Communications and Electronics Engineering (Air) Officer

Now hiring: we are now accepting applications for this job through direct entry and paid education.

Job description

Communications and Electronics Engineering Officers provide telecommunications and information management services that support Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) operations in Canada and abroad.

The primary responsibilities of the Communications and Electronics Engineering Officers are to:

  • Provide telecommunications and information management services
  • Operate and maintain tactical Air Force and strategic communications systems
  • Manage air traffic control and electronics systems
  • Advise on the planning and acquisition of ground based surveillance, communications and information technology systems
  • Oversee surveillance, reconnaissance, and intelligence communications systems
  • Administer data, information, and knowledge management systems
  • Be involved with the full spectrum of terrestrial radio and satellite communications from HF to EHF radar and navigation systems, electronic warfare, cryptography, electronic intelligence, or communications and network security

Communications and Electronics Engineering (Air) Officer

MODULE 1 – Overview of the trade

CAPTAIN ROB SNOW: I’m Captain Rob Snow from Barrie, Ontario, and I’m a Communications and Electronics Engineering (Air) Officer currently posted to 1 Canadian Air Division in Winnipeg.

LIEUTENANT KEVIN DOUBROUGH: And I’m Lieutenant Kevin Doubrough from Parry Sound, Ontario. I’m a Communications and Electronics Engineering Officer posted at 8 Wing Trenton.

DOUBROUGH: In a 3-D battlespace full of weapon systems and data links, reliable communications and secure digital and voice networks can mean the difference between mission success and catastrophic failure.

DOUBROUGH: A CELE Officer’s main role is to manage his personnel and equipment. Our mission is to provide the communications required to have command and control for all military operations and exercises, whether that’s domestic or overseas.

DOUBROUGH: You’ll need to understand satellite and ground-based radio communications, air navigation and radar systems, secure classified networking, surveillance and intelligence gathering, and how they all integrate and function in a military environment.

DOUBROUGH: What we’re in charge of – you know, the communications systems, airfield lighting systems – they’re all mission-critical assets. You can’t communicate without your radios, you can’t have any command & control function without being able to talk to everyone.

SNOW: We serve on bases across Canada and on deployments around the world, supporting Canadian military operations wherever we’re needed.

SNOW: I’ve worked with the Navy, I’ve worked with the Army, and the Air Force. All with the same primary job: effective communications for commanders. That’s where we add value to the CF.

SNOW: Airlifting humanitarian relief… protecting Canada’s sovereignty… flying on search-and-rescue missions – and, of course, in combat situations.

SNOW: It’s a real-time environment. We are plugged in across the world to make sure that that information is valid and not stale.

DOUBROUGH: We also work as Project Managers and Weapon Systems Managers at National Defence Headquarters, advising the highest levels of our military leadership in the design and acquisition of the next generation of computer, navigation, radar and communications systems.

SNOW: Whether you choose the Regular Force or the Reserve, you’ll discover that serving Canada as a CELE Officer merges two vital components. First is your technical knowledge –

SNOW: The second half of the portfolio is your strong, steady leadership.

SNOW: It’s not about the equipment as much as it is about being a leader and making sure your soldiers have the resources and the skill set to assist in your intent and achieve their task.

MODULE 2 – What’s cool about the job

SNOW: Coolest part, I think, is really seeing effects. Seeing the things you do make a difference. When we worked with the floods, we stood up a Headquarters in less than 3 days. I was truly surprised to see how proud all the people on my team were to serve and help.

DOUBROUGH: It’s a huge responsibility when you’re in charge of all the communications for a particular deployment. I mean, if you go up to the Arctic, you know, you don’t have a Wal-Mart there. You have to plan everything right down to the AA batteries. It’s extremely rewarding – you’re the only reach-back that the troops on the ground have back to the rest of Canada, back to their loved ones and their families.

MODULE 3 – Trade-Specific Training

SNOW: Here’s the path you’ll need to follow to become a Communications and Electronics Engineering (Air) Officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

DOUBROUGH: Following Basic Training, you’ll head to the Canadian Forces School of Communications and Electronics in Kingston, Ontario. You’ll complete a 5-month course which will focus on leadership, communication systems management, airfield operations and the deployment of Command and Control networks. Then it’s off to your first posting.

MODULE 4 – Your First Posting

SNOW: Junior CELE (Air) Officers can be expected to command a team of twenty or more technicians on an Air Force base in Canada. That’s a huge responsibility right out of school – and a great opportunity to use and improve your technical and leadership skills.

DOUBROUGH: As your career progresses, you may be eligible for subsidized post-graduate courses in both the technical and managerial aspects of the trade. Postings may also be available to multi-national missions and as liaison to senior government officials.

MODULE 5 – Testimonials

DOUBROUGH: I’ve been a CELE Air Officer for one year now. And I’ve been deployed twice – once to an international operation in Iceland, as well as a domestic operation in Resolute Bay this year for Op Nanook. Just being in the military itself, you have that opportunity for adventure. You never know where you’re going to be next. I mean, maybe it will be Iceland, maybe it’ll be the Arctic, maybe it’ll be somewhere else. As well, you get the job satisfaction that, knowing that you’re delivering something for a greater good. It’s absolutely great.

