Spotlights

Job Description

Electrical Engineering is considered one of the “newest” of all engineering fields, though it dates back to the early 19th century! Engineers in this field use physics and math principles related to electricity, electronics, and electromagnetism in order to work on existing equipment and develop new ideas for the future. Our entire modern age of lights, power, television, radio, computers, and mobile devices can be traced back to the efforts of Electrical Engineering pioneers like Tesla, Edison, Westinghouse, Marconi, and Farnsworth.
 
Indeed, there are few areas in today’s world that aren’t touched by Electrical Engineers somehow. From electric motors to navigation and communications systems, they’re in the thick of things, designing tomorrow’s latest innovations for private industry and governmental agencies. They rely on software to help with designs, work with clients and other engineers on the electrical details of projects, and ensure manufacturing and installation meets compliance standards, as well as the operational needs of their customers. They’re also responsible for testing, maintenance, documentation, customer support, and upgrades in some cases. It’s a busy career field, but who knows where we’d be without their ceaseless efforts to push the boundaries of what’s possible? 

Rewarding Aspects of Career
  • Working with teams to meet objectives
  • Designing cutting-edge new products and equipment
  • Patenting original (and potentially lucrative) designs
  • Helping develop concepts into functioning realities
  • Creating technology that can improve people’s lives
  • Altering the course of human history through inventions!
2018 Employment
191,900
2028 Projected Employment
201,100
The Inside Scoop
Job Responsibilities

Electrical Engineers usually hold full-time jobs working 40 hours a week. Overtime may be necessary when things fall behind schedule or a deadline gets bumped up. Unexpected problems can also lead to pulling more hours. Workers are typically indoors but may need to travel to conduct site visits. 

Typical Duties

  • Explore innovative methods to utilize electricity within products
  • Design a wide range of systems and products for different end uses, including commercial sales or governmental application 
  • Craft schematics of systems and maps
  • Determine the precise specs for a product’s construction, operation, and installation 
  • Meet with other engineers to review projects and tasks
  • Oversee processes to ensure compliance during all phases of work, from manufacturing and construction to installation, testing, and more
  • Use software and computer-assisted technologies

Additional Responsibilities

  • Be “on-call” when problems arise; analyze problems and find effective solutions
  • Collaborate with production teams to keep things on-time, on-target (and on-budget)
  • Ensure compliance with state, federal, and international codes and standards  
  • Optimize processes, including teamwork
Skills Needed on the Job

Soft Skills
 

  • Ability to conceptualize 
  • Ability to facilitate collaboration between individuals and teams
  • Adaptive style
  • Strong people and communication skills
  • Articulate speaking and clear technical writing
  • Listening and reading for detail and deep understanding
  • Compliance- and safety-oriented
  • Strong security-consciousness 
  • Concentration and focus
  • Customer service 
  • Good record management skills 
  • Initiative
  • Investigative
  • Organized
  • Patience and analytical problem-solving
  • Realistic


Technical Skills

  • Scientific software:
    • Failure mode and effects analysis FMEA software
    • Minitab 
    • Powersim
    • MathWorks 
  • Computer-aided design (CAD) tools:
    • Autodesk AutoCAD
    • Bentley Microstation
    • Dassault Systemes CATIA
    • Zuken E3
  • C++, JHDL, Perl, Python
  • Operating system software, such as Linux, Windows, Shell script, UNIX
  • Development environment tools:
    • Microsoft VBScript
    • LabVIEW 
    • Verilog
    • VHSIC hardware description language
Different Types of Organizations
  • Engineering services    
  • Manufacturing companies
  • Military and governmental agencies
  • Power plants 
  • Research and development organizations; academic institutions
Expectations and Sacrifices

When it comes to designing products and components that work with electric power, many things can go wrong. Calculations must be precise, testing must be very thorough, and compliance with national and international standards is critical. There’s no margin for error in most projects and the consequences for mistakes can cost lives and ruin businesses. Thus, expectations run high. Electrical Engineers may be “on-the-clock” for a 40-hour week, but free time is frequently dedicated to reading, learning, and keeping up with changes in the field. This commitment is one of the largest sacrifices because Electrical Engineers bear an enormous responsibility to their employers as well as the public, whose health and safety are often linked to the performance of finished products. Of course, workers themselves are also exposed to shock hazards and risk of injury, too. 

