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How to Become an Electrical Engineer

By Ajoke Aminu

Published:

Are you looking to spark a career in electrical engineering but don’t know where to start? Electrical engineering is a dazzling field that offers not only big salaries, but also the potential to innovate, design and create technologies that improve our daily lives. Our guide will give you insight into the industry and show you how to get ahead of the competition in the job market with simple steps.

Career Summary

Electrical Engineer Salary

Electrical Engineer Salary

Considering the fact that this career comes with a hefty paycheck, knowing what to do with extra money is important financial information for electrical engineers.

According to Glassdoor, the annual salary range for electrical engineers in the United States looks like this:

  • Entry Salary (US$75k)
  • Median Salary (US$89k)
  • Executive Salary (US$153k)

If you are wondering how the Electrical Engineer’s salary stacks up against the national average wage, it falls into the higher income category.

What does an Electrical Engineer do?

Electrical engineers are professionals who design, develop, and maintain electrical systems and devices. From designing and testing new products to troubleshooting and solving problems, electrical engineers have their hands in every aspect of our technological world. They work on everything from power grids and renewable energy systems to communication devices and medical equipment.

Electrical Engineer Career Progression

  • Junior Electrical Engineer: This is an entry-level position where engineers gain practical experience and work under the supervision of senior engineers.
  • Electrical Engineer: As engineers gain experience, they take on more responsibilities in designing, developing, and maintaining electrical systems.
  • Senior Electrical Engineer: Senior engineers lead projects, provide technical expertise, and oversee the work of junior engineers. They may specialize in a particular area and take on more complex design and development tasks.
  • Engineering Manager: In this role, engineers are responsible for managing a team of engineers, overseeing multiple projects, and making strategic decisions. They provide guidance, mentorship, and technical expertise to their team members.
Electrical Engineer Career Progression

Pros:

  • A dynamic and evolving field
  • Steady schedule with the opportunity to work on a wide range of projects
  • Intellectually stimulating and rewarding work
  • Opportunity to contribute to technological advancements and innovative solutions
  • Competitive salary and benefits

Cons:

  • Demanding workloads, tight deadlines, and high-pressure situations 
  • Complex concepts and advanced technical knowledge can be challenging and require continuous learning to stay updated
  • Exposure to hazardous conditions, such as high voltages or dangerous environments

Key Competencies for Successful Electrical Engineers

  • Solid Mathematical and Technical Aptitude
  • Programming and Computer Skills
  • Adaptability and Learning Agility
  • Strong Ethical and Professional Standards
  • Strong Analytical and Problem-Solving Skills

Top Electrical Engineering Specializations in Demand

  • Power Systems Engineering: focus on the generation, transmission, and distribution of electrical power, ensuring the reliable and efficient operation of electrical grids and power networks.
  • Electronics Engineering: design and develop electronic circuits and devices, including components such as semiconductors and integrated circuits, to enable various electronic systems and applications.
  • Control Systems Engineering: design and implement systems that regulate and control the behavior of other systems, such as industrial processes, robotics, and automation, using techniques like feedback control and system modeling.
  • Telecommunications Engineering: specialize in designing, developing, and maintaining communication networks and systems, including technologies such as telephony, wireless communications, fiber optics, and satellite systems.
  • Renewable Energy Engineering: Renewable energy engineers focus on developing and implementing sustainable energy solutions, such as solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal power systems, to address the global demand for clean and renewable energy sources while minimizing environmental.

How to become an Electrical Engineer

Electrical Engineer 5 Steps to Career

Embrace Education as You Walk the Electrical Engineering Career Path

You’ve decided to pursue a career in electrical engineering, and good for you! But where do you start? The first step is education. Consider completing a degree in electrical engineering from a reputable institution. By following the updated information below, you’ll be well on your way to a successful career in electrical engineering.

Pursue An Electrical Engineering Degree

To become an electrical engineer, you typically need a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering or a closely related field. This degree provides you with a strong foundation in the principles and practices of Electrical Engineering. Some universities may offer a specific program called Electrical Engineering, while others may offer similar programs under different names, such as Electrical and Electronic Engineering or Electrical and Computer Engineering.

When choosing a degree program, it is important to ensure that it is accredited by the appropriate accrediting bodies or organizations in your country. Accreditation ensures that the program meets certain standards of quality and provides a recognized qualification.

Why it is important to get an Electrical Engineering Degree

Electrical Engineering is a field that has never had a dull moment since its inception. The field is responsible for powering the world and every advancement we see and experience today. Therefore, it is integral to have professionals with a degree in Electrical Engineering who understand the principles behind the power grid and the electrical systems we rely on for work, communication, and entertainment.

