Splicing together a career specialty as a fiber splicer

There are numerous specializations within the broader scope of working as a fiber technician — each playing a part in keeping the world connected. One precise piece in that puzzle is the role of fiber splicing.  

What exactly is fiber splicing? It describes joining (or splicing) optical fibers together to create continuous communication channels in fiber optic networks, which serve as the central spine for broadband connections throughout the world.   

Splicing is a very precision-focused area of the field. The process requires a meticulous alignment of fiber optic strands (at even microscopic levels) to minimize signal loss — aided by specialized equipment and alignment technology. While generally considered a less physically taxing aspect of fiber technician work, splicing often means repairing and connecting faulty or broken cables. That may require scaling poles or towers as well as working in confined spaces, so it remains a physically involved specialty.  

Balancing classroom and in-the-field learning   

Whether you’re transitioning from introductory fiber technician work or jumping right in, becoming a successful splicer requires a balance of learning in the classroom and out in the field.  

In either circumstance, communicating a desire and curiosity to understand the specialty can be a good first step to kickstart the learning process. It may the door to mentorship as well as different training programs and certifications that your specific company or recommends (or provides).  

Brian Schrand, currently the VP of Application and Field Engineering at Clearfield has worked as a splicer and all-around fiber fiend for decades. He told Broadband Nation that while most of the work lies in on-the-job training, it is essential to understand the technology of fiber.   

“When you hire on with an employer and you're doing on the job training, I would encourage you to ask if they do any type of investment in their technicians, into their people,” he explained. “What you learn on the job, some of those things may conflict with what you would learn through an accredited program.”   

Programs may often be geared towards certifications from bodies like the Fiber Optic Association (FOA), which will offer a good base of fiber theory, “not just how to bang this stuff together, but how and why it works," as Schrand put it.    

In a similar vein, a director of operations at National OnDemand noted in a training video, when the crew first set out hiring, they started looking for splicers with experience.

“What I noticed is that... we would end up training things out of them instead of into them,” he said. “It’s one thing to have a fiber splicer, anyone can be a fiber splicer, but to create a fiber tech, is a different story. Now you understand how the light works, you understand troubleshooting... and that’s part of the training process.”  

Even as an industry veteran himself, Schrand recommends that newcomers “be leery of people that are self proclaimed experts,” as there will always be more to learn and adapt to within the industry. “Somebody that’s learning from an older technician will not have that most relevant info unless their employer is investing in them with some type of technical program. There’s up-to-date info that they need to be aware of.”   

“I’ve been doing this for quite some time, and I still learn new stuff every day,” he added. “You want to be a sponge and learn every day.”   

The splice is right: the pay, what workers say  

Splicers currently make, on average, between $45,000 and $75,000 according to Glassdoor (last updated in October of 2023), with the highest-paying employers noted as AT&T, North Sky and Communications Construction Group.   

Yet average salaries for splicers range greatly depending on the state you’re in. For example, while the average national salary reported by Comparably is $74,020, that average jumps to $112,955 in Boston Massachusetts. And the job can also compensate well in states like Texas, where the basic minimum wage of $7.25 is still adopted; splicers in Houston make 15% over the national average with a $84,941 annual salary.  

A splicer working with National OnDemand described her initial learning curve to be around three to four months, particularly around how the optic technology actually worked. “I didn’t really understand it, but I knew how to build it,” she explained. “But once you figure it out, you’re like, 'Man I just solved this problem, I feel good, and now I’m gonna go fix it,'” she said.   

“You have some people coming up to you, and they act like you’re a live saver” in bringing back peoples’ broadband connections. “It makes you feel good because people actually do see your work, and they come up to you, and they appreciate you... If you like a mental challenge, you like putting pieces together like a puzzle and trying to figure out problems, I would do it."  

Another fiber splicer with Ideatek similarly expressed the rewarding qualities of the job. “We enjoy that we’re able to help others and make a difference,” he said. “One of the best things about our position is you can physically see a change, it’s one change at a time. You go to the home, you make a change, and you give them a reliable connection... it’s really rewarding bringing that high quality service to small towns and rural areas.”