The Fiber Optic Technician
You’ve probably heard about “fiber optics” before, but you may not be entirely sure what that means.
Fiber optic cables are transparent glass or plastic vessels, each smaller than a human hair in diameter. They use light waves to transport data, so they can transmit at the speed of light. So, that lightning-fast Internet speed you hear about are often the product of fiber optics.
You may have fiber optic cables running into your house, supplying Internet connectivity to your computer, TV or other devices. Like those traditional wires and cables, they need to be spliced, fused, repaired and replaced.
That’s where the fiber optic technician comes in.
This is the professional in charge of fiber optic installation and repair – he or she keeps the signals running underground (or up on a pole) into houses and buildings. How they do this is often pretty cool. It involves techniques like fusion splicing, using an electric arc to weld two fibers together or lashing optical fiber cable to a steel messenger on a pole (in aerial cabling).
Fiber optic jobs (aka fiber data cabling jobs) fall to two types of fiber optic technicians – those who work out in the field, laying cable, and those who focus their efforts near or inside a home or building.
The professionals who work near or inside buildings perform what’s called “premise” fiber optic installation and repair. They:
- Install, maintain and repair fiber optic cables in telecommunications systems (cable, Internet, phone)
- Inspect and test cable equipment
- Troubleshoot and solve problems
- Lay and splice/fuse cable
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A FIBER OPTIC TECHNICIAN IN GEORGIA
Outdoor fiber optic installation typically involves a mix of these activities.
- Careful planning of routes for the cable
- Inspecting sites and finding ways to overcome obstacles
- Digging and installing underground cable (and in some cases, underwater cable)
- Splicing / fusing cable at various points, all the way to poles or to points of delivery
WHAT IT TAKES TO BECOME A FIBER OPTIC TECHNICIAN
This is what top technicians say you’ll need to have:
- Problem solving skills. Customers depend on you to fix the problem and restore their service.
- Knowledge of computers and electronics. These tools are essential to help identify and solve problems.
- Good hand-eye coordination. You’ll be working a lot with your hands, as well as with the cables and tools.
- Ability to see colors. Fiber optic cables are usually encased in plastic coating that is colored. And those colors mean something. So you can’t be colorblind.
- Physical strength and stamina. You may have to lift equipment that weighs between 50 and 80 lbs. You also may need to stand on your feet for long periods of time.
- Good people skills. You’ll most likely be working on a team with fellow technicians, and you’ll also need to communicate well with customers (who don’t often understand fiber optics!).
IS THIS YOU?
Here are a few things to consider as you explore becoming a fiber optic technician.
- Every day is different. You’ll be working inside, outside, underground, above ground and in buildings and houses.
- Novel equipment. You might work with a big digger or a small robot. You might ride in a bucket on one of those bucket trucks. You use that electric arc to fuse cable. Who gets to do this stuff at a desk? No one.
- Job security. Fiber optic cables have replaced copper cables, and that will continue to happen in the future. There will be a real need for technicians who can install new cables and networks and repair existing ones.
- You’re not always comfortable. This is a job where you can experience heat or cold. You might find yourself in a sewer, getting that fiber optic cable laid. If you’re the outdoor type, that might not matter much.
- It can be dangerous. Yes, there are fire hazards and electrical hazards. You need to protect your eyes. You have to be careful when splicing. In short, you need to know all about safety precautions.
- The hours can be weird. Sometimes, you need to work nights and weekends as emergencies arise.
A FEW DETAILS OF INTEREST
What’s a typical fiber optic technician salary?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics includes the fiber optic technician in its salary summary of telecommunications line installers and repairers (average salary of $41,500 – May 2016).
The website salaryexpert.com says fiber optic technicians in Atlanta average $52,462 a year (the range is $42,595 to $69,026).
How do you become a fiber optic technician?
In terms of fiber optic training, many fiber optic technicians learn on the job, though in some cases you might be able to find an apprenticeship.
To get a job as a fiber optic technician, you must meet these requirements:
- Be 18 years old
- Have a high school diploma or equivalent
- Have a valid driver’s license
Also: Many companies will require you to take and pass a drug test.
During your training (whether on the job or through a program), you’ll learn how to…
- Read manuals and diagrams
- Use tools and equipment needed to diagnose and fix problems
- Splice cables
- Design a fiber optic network
- Stay safe
The Fiber Optic Association (FOA), a national trade association, also offers several certifications that might give you a leg up when you are applying for fiber optic jobs or data cabling jobs. They also provide an online resource that offers the basics of fiber optic technology, called Fiber U, a free, online self-study program.
FIND FIBER OPTIC TECHNICIAN TRAINING IN GEORGIA
Brierwood Technical Institute (Woodstock)
FiberNexxt Communications (Austell)
Pearson Technologies (Acworth)
The Training Solutions Group (Suwanee)
Wiregrass Georgia Technical College (Ben Hill-Irwin Campus) – Georgia residents qualify for in-state tuition.
APPLY FOR A SCHOLARSHIP
If you’re a high school senior and want to go to fiber optic technician school at Wiregrass Georgia Technical College (the only technical college that offers this program), why not apply for a Trade Five Scholarship? I’ll do it! Take me to the application >
OUTLOOK FOR A FIBER OPTIC TECHNICIAN
While hard data is not readily available, it’s clear that the nation’s infrastructure of fiber optic data will produce more data cabling jobs and fiber optic jobs in the future. It’s a growing field, and qualified technicians are needed!
FOR YOUR VIEWING PLEASURE
The good people at the Fiber Optic Association (FOA) have crafted this 10-minute video on the wonders of fiber optic cabling. (So pop some popcorn…)
LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
Download this handy PDF for some facts on-the-go.