Learn below about the electrical engineer job description, skills, education, and licensing. If you’re pursuing electrical engineering as a career, this article will also explain where you might find the best work prospects.
Electricity powers homes, transportation, offices, communications devices, computers, and equipment. Virtually every facet of modern living depends on electricity. Electrical engineers hold the task of designing the systems and pathways for electricity.
Job Overview: What Does an Electrical Engineer Do?
Electrical engineers apply their design, planning, and supervisory skills and knowledge to the field of electricity and related systems. To effectively perform their duties, these professionals summon principles of math, geometry, science, computers, and technology.
Management of and collaboration with workers in various positions and disciplines helps electrical engineers see projects to timely and successful completion.
Electrical Engineer Job Duties
- Design new uses of electrical power for product development and enhancement.
- Prepare electrical system specifications or drawings.
- Plan layout of electrical generation and delivery systems, including plants, distribution lines, and electrical stations and substations.
- Oversee production, testing, and installation of electrical equipment to confirm compliance of products with applicable codes and regulations.
- Formulate electrical systems in buildings for efficient use of electricity, such as employing natural lighting.
- Calculate and estimate material, equipment, and labor costs for products and projects involving electrical systems and use of electrical power.
- Oversee manufacturing and other projects involving or using electrical power.
- Receive and respond to customer or client concerns or complaints involving electrical power.
- Identify problems in electrical systems, and propose and help implement solutions to those problems.
- Supervise members of electrical system or equipment teams.
Electrical Engineer Job Essential Skills
Concentration Skills. To design, develop, and oversee establishment of complex systems, electrical engineers must avoid loss of focus. These professionals must handle multiple design elements and track technical details of their system designs.
Computer Skills. Electrical engineers must know how to use engineering software such as computer aided design (CAD) and analytical software.
Interpersonal Skills. The ability to collaborate with manufacturing workers, other engineers, and technicians allows electrical engineers ensure the proper implementation of their plans. Interpersonal skills included in the electrical engineer job description are supervising or monitoring manufacturing workers, and clearly and concisely communicating solutions to any complications that may arise.
Math Skills. Algebra, calculus, geometry, and calculus skills aid electrical engineers in their designs and troubleshooting of electrical systems. These professionals must understand how to calculate distances, angles, and equations for circuit analysis.
Becoming an Electrical Engineer
The path to an electrical engineer career includes as destinations an undergraduate and perhaps a master’s program featuring electrical engineering, math, and science. Those who wish to offer their talents to the public or supervise construction projects must obtain a professional engineering license.
Qualifications and Training
Electrical engineers must have at least a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering or electrical engineering technology. Nearly one in four electrical engineers holds a master’s degree as well. Some electrical engineering programs offer students the chance to earn both a bachelor and master’s degree in five years.
Aspiring entrants into the field should enroll in a program accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc. (ABET). The curriculum of programs typically includes electrical circuit theory, calculus, or another type of math featuring differential equations and systems design. Students usually also take life science, physical science, statistics, and computer science.
Most jurisdictions require a professional engineer’s license for electrical engineers who will supervise projects or perform other services for clients. Specific requirements may vary by state or territory. Generally, electrical engineers take a “Fundamentals of Engineering” (FE) examination. Passage allows the candidate to work as an “engineer-in-training” or “engineer intern” under the supervision of a licensed engineer.
Prior to sitting for the “Principles and Practice of Engineering” (PE) exam, prospective electrical engineers must log four years of practice under a licensed engineer’s supervision.
Experience to become an electrical engineer normally comes through post-graduate work with a licensed engineer. As a prerequisite to licensing, candidates must have four years of experience. In certain electrical engineering programs, students can combine on-the-job opportunities and other field work with courses during the academic year.
Universities, manufacturers, and aerospace are among the main places where prospective engineers can find internships. This pre-graduation experience can prove valuable for electrical engineers who seek entry-level jobs upon graduation, or who want to work for a specific company’s engineering department.
Such positions, as they do not involve oversight of projects or other services to the public, do not require a professional engineer’s license.
Electrical engineers are generally full-time professionals. In fact, 68 percent of electrical engineers say they log more than 40 hours per week. With electrical plants and other facilities operating around the clock, electrical engineers may have to report on evenings or weekends to job sites.
Emergencies and malfunctions spur the need for work beyond traditional office hours and weekdays. Approaching project deadlines also contribute to work weeks that run beyond 40 hours and/or regular work hours.
Job Outlook & Advancement Opportunities
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of electrical engineers should grow by one percent between 2014 and 2024, or by 1,800 openings. In 2014, the field numbered 180,200 employees. In terms of salary, the median annual pay for an electrical engineer is of $72,602.
The decline of manufacturing is a culprit in stagnant employment growth. Traditionally, manufacturing firms have employed many electrical engineers in the past. With the overall decline in manufacturing come measures such as cutting engineering departments or divisions.
The strongest job prospects should reside in research, development, and engineering firms. New technology, including solar panels and related equipment, may result in the design of new electrical and power delivery systems. The prevalence of smart phones and other mobile communication devices should lead to a demand for electrical engineers among semiconductor and electronic component manufacturers.
Turnover from retirement may create job opportunities for new electrical engineers. By 2030, an estimated 105,000 workers will be needed in the smart grid and electric utility industry. With experience, electrical engineers may become engineering and program managers who lead teams of engineers, technicians, and other manufacturing or construction workers.
Opportunities for electrical engineering jobs appear strong among private engineering firms, especially those in the field of semiconductors, solar technology, and communications. Until manufacturing grows, job openings may prove scarce in companies engaged in such activities.
As you navigate from college to a professional engineer’s license, the electrical engineer job description will allow you to practice computer, math, engineering, and science principles.