What is an Electrical Engineer?

Electrical engineers study electronics, electromagnetism, and the application of electricity. The products they develop are used in medical technology, game systems, cell phones, robotics, cars, green technologies, and navigation systems, just touching lightly on the list.

Nearly everything that defines modern civilization is linked to electrical engineering. These engineers work in labs, offices, and industries. They develop systems for power generation, transmission, and distribution—have you heard about “the grid?”

In addition to the subjects mentioned above (and still touching only briefly on the scope), this expertise covers power switches (solar, wind, geothermal), design of power systems, and architectural planning. Electrical engineering is behind the development of every electronic thing within your grasp.

Electrical engineers focus on computer systems design, components, and processes. They incorporate research or management using specialized, hands-on knowledge and dealing with public, private, and academic sectors. They are dedicated to continuing education, on-the-job learning, leadership, and applying new techniques to new situations.

The sciences of physics and mathematics are fundamental to this profession, but technical focus accounts for only a fraction of this work. Making proposals to clients, preparing budgets, and calculating project schedules consumes much of these engineers’ time. Senior-level engineers often manage a team, so project management skills and strong communication skills are vital.

What are the Prerequisites for a B.S. in Electrical Engineering, How Long Does it Take to Earn a Degree, and What Kinds of Classes Do I Take?

A bachelor’s degree is required, to become an electrical engineer. Students can earn a BSEE (bachelor of science in electrical engineering) and the closely related BSCpE (bachelor of science in computer engineering) at many qualified universities.

The completed bachelor of engineering degree usually takes 4 or 5 years, depending on the university and any specialty studies chosen.

Following is an example list of required courses from Florida A&M:

  • Engineering Lab
  • Mathematics and basic sciences
  • General Chemistry I with Lab
  • General Physics I and II with Labs
  • Calculus I, II, III
  • Ordinary Differential Equations
  • Applied Linear Algebra
  • General engineering core (9 hours)
  • Programming I
  • Engineering Mechanics
  • Thermodynamics
  • Introduction to Circuit Analysis
  • ECE Engineering Tools Lab
  • Advanced Circuit Analysis with Computers
  • Advanced Circuits Lab
  • Signal & Linear Systems Analysis
  • Electronics and Lab
  • Digital Logic Design and Lab
  • Statistical Topics in E.E.
  • Digital Communications
  • Micro. Based System Design
  • Micro. Based System Design Lab
  • Senior Design Project
  • Additional courses required of EE Majors
  • Advanced Electronic, Electromagnetics, or Power Labs
  • Electromagnetic Fields
  • Senior Design Project II
  • Tier-2 courses
  • Technical Electives
  • Oral Communication Competency

Master’s and Doctorate Degrees in Electrical Engineering

Some B.S. graduates seek postgraduate degrees such as master’s (M.Eng./M.Sc.) or doctorate degrees (Ph.D./Eng.D.) in engineering. B.S. and master’s degrees consist largely of coursework and research. Doctorate degrees focus mainly on research and often open doors to university research and teaching.

Universities with strong engineering departments offer graduate degrees and specialized certificates as well as teaching and research opportunities.

Can I Earn a Degree through Online Study?

As with other engineering degrees, the bachelor’s degree is based on laboratory and fieldwork not possible online. There is online access to master’s degrees at some schools.

Arizona State University’s MSE in electrical engineering offers online studies in solid-state electronics, power electronics, mixed-signal integrated circuit design, communications, and signal processing. Online master’s-level courses are also available from several other schools of engineering.

What are Some Jobs for Electrical Engineers?

Electrical engineers find work in the laboratories of fabrication plants, in corporate consulting offices, or onsite at mines. They may supervise scientists, electricians, computer programmers, or other engineers.

They are involved in:

  • Power generation
  • Radio
  • Television
  • Transmission and distribution (high-voltage transformers)
  • Electronic circuits
  • Controls (electrical circuits, digital signal processors, microcontrollers)
  • Nanoelectronics (microelectronic components)
  • Computers
  • Satellite dishes
  • Cell phones
  • HVAC systems
  • Flight control panels
  • GPS technology
  • Electric power generation
  • Space travel technologies

In effect, there is no mechanized field today in which these engineers do not play an integral part. Electrical Engineering jobs are projected to grow 6% between 2010-2020.

Electrical engineering has been at the forefront of every technological gain of the past century. This growth is perhaps most evident in the development of today’s increasingly smaller transistors, as the number of components placed with an integrated circuit doubles continuously.

Enabling all other technologies and far outpacing them in development speed, electrical engineering has increasing demand and positive career possibilities for qualified professionals.

How Much Do Electrical Engineers Earn?

Electrical engineers earn $87,180 yearly on average, according to U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

A basic market pricing report was composed using data from a Salary.com survey of employers through all industries. This report showed $61,740 as a typical entry-level salary for an electrical engineer in the U.S.

Another report issued by Florida State University showed electrical engineers as ranking fifth nationally in 2010-2011 with salaries beginning at $60,800 and reaching $104,000

Are There Professional Associations for Electrical Engineers?

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers or IEEE is the largest professional association for the advancement of technology in the world. IEEE’s contributions to improving global conditions are essential to the technical community and professionals everywhere.

There are extensive lists of electrical engineering societies worldwide.

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