Moving Megawatts with Megabytes

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The electric power utility industry is currently facing two major challenges. First, it expects to see half of its engineering and management workforce retire in the next 10 years. Second, the industry is being rocked by a dramatic shift in the technologies and policies that define its business.

The electric power grid that has served the nation for the last century is finally moving to the 21st century with the transformation to smart grids—where megabytes will be used to move megawatts of power. New technologies for distributed generation, communications and control, facilities automation, renewable energy sources, and operational management are all changing workforce requirements.

To meet these challenges and workforce opportunities, CU-Boulder’s Interdisciplinary Telecommunications Program has developed a Digital Energy Program that will help to create a new generation of leaders who understand networking, wireless communication, and security in the context of the energy industry.

“The Digital Energy Program gives students the tools to participate in the new energy economy, which combines current and new energy sources with information and communication technologies to make a smart energy grid,” says Professor Tim Brown, director of the program. “To make a successful transition, the industry workforce needs new skills in internet protocol networks, wireless communication, and network security—all components of the DEP curriculum.”

The exciting resurgence in the telecommunications industry also has helped to fuel a new doctoral program.

Why study at CU-Boulder?

As the oldest and one of the most prestigious graduate telecom programs in the nation, the ITP continuously enhances its curriculum to lead the way in communications and technology.  For more than 40 years, our cross-disciplinary focus has educated students from a variety of backgrounds such as engineering, business, economics, policy, and the legal professions who thrive on this intense and rapidly changing technology environment.

This is a field that is no longer a matter of technology alone; it has matured to link complicated technology, business, and management problems with legal, political, and regulatory challenges. It is essential that today's managers and future leaders understand both the technology and complex multidisciplinary environments that characterize the modern information network.

Through coursework, research, and laboratory studies, ITP students obtain an understanding of the latest thinking and best practices relating to networking, wireless systems, cyber security, 21st century telecom technology, as well as business and regulatory policy frameworks. A new digital energy lab is being launched to provide hands-on experience for students focusing on energy communications networks, integrating digital communications with our century-old electric power grid.

The Boulder-Denver area is home to a large number of high-tech companies dedicated to networking and the Internet, which offer internship opportunities for students.  Boulder also is one of the top cities in the country for start-ups, and the area hosts several national labs, including the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the U.S. government lab focused exclusively on energy which has a close affiliation with CU-Boulder. 

Research Opportunities

The PhD in telecom enables students to address the key challenges of our global society’s communications and networking infrastructure. For example, researchers at CU-Boulder are helping develop WiMAX, the next generation of the Internet — a more mobile version — and ITP is employing the new technology in a laboratory setting to allow students first-hand experience with this technology. For students interested in an energy focus, the Graduate Digital Energy Program represents ITP’s commitment to and expansion into the energy sector — leveraging the study of Internet technology, wireless, network design, security, and other areas to integrate two-way telecommunications technology into the electric power grid.

Where do CU graduates work?

ITP graduates receive job offers from a variety of start-ups as well as medium-sized and Fortune 1000 companies that rely on networks and the integration of two-way telecom technology into existing and newly created information infrastructures. Graduates of the program have received job offers from eBay, Yahoo, Facebook, Level 3 Communications, Intrado, Teletech, Qwest, and Comcast, among others. 

Job Outlook

Employment of computer network, systems, and database administrators is expected to grow much faster than average, with an increase of 30 percent by 2018. (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Starting Salary

Starting annual salary will vary depending on the size of a company, location and the telecom graduate’s previous years of work experience. Median annual wages of network and computer systems administrators in the U.S. were $66,310 in 2008.

Important Announcements

CUEngineering:  A publication for alumni and friends. Read the 2016 edition of CUEngineering magazine here.

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