Current Trends

According to NESCO Resource, “[Electrical] Engineers have their pick of jobs.” Whether that’s entirely true or not, the point is that demand for talent is currently consistent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts it will remain so, at 5% through 2028 (for Electrical Engineers; the average stats for Electrical and Electronics Engineers combined is just 2%). 
 
Specifically, BLS expects growth in “professional, scientific, and technical services firms” as demand for consumer electronics rises. Naturally, such goods are always evolving as technology advances, and it's the Electrical Engineers working hard to facilitate those innovations. In a way, they’re ensuring their own job security! Apart from communications tech, hot markets include solar arrays and semiconductors. Experts are also needed for power grids and continuing automation of processes. 

What kinds of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were young...

Engineers are realistic dreamers. They love gadgets and tinkering, exploring ways to turn ideas into realities through the application of scientific principles. Many engineers were heavily influenced by the works of early pioneers who paved the way for today’s breakthroughs. They may see themselves, rightfully, as heirs to a long legacy of inventors and visionaries. 
 
Though they may often work in solitude, they often enjoy participating in groups, seeing their roles as serving a larger goal (the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, for example, has over 423,000 members worldwide). Many people who are drawn to this field were avid science fiction buffs growing up, intrigued by futurist technologies and hardware, and how those things can make life better. They aren’t merely interested in whimsical notions of the future, though. They’re able to focus and figure out how to practically achieve the things they envision, through meticulous planning, research, and testing. 

Education and Training Needed
  • 70% of Electrical Engineers hold a bachelor's degree; 23% hold a master's. Many university programs feature dual bachelor’s/master’s degree tracks which take ~5 years 
    • Most major in electrical or electronics engineering, or electrical engineering technology programs that are accredited by ABET
    • A master’s is often needed to teach or work in R&D
  • Internships, co-ops, and other practical work experiences are treasured by employers
  • A license isn’t needed to get started, but there are state licensure options to consider later in one’s career
    • Professional Engineering (PE) licensure leads to greater scopes of responsibility 
    • A PE must pass two exams:
      • Fundamentals of Engineering (FE)
      • Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam
  • There are several optional Core and Advanced certifications to consider, including:
    • Associate Systems Engineering Professional
    • Certified Reliability Engineer 
    • Electronics in Traffic Signal Technician
    • Electrostatic Discharge Control (ESD) - Associate Engineer
    • Energy Efficiency Management Certificate Program
    • IPC-A-600 Acceptability of Printed Circuit Boards
    • Key Account Certificate Program
    • Residential Electronics Systems Integrator 
Things to look for in an university
  • Programs should be ABET-accredited, which is a requirement for later PE licensure
  • Scholarships and STEM pathways! How committed are your potential schools to improving access to help facilitate your entry into their programs? 
  • Consider the program’s faculty awards and accomplishments
  • Prestigious honors include: teaching awards, IEEE and National Science Foundation awards and recognitions, Fulbright Fellowships, best papers, and distinguished lecturers
  • Check out their facilities (especially if you’re planning to attend in-person). Well-funded programs will have the most modern, cutting-edge research areas 
  • Look for affiliated centers and institutes. Most big programs collaborate with external partners which can significantly augment your learning experience
  • Always see what schools offer graduates! Do they post job placement stats? Does the alumni network offer beneficial, career-enhancing mentorship and networking? 
  • Free career services, job fairs, and other services are always nice perks, but shouldn’t be a deal-breaker
List of Programs

Check out U.S. News & World Report’s 2020 rankings of Best Electrical Engineering Programs and Best Undergraduate Electrical / Electronic / Communications Engineering Programs. You might also take a peek at Apprenticeship.gov’s list of related opportunities. For lists of certifications, visit O-Net Online and click on the Find Certifications button. 

