Electrical engineers design, develop, test, and supervise the manufacture of electrical equipment.
What they do
Electrical engineers design, develop, test, and supervise the manufacture of electrical equipment, such as electric motors, radar and navigation systems, communications systems, or power generation equipment. Electrical engineers also design the electrical systems of automobiles and aircraft.
Electronics engineers design and develop electronic equipment, including broadcast and communications systems, such as portable music players and Global Positioning System (GPS) devices. Many also work in areas closely related to computer hardware.
Electrical engineers typically do the following:
- Design new ways to use electrical power to develop or improve products
- Perform detailed calculations to develop manufacturing, construction, and installation standards and specifications
- Direct the manufacture, installation, and testing of electrical equipment to ensure that products meet specifications and codes
- Investigate complaints from customers or the public, evaluate problems, and recommend solutions
- Work with project managers on production efforts to ensure that projects are completed satisfactorily, on time, and within budget
Electronics engineers typically do the following:
- Design electronic components, software, products, or systems for commercial, industrial, medical, military, or scientific applications
- Analyze customer needs and determine the requirements, capacity, and cost for developing an electrical system plan
- Develop maintenance and testing procedures for electronic components and equipment
- Evaluate systems and recommend design modifications or equipment repair
- Inspect electronic equipment, instruments, and systems to make sure they meet safety standards and applicable regulations
- Plan and develop applications and modifications for electronic properties used in parts and systems in order to improve technical performance
Electronics engineers who work for the federal government research, develop, and evaluate electronic devices used in a variety of areas, such as aviation, computing, transportation, and manufacturing. They work on federal electronic devices and systems, including satellites, flight systems, radar and sonar systems, and communications systems.
The work of electrical engineers and electronics engineers is often similar. Both use engineering and design software and equipment to do engineering tasks. Both types of engineers also must work with other engineers to discuss existing products and possibilities for engineering projects.
Engineers whose work is related exclusively to computer hardware are considered computer hardware engineers.
Electrical and electronics engineers generally work indoors in offices. However, they may visit sites to observe a problem or a piece of complex equipment.
How to become an Electrical and/or Electronics Engineer
Electrical and electronics engineers must have a bachelor’s degree. Employers also value practical experience, such as internships or participation in cooperative engineering programs, in which students earn academic credit for structured work experience.
High school students interested in studying electrical or electronics engineering benefit from taking courses in physics and math, including algebra, trigonometry, and calculus. Courses in drafting are also helpful, because electrical and electronics engineers often are required to prepare technical drawings.
In order to enter the occupation, prospective electrical and electronics engineers need a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, electronics engineering, electrical engineering technology, or a related engineering field. Programs include classroom, laboratory, and field studies. Courses include digital systems design, differential equations, and electrical circuit theory. Programs in electrical engineering, electronics engineering, or electrical engineering technology should be accredited by ABET.
Some colleges and universities offer cooperative programs in which students gain practical experience while completing their education. Cooperative programs combine classroom study with practical work. Internships provide similar experience and are growing in number.
At some universities, students can enroll in a 5-year program that leads to both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree. A graduate degree allows an engineer to work as an instructor at some universities, or in research and development.
The median annual wage for electrical engineers was $98,530 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $63,020, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $155,880.
The median annual wage for electronics engineers, except computer was $105,570 in May 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $66,620, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $164,210.
Overall employment of electrical and electronics engineers is projected to grow 3 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Employment growth is expected to be tempered by slow growth or decline in some industries, such as manufacturing and utilities.
Job growth for electrical and electronics engineers is projected to occur largely in professional, scientific, and technical services firms, as more companies are expected to tap the expertise of engineers for projects involving electronic devices and systems. These engineers also will be needed to develop sophisticated consumer electronics.
Similar Job Titles
Circuits Engineer, Design Engineer, Electrical Controls Engineer, Electrical Design Engineer, Electrical Engineer, Electrical Project Engineer, Instrumentation and Electrical Reliability Engineer (I&E Reliability Engineer), Power Systems Engineer, Project Engineer, Test Engineer, Design Engineer, Electronics Design Engineer, Engineering Manager, Evaluation Engineer, Integrated Circuit Design Engineer (IC Design Engineer), Product Engineer, Radio Frequency Engineer (RF Engineer), Research and Development Engineer (R&D Engineer), Test Engineer, Test Engineering Manager, Illuminating Engineer
Logistics Engineer, Computer Systems Engineer/Architect, Photonics Engineer, Manufacturing Engineering Technologist, Aerospace Engineer, Mechanical Engineer
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- American Society for Engineering Education
- Illuminating Engineering Society
- National Fire Protection Association
- National Society of Professional Engineers
- SAE International
- Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology
- American Institute of Engineers
- Association of Old Crows
- Society of Broadcast Engineers
- Society of Women Engineers
Magazines and Publications
Anyone who’s ever experienced a major power outage appreciates just how crucial electricity is to our everyday lives. In our homes and cities…. electricity even powers the devices in our pockets. That’s where electronics and electrical engineers come in. Electronics engineers design and test electronic devices… from portable music players to global positioning systems, and computer hardware. They oversee device production, and may install and maintain it as well. They test satellites, flight systems, and broadcast equipment. Electrical engineers maintain the power grids that provide power for the country. They also develop and install electrical equipment, such as motors, navigation systems, and power generation equipment. Additionally, they ensure vehicle electrical systems operate effectively. The work is intricate and demands great attention to detail and problem-solving ability. They must be able to interpret technical manuals and understand government guidelines. Handling electricity can be dangerous, although following safety regulations prevents most accidents. These engineers almost always work on teams, so communication skills are essential, especially when talking to people unfamiliar with the field. Electrical and electronics engineers must have a bachelor’s degree in the field. The Professional Engineer license or graduate education can improve a candidate’s employment prospects. If you’re looking for an empowering career… electrical or electronic engineering just might be… a bright idea.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org