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Every time I go to the radio shop it's like being in a candy store. I could spend hours talking to the tech about two-way radio communications. It's something I have always wanted to do. Working on a the technical aspects rather than the grunt work (vehicle installs, tower climbing) is something I am interested in. It has changed from the the days of conventional analog to digital IP based two-way radios.
 

KG4INW

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Excellent advice brought up so far and it's very much in line with how I finally got into this field after having a strong desire to do so. Basically, two years ago when I really started pursuing this line of work, no one was interested in me because I had no formal training or experience they considered valuable, despite having been a licensed ham since I was 14. The interest and desire was there (on my part) but without concrete proof, so to speak.

So, I returned to school, at a local technical college and was able to earn an Associate's degree in electronics within a year (thanks to transfer credits from previous degrees, math and environmental science). I learned basic electronics as well as heavy IP based networking and some computer repair. Finally, with the help of the school, I got a 135 hour internship with the Virginia State Police and learned an immense amount (as well as had a lot of fun!).

VSP, unfortunately wasn't hiring entry level techs at the time so I continued looking around until I finally got an interview (again, with help from my school) with a local Motorola dealer and have been there for several months and love it tremendously. They were willing to take me in entry level and have been teaching me a lot. I'm now working during the week while studying for both my GROL and CET in the evenings. Good luck!
 
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