Things to do in High School and College
  • It pays to get a jump start on college by taking prep classes in high school, such as math and physics. Strong English and technical writing skills will also pay off later 
  • If offered, consider taking electives in blueprints, computer apps, drafting, and of course electricity and electronics
  • Learn everything you can about the career field before signing up for classes. Know what you want to specialize in, and read job descriptions posted on employment portals
    • To go even further, make a list of organizations you dream of working for, and maybe reach out to current employees to pick their brains
  • Get practical experience, tinkering at home, through internships, or apprenticeships
  • Don’t neglect soft skills. Engineers should be “people persons” too!
    • Volunteer to serve on school committees or help with extracurricular activities, with a focus on roles that offer leadership and management experiences
  • Comb through our below list of Recommended Websites to find professional groups to join. Also become an active participant in your school engineering clubs
  • Ask a seasoned Electrical Engineer if they can spare some time to mentor you in exchange for helping them in some capacity
Typical Roadmap
Electrical Engineer Gladeo Roadmap
How to land your 1st job
  • According to PayScale, a whopping 85% of jobs are found through networking!
  • Sign up for notifications on job portals like Indeed, SimplyHired, Monster, USAJobs, ZipRecruiter, LinkedIn, Velvet Jobs, and Glassdoor 
  • Ask your school to connect you with recruiters. Take advantage of chances to intern with large companies. Many engineers arrange to have jobs waiting when they graduate
  • Think like the boss. Read NESCO’s “Strategies for Hiring the Best Electrical Engineers”
  • Max out your school’s career center offerings. Get resume help, do mock interviews, meet recruiters, and attend job fairs in professional attire with resumes in-hand
  • Apply like you mean it. Don’t fire off the same generic application a thousand times. Tailor each to the specific job posting, and do your homework on the company
  • Research common interview questions, like those posted on LiveCareer or Glassdoor
How to Climb the Ladder
  • To move up, you must establish your target goal, set up milestones, and create a plan to achieve each milestone
  • Determine where you want to be in 5, 10, or 20 years, then map out your plans. Do you want to supervise others and lead teams? Do you want to be a manager? What about sales? Knowing the goals will help you adjust your education and training accordingly
  • Your organization will probably invest time and money in you and want to keep you, so make it clear that you’re interested in getting promoted within the company if possible
  • Speak with your supervisor or management. Get advice and talk through options. There are endless possibilities within the Electrical Engineering field. Some are more lucrative while others are perhaps more personally rewarding. Ideally you can achieve both!
    • Most small- to mid-sized businesses have limited opportunities for advancement, so keep this in mind when applying. To move up any ladder, there must be empty rungs on it!
  • Get your PE license as soon as you can and demonstrate your commitment to excellence and your willingness to assume increased responsibilities early
  • Knock out additional certs when qualified to do so
Recommended Resources

Websites

  • Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology 
  • All About Circuits
  • American Society for Engineering Education
  • Electrical 4 U
  • Electrical Engineering Portal
  • Electronics
  • Electronics Weekly
  • IEEE
  • Illuminating Engineering Society
  • Makezine
  • MIT OpenCourseWare
  • National Society of Professional Engineers 
  • National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE)
  • Occupational Outlook Handbook: Electrical and electronics engineers 
  • SAE International 
  • Society of Women Engineers 
  • TutorialsPoint
  • Virtual Labs
  • Wolfram Demonstrations Project

Books

  • Electrical Engineering 101: Everything You Should Have Learned in School...but Probably Didn't, by Darren Ashby
  • Electrical Engineering Principles And Application, by HAMBLEY
  • Mechatronics: Electronic Control Systems in Mechanical and Electrical Engineering (6th Edition), by W. Bolton  
  • Practical Electronics for Inventors, Fourth Edition, by Paul Scherz and Simon Monk 
  • The Beginner's Guide to Engineering: Electrical Engineering, by Mary Ellen Latschar
Plan B

There are many subfields of Electrical Engineering to specialize in, such as Power, Control, Electronics, Microelectronics, Nanoelectronics, Signal processing, Telecommunications, Instrumentation, and Computers. Electrical Engineering and its associated subfields are a blast for those who are passionate about the work. Yet some people find their thrills in other sectors. Some alternative engineering and non-engineering careers to consider are:

  • Aerospace Engineers
  • Architectural and Engineering Managers
  • Biomedical Engineers
  • Computer Hardware Engineers
  • Electrical and Electronics Engineering Technicians
  • Logistics Engineers 
  • Mechanical Engineers 
  • Network and Computer Systems Administrators
  • Photonics Engineers
  • Sales Engineers

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