SNOW: I looked through my life and I was working for a company that was about making money. I didn’t feel like I was adding to a larger purpose in life. The fact that I could make a difference on a global platform, working with the Canadian Forces spoke true to me. I’m proud of what I do, I’m proud of the team I work with.


Working environment

While working on a base, Air Wing or headquarters during peacetime, Communications and Electronic Engineering Officer work in an environment similar to civilian managers and engineers. They may be employed on exercises or deployed in combat situations. They may also work in an international headquarters, on a multinational staff or mission.

Pay and career development

The starting salary for a fully trained Communications and Electronic Engineering Officer is $51,000 per year; however, depending on previous experience and training the starting salary may be higher. Regular promotions through the junior officer ranks take place based on the completion of required training and on the length of service as an officer. Once promoted to the rank of Captain, their salary is approximately $74,000 per year.

As they progress in their career, Communications and Electronic Engineering Officers have the opportunity to work in a variety of positions in operations, personnel management, or technical fields. Communications and Electronic Engineering Officers who demonstrate the required ability, dedication and potential are selected for opportunities for career progression, promotion and advanced training.

Related civilian occupations

  • Network Operations Manager
  • Telecommunications and Information Systems Manager
  • Information Systems Engineering
  • Network and Information Security
  • Information Technology Project Manager

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Basic military officer qualification

After enrolment, you start basic officer training at the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, for 15 weeks. Topics covered include general military knowledge, the principles of leadership, regulations and customs of the CAF, basic weapons handling, and first aid. Opportunities will also be provided to apply such newly acquired military skills in training exercises involving force protection, field training, navigation and leadership. A rigorous physical fitness program is also a vital part of basic training. Basic officer training is provided in English or French and successful completion is a prerequisite for further training.

Following basic officer training, official second language training may be offered to you. Training could take from two to nine months to complete depending on your ability in your second language.

Professional training

Communications and Electronic Engineering Officers attend the Canadian Forces School of Communications and Electronics in Kingston, Ontario. Training lasts 19 weeks and covers the following topics:

  • Organization of the Communications and Electronics Branch
  • Communications information systems and airfield systems management
  • Advanced military communications and electronics theory
  • Communications information systems support planning for deployed operations
  • Deployment of communications information systems equipment
  • Business management skills

Specialty training

Communications and Electronic Engineering Officers may be offered the opportunity to develop specialized skills through formal courses and on-the-job training, including:

  • Air operations command and control information systems course
  • Radio and satellite communications
  • Electronic intelligence
  • Communications and network security
  • Cryptographic systems

Advanced training

As they progress in their career, Communications and Electronic Engineering Officers who demonstrate the required ability and potential will be offered advanced or graduate training in selected disciplines.

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Entry plans

Now hiring: we are now accepting applications for this job through direct entry and paid education.

Direct entry

If you already have a university degree, the CAF will decide if your academic program matches the criteria for this job and may place you directly into the required on-the-job training program following basic training. Basic training and military officer qualification training are required before being assigned.

Paid education

Regular Officer Training Plan

Because this position requires a university degree, the CAF will pay successful recruits to complete a Bachelor degree program at a Canadian university. They receive full-time salary including medical and dental care, as well as vacation time with full pay in exchange for working with the CAF for a period of time.

Typically, candidates enter the Canadian Military College System as an Officer Cadet where they study subjects relevant to both their military and academic career. In some instances, the CAF is able to pay for Officer Cadets to attend other Canadian universities in a relevant degree program. Officer Cadets who attend other Canadian universities typically attend university during the regular academic year and participate in additional military training during the summer months. If you choose to apply to this program, you must apply both to the CAF and the Canadian university of your choice. For more information, see Paid education.

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Part-time option

This occupation is available part-time within the following environment: Air Force

Serve with the Reserve Force

This position is available for part-time employment through the Reserve Force. Reserve Force members generally work part-time for a Reserve unit in their community. They are not posted or required to do a military move. However, they can volunteer to move to another base. They may also volunteer for deployment on a military mission within or outside Canada.

Reserve Force training

Reserve Force members train with their home unit to ensure that they meet the required professional standards of the job. If additional training is required in order to specialize their skills, arrangements will be made by the home unit.

It is also possible to set up an “Individual Learning Plan” to take courses leading to a university degree related to this job, and upon successful completion, be reimbursed for up to 50 percent of tuition and other mandatory costs. Education fees for successfully completed courses are reimbursed as long as the student was a Reserve Force member during the entire duration of the course.

Working environment

Reserve Force members usually serve part-time with their home unit for scheduled evenings and weekends, although they may also serve in full-time positions at some units for fixed terms, depending on the type of work that they do. They are paid 85 percent of Regular Force rates of pay, receive a reasonable benefits package and may qualify to contribute to a pension plan.

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