Radio Frequency Engineer
A radio frequency engineer could...
|Recommend the best location for a new antenna to be constructed in order to triple the number of wireless devices that can be supported.||Reunite lost pets and their owners by creating microchips to be surgically implanted and store owner contact information.|
|Develop radio frequency identification (RFID) tags that runners can use to automatically post their times when they are running in a race.||Help friends and family communicate clearly by analyzing and improving the quality of video streaming on wireless devices.|
Key Facts & Information
|Overview||Radio frequency engineers help make sure that information gets from one place to another. This information is transmitted wirelessly as radio waves between electronic devices. Anything you can wirelessly send from one computer to another, listen to on the radio, download on a mobile phone, or see on the television (not connected to cable) is sent wirelessly using radio waves, and the transmission and devices were designed by a radio frequency engineer. Radio frequency engineers are typically electrical engineers who decided to specialize in radio frequency engineering.|
|Key Requirements||Analytical abilities, confidence in using mathematics and physics, complex problem-solving abilities, attention to detail|
|Minimum Degree||Bachelor's degree|
|Subjects to Study in High School||Chemistry, physics, geometry, algebra II, pre-calculus, calculus, English; if available, computer science, statistics, applied technology|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||Little or No Change (-2% to 2%)|
Training, Other Qualifications
To become a radio frequency engineer, it is important to have a background in electrical engineering. Radio frequency engineers typically enter the field with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and then specialize in radio frequency engineering. The engineer can specialize by pursing more advanced degrees, by becoming licensed, and/or through gaining professional work experience. Continuing education to keep current with rapidly changing technology is important for radio frequency engineers.
Education and Training
A bachelor's degree in electrical engineering or a related discipline, such as computer science or telecommunications, is typically required for all entry-level radio frequency engineering jobs. However, sometimes professional work experience can be used as a substitute for a degree in the field. This background (either having a degree or the work experience) should make the person familiar with using different computer operating systems, using electronics- and math-related software to analyze data and solve problems, and understanding devices and equipment involved in wireless communications.
An electrical engineer may spend two years on the job learning a company's products, design procedures, and specific software before specializing in radio frequency engineering. Being licensed as a Professional Engineer (P.E.) is often encouraged, but not always required to work as a radio frequency engineer.
Radio frequency engineers should be creative, detail oriented, and have strong problem-solving, mathematical, and analytical skills. They should be able to work independently, as well as part of a team, and to communicate well, both orally and in writing. Communication abilities are becoming increasingly important as radio frequency engineers frequently interact with specialists in other engineering and computer science fields.
Nature of the Work
Radio frequency engineers design, develop, test, and supervise the manufacture of electrical equipment and software involved in communications that use radio waves. This primarily includes mobile phones, anything that uses Wi-Fi (such as wireless computers and tablets), and radios. To carry out these duties, radio frequency engineers may need to use relevant engineering and computer skills to do computer programming, solve mathematical problems, and create 3D designs.
Radio frequency engineers are responsible for a wide range of wireless communications and networking technologies, from evaluating wireless local area networks (LANs) and developing Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) system-based devices, to using the global positioning system (GPS), a satellite navigation system based in space that can continuously provide the location of, for example, a vehicle. Radio frequency engineers not only design, develop, test, and supervise the manufacture of software and devices related to these technologies, but these engineers may also do extensive field work to determine exactly where equipment should be placed and how it should be set up for optimal use.
Radio frequency engineers normally work in offices, laboratories, or industrial plants. Some engineers travel to plants or work sites, both here and abroad. Many engineers work a standard 40-hour week. At times, deadlines or design standards may bring extra pressure to a job, requiring engineers to work longer hours.
On the Job
- Confer with engineers, customers, and others to discuss existing or potential wireless projects or products.
- Meet with customers and give presentations to discuss a product of interest.
- Design, implement, maintain, and improve electrical equipment, products, and software systems for commercial, industrial, and domestic purposes.
- Ensure product compliance with specifications, codes, and customers.
- Operate computer-assisted engineering and design software and equipment to create potential product designs.
- Analyze and optimize the traffic flow on wireless networks.
- Perform detailed mathematical calculations in the process of designing, improving, and installing a product.
- Learn how to use a product-specific software program.
- Investigate customer or public complaints (such as dropped cellular phone calls), determine the nature and the extent of the problems, and recommend solutions.
- Program in computer programming languages to develop, test, and improve a product.
- Supervise and train project team members as necessary.
- Oversee production of a product to ensure it is completed by a given deadline. Help team members overcome problems as they arise.
- Check out locations to determine if they are suitable for a project, such as the placement of an antenna. Look into zoning requirements for the locations.
- Conduct field surveys and study maps, graphs, and diagrams to determine how a wireless business should expand its network and make plans accordingly.
- Visit vendors, attend conferences or training, and study technical journals to keep up with changes in technology.
Companies That Hire Radio Frequency Engineers
Explore what you might do on the job with one of these projects...
- Build Your Own Crystal Radio
- Does Your Cell Phone Radiate? Measuring Cell Phone Electromagnetic Radiation
- HAMing It Up with the Astronauts
- Keeping It Private: Blocking RFID Readers from Reading your ID Card
- Make Your Own Low-Power AM Radio Transmitter
- Sounds Like RFID: Using a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Reader to Make Musical Instruments
- The Point of a Parabola: Focusing Signals for a Better Wireless Network
- Wave Blockers
- What Materials Can Block a Wi-Fi Signal?
Do you have a specific question about a career as a Radio Frequency Engineer that isn't answered on this page? Post your question on the Science Buddies Ask an Expert Forum.
- Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
- Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Women in Engineering
- O*Net Online. (2016). National Center for O*Net Development. Retrieved July 1, 2017.
- Study.com. (n.d.). How to Become a Radio Frequency (RF) Engineer: Career Guide. Retrieved June 19, 2015.
- Vertex Innovations, Inc. (n.d.) RF Engineer. Retrieved February 12, 2014.
- Kim, J. (2009). A High School Student's Research Experience in RF Engineering IEEE EMC Newsletter. Retrieved February 12, 2014.
- IEEEtv. (February 2013). Featured Interview, J.C. Chiao IEEE Life Sciences. Retrieved August 5, 2019.
- Broadcast RF. (December 20, 2013). A Day in the Life of an RF Engineer. Retrieved March 7, 2014.
- The University of Texas at Austin. (n.d.). The Wireless & Communications Group. Retrieved February 12, 2014.
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