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The telecommunications services industry in the UK, for voice and data traffic across fixed wire, fixed radio or mobile service networks to both the residential and business sectors (not including telecoms equipment, manufacture or cable television revenues) had a turnover of some £40 billion. Now may be the time to take up a telecoms graduate career.

With over 250 licensed companies offering national or international services, the UK is Europe's most competitive telecommunications service market. The world's major telecoms operators, service providers and equipment manufacturers are all resident in the UK, attracted by a combination of strengths in technology innovation and design (R&D), the highly deregulated market place, and an attractive business environment. Many of these companies have their worldwide R&D headquarters in the UK. 

The telecommunications sector provides both mobile and fixed-line communications products and services for all sectors of the community - personal, small business and large corporations. It's fundamentally all about IT systems these days. In addition to all the high technology services and products available for customers, telecommunications companies rely on advanced information systems for billing, customer care and network management systems, as well as for personal productivity tools.

In the mobile sector some companies have long provided voice networks providing an end-to-end service for customers - building and maintaining networks alongside developing and launching new products. Where traditionally fixed-line services were associated with BT there are now new entrants in the field on the back of cable networks that provide richer services over their terrestrial links, including entertainment.

Equipment suppliers tend not to be UK-based, but there is still a large industry that supplies and services equipment.

The sector is essentially a fast-changing industry which involves global networking, dealing with advances in technology, developing effective and innovative solutions for companies and customer interaction. The telecommunications market is evolving very quickly and the job market is moving with it. Some roles are losing their appeal as infrastructure changes and new technologies come to the fore. The recent well documented depression of this sector has ultimately led to a reduction in the number of graduates being recruited. Despite the downturn, telecommunication companies are as keen as ever to attract the best talent to begin their very own telecoms graduate career.

The current outlook is that different parts of the sector will come back into a revival at different times. The mobile industry continues to focus on voice products, but the introduction of packet switching and 3G will increasingly add a rich range of digital and data services, such as multimedia message services (MMS) and video streaming. Broadband into the home is another key development. As people increasingly transact shopping and banking over the internet, high-speed internet access becomes essential. You should also expect to see more wireless local area networks (LANs) outside the corporate business place and in smaller businesses and even the home.

Average Telecoms Graduate Salary

Telecoms Graduate Career Path

Now that third generation mobile phones are firmly on the market there is talk of expansion, especially into China, which is expected to become a major market for novel telecommunication systems. New electronic and mechanical engineering recruits will certainly be working on the development of the next generation of mobile phones, plus all the ancillary equipment that is required, and new competitive services. Recruitment, especially of electronic engineers, is expected to increase.

Jobs can also be found in other areas of electronics, including the manufacture of computers and their peripherals, consumer equipment such as DVD players and Hi Fi and complex control systems for industrial plant. Electronic, software and mechanical engineers are those in most demand in these areas. Designs of integrated circuits are often completed here in the UK, but their manufacture is now almost entirely done abroad.

A big growth area is the security market. This includes novel equipment for the detection of dangerous or illegal substances, the video surveillance of crime spots and new equipment to increase the security of credit cards. Identification using biometrics is rapidly increasing with America finger-printing foreign visitors and the UK on the brink of introducing identity cards. All of these developments are providing work for engineers. Now that war is about terrorism instead of intercontinental ballistic missiles, some of these areas may well be labelled as ‘defence’.

The huge worldwide growth in telecommunications is being driven by several important factors. These include: increased global interest and access to the Internet; the development of new technologies, including fibre optics and wireless technology; the potential for new applications and services driven by increased bandwidth availability (broadband access) and the mobile Internet; as well as the convergence of the IT, telecomms and content industries. 

In the UK, several well known companies provide network, wireless and optical technologies as well as consumer hardware devices such as mobile handsets and related technologies (e.g. WAP, GPRS, Bluetooth, 3G) and R&D. There are also companies that are suppliers of switches and routers which build the Internet infrastructure. In addition there are a large number of SMEs developing innovative solutions across the board. 

Underpinning all this activity are key developments in fibre optic technologies. The huge growth in bandwidth provision enabled by these developments is possibly the key factor in the expansion of telecoms networks and will continue to be. As for software, the main applications are dedicated to network configuration, traffic monitoring, network planning, performance analysis, voice recognition, billing and invoicing, fault analysis, and call centre specific applications. There are a number of companies with niche applications in this area.

Most vacancies are in electronics, manufacturing communications, IT, and defence. Many of the larger employers have a graduate training programme. Some operate a two-year scheme where graduates start together and then work on individually managed projects in different areas of the business for six months at a time. Following this, they can support people on professional development schemes should they wish to take that path. 

Many telecommunications companies have opportunities in non-technical areas, including sales, accounts, public relations and marketing, human resources and administration. With many firms keen to retain customers, aspects of the business such as sales, accounts, marketing and customer care are crucial to the overall success and delivery of the corporate strategy. 

Companies develop products and services on an international basis, so international careers are also available in certain areas and are open to applicants with strong business minds and excellent interpersonal skills. Good career prospects and opportunities for promotion exist for those who have the ability to lead and manage change. The high demand for staff in some fields can mean attractive salaries and benefits for those with the right mix of skills and experience.

Qualifications and Skills Needed

What proportion of candidates as a percent we place into Telecoms graduate careers and the typical qualities graduate employers look for.

GRB Placements for Telecoms by Degree

Typical Candidate Attributes

Fewer jobs means it's crucial your applications are strong. Companies stress the need for well-rounded candidates who will be an investment for the company's future. Employers will be looking for candidates who show the right mixture of skills. Exposure to a technical course is important, but some put more emphasis on how graduates will fit into our culture. Traits such as resilience and the ability to manage and take control of your own career are key deciding factors when selecting graduate candidates.

You will need to demonstrate a strong commercial instinct and market intelligence, an analytical and critical mind, numerical skills, business awareness and you must demonstrate that you work well under pressure, that you are flexible and that you possess good teamwork skills as you will be working with others on projects. Knowledge and previous experience of technical skills are a great advantage in the current climate, particularly for technical roles.

Careers in telecommunications are suited to graduates with a background in either engineering or information technology. Those who have technical knowledge in areas such as radio frequency engineering, digital electronics, and computer programming languages like Java or C++, will find they are at an advantage. However just because it seems a more competitive job market and those who have a relevant degree in this sector may have an advantage, there still seems to be room for graduates with 'any degree'. Increasingly jobs in this sector revolve around creating business solutions rather than the actual technology, so as well as seeking graduates from vocational degree courses such as computer science, telecommunications companies often also seek people with the right aptitude and approach from other related degree disciplines.

The fast pace of developments in this sector is both its good and its bad bit. It's a colourful industry to work in because of the variety of projects and the exciting technology. However the fast pace means that you have to be self-motivated to keep up. If you don't, it's easy to get left behind.

Sources for Further Information

The Institution of Engineering and Technology
Telecommunications Industry Association