Electrical and Electronics Engineer
Electrical and Electronics Engineer
Education and Training: Bachelor's degree or higher
Salary: Median—$71,610 to $75,770 per year
Employment Outlook: Good
Definition and Nature of the Work
Electrical and electronics engineers are concerned with the production and use of electricity. They are members of the largest branch of engineering. The focus of electrical engineers is on the generation and supply of power, and the focus of electronics engineers is on applications of electricity to control systems or signal processing. Engineers use basic knowledge collected by scientists to solve a wide range of problems.
Electrical and electronics engineers generally specialize in one of the two branches of their profession—either electric power or electronics. Engineers specializing in electric power often are involved with the creation of electricity at generating stations. These generating stations primarily use steam or water power to drive their turbines and change mechanical energy into electricity. Steam-powered plants may use coal, gas, oil, nuclear, or solar energy for fuel. Electrical engineers working in the area of electric power also work with the equipment that transmits electricity from the power plant to the consumer. They are concerned with electric motors and with the lighting and wiring in buildings, automobiles, airplanes, and other places. These engineers generally work with relatively large amounts of electricity.
Engineers specializing in electronics deal with relatively small amounts of electricity. Electronics engineers work with a variety of equipment including radar, telephone systems, and missile guidance systems. They also work with consumer goods, such as televisions and stereo equipment.
In either branch of electrical and electronic engineering, engineers work in a wide range of jobs. Many work in research, development, and design. These engineers come up with the ideas and plans for new equipment and methods or for improvements in existing equipment and methods. Their work may result in a more efficient or safer power plant or in the development of a computer program used in hospitals for the care of heart attack victims.
The remaining engineers work in construction or production. These engineers may oversee the construction, installation, and operation of power generating equipment in a power plant. Some may be in charge of certain phases in the manufacturing of circuits to be used in a telephone system. Other electrical and electronics engineers work as managers, executives, or sales representatives in areas related to their field. A few do part-time or full-time consulting work for businesses or individuals for specific projects. Still other electrical engineers have teaching or research jobs at colleges and universities.
Most electrical and electronics engineers work in private industry. Others are employed by state and federal government. Some of these engineers work in military or space programs. Electrical and electronics engineers are also employed by power companies, telephone and telegraph companies, and firms that make electrical and electronic equipment. In addition, some engineers work for colleges and universities or construction or engineering firms.
Education and Training Requirements
You need at least a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering to enter this field. A few colleges offer training in electronics engineering. It usually takes four or five years to earn a bachelor's degree in engineering. Some colleges offer work-study programs in which students receive on-the-job training while they are still in school. For some jobs, especially those in research or teaching, you need a master's or doctoral degree. Because engineering is a rapidly changing field, engineers must continue to study and keep up with new developments throughout their careers.
Electrical and electronics engineers whose work affects life, health, or property or who offer their services to the public need to be licensed by the state in which they work. They generally need a degree from an accredited engineering school, four years of work experience as an engineer, and a passing grade on a state examination before being licensed as professional engineers.
Getting the Job
Your college placement office may be able to help you find a job as an electrical and electronics engineer. If you are enrolled in a work-study program during college, you may be able to continue working for a participating employer after graduation. You can check for job openings in the classified ads in newspapers, Internet job banks, and professional journals. You can also apply directly to the many private firms and government agencies that employ electrical and electronics engineers. To get a government job, you may have to pass a civil service examination.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Electrical and electronics engineers generally advance by taking on more responsibility, for which they earn higher salaries. Some eventually become managers or executives. Other engineers who receive further training can become highly paid specialists. Still other engineers advance by moving into sales engineering or starting their own engineering firms.
The employment outlook for electrical and electronics engineers is good through the year 2014. Employment is expected to increase about as fast as the average for all jobs through 2014. Demand for improved communications systems should create many new jobs. New openings should also result from a rising demand for electrical and electronic consumer goods, but foreign competition will temper that growth. Job growth is expected to be fastest in services industries, since many firms are hiring consulting services for electronic engineering expertise.
Electrical and electronics engineers work in a variety of surroundings. Sometimes they work in modern factories, offices, or laboratories. Others work at noisy construction sites or in busy power plants. Engineers usually work at least forty hours a week. Overtime is often necessary, especially when project deadlines must be met.
Engineers must be able to work well as part of a team. They must be able to communicate their ideas to others. Electrical and electronics engineers should have an aptitude for science and mathematics and should enjoy solving problems.
Where to Go for More Information
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers-USA
1828 L St. NW, Ste. 1202
Washington, DC 20036-5104
National Society of Professional Engineers
1420 King St.
Alexandria, VA 22314-2794
Earnings and Benefits
Earnings vary depending on the education and experience of the engineer, the location, and the kind of job. Electrical and electronics engineers earn salaries that are close to the average salaries earned by all kinds of engineers. In 2005 beginning electrical and electronics engineers with bachelor's degrees earned an average starting salary of $51,888 per year. Those with master's degrees started at an average of $64,416 per year, and those with doctoral degrees at an average of $80,206. In 2004 the median annual salary for electrical and electronics engineers ranged from $71,610 to $75,770. Benefits generally include paid holidays and vacations, health insurance, and pension plans.