Whether you want to improve energy efficiency, design medical equipment, or develop electric vehicles, an Electrical Engineering degree is crucial, and the possibilities are endless. More importantly, the degree teaches valuable problem-solving and analytical thinking skills that can be applied to other fields.

Here are a few reasons why a degree is commonly preferred:

  • A degree program provides a comprehensive curriculum that covers essential theoretical knowledge and practical skills required in the field of Electrical Engineering. It offers a structured learning experience, allowing you to grasp foundational concepts and gain expertise in specialized areas.
  • Employers often value degrees as a measure of your competence and commitment to the field. Having an Electrical Engineering degree can enhance your credibility and make you a more competitive candidate in the job market—thereby increasing your chances of a higher electrical engineer salary.
  • The degree opens up endless possibilities to innovate and develop new technology, ensuring we stay ahead of the curve. Certain positions and roles in Electrical Engineering may explicitly require a degree as a prerequisite. Without a degree, you may face limitations in career advancement or miss out on opportunities that are exclusive to degree holders.
  • Pursuing a degree allows you to connect with professors, fellow students, and industry professionals who can provide valuable guidance, mentorship, and networking opportunities. Additionally, universities often offer access to research facilities, libraries, and other resources that can aid in your education and career.

A Typical Electrical Engineering Degree Duration

Electrical Engineering is an intriguing field that requires extensive study and training. As a student pursuing a degree in Electrical Engineering, you might be wondering how long it will take to earn your degree. Well, it actually depends on your academic course load, your dedication, and your institution.

So, let’s explore some options:

  • Obtain Bachelor’s Degree (B.S. or B.Eng.): The standard undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering usually takes four years of full-time study. During this time, students complete a prescribed set of coursework, including general education requirements, core Electrical Engineering courses, and elective courses in specialized areas. Some programs may also comprise a combination of theoretical coursework, practical laboratory experiences, and co-op or internship experiences.
  • Earn Master’s Degree (M.S. or M.Eng.): A master’s degree in Electrical Engineering is an optional graduate-level qualification. It typically takes around one to two years to complete, depending on whether you pursue the program full-time or part-time. Master’s programs often involve advanced coursework, research or thesis work, and may offer opportunities for specialization within Electrical Engineering.
  • Consider Doctoral Degree (Ph.D.): For those interested in research, teaching, or advanced positions in academia or industry, a doctoral degree in Electrical Engineering is an option. A Ph.D. typically takes around four to six years to complete beyond the bachelor’s degree. This timeframe includes conducting original research, completing coursework, writing a dissertation, and defending it before a committee.

The Costs of Pursuing an Electrical Engineering Degree at a University

Electrical Engineering is a stimulating and dynamic field of study that combines the application of electronics, electromagnetism, and materials science to develop new technologies that improve our daily lives. But before you can take on the world of innovation, you may be wondering about the cost of studying electrical engineering at university.

On average, the cost of obtaining an Electrical Engineering degree in the USA is approximately $8,893 per year for in-state students and $22,203 per year for out-of-state students. However, the total expenses including boarding, books, tuition, and supplies can vary significantly, ranging from $13,000 to $60,000, depending on the chosen college or university.

On the other hand, factors such as whether the institution is a non-profit private or public institute also impact the cost. Typically, a four-year degree in a public institution amounts to about $9,498 per year, while a degree from a private institution averages around $10,823 per annum. Other factors like scholarships, financial aid, and living expenses can also influence the overall cost. The best way to know the exact cost is to research universities and compare prices.

Become an Electrical Engineer through Online Education

Indeed, it is possible to pursue an electrical engineering degree through online education. Many universities and educational institutions now offer online programs in Electrical Engineering, allowing students to complete their coursework remotely and earn a degree in the field. Online education provides flexibility and convenience, allowing individuals to balance their studies with other commitments such as work or family responsibilities. It eliminates the need for physical attendance on campus and provides access to educational resources and materials through online platforms.

Furthermore, when considering an online program in Electrical Engineering, it is important to ensure that the program is offered by a reputable and accredited institution. Accreditation ensures that the program meets certain educational standards and that the degree will be recognized by employers and other academic institutions. Also, online Electrical Engineering programs typically deliver course materials through virtual classrooms, video lectures, interactive simulations, and online discussions. Students may also have access to virtual labs or be required to complete practical assignments at local facilities.

It’s worth noting that some programs may have certain on-campus requirements, such as occasional in-person labs or examinations. It’s important to research and understand the specific requirements and expectations of each online program you are considering. While online education offers flexibility, self-discipline and motivation are crucial to successfully completing an online Electrical Engineering program. Online learners must be proactive in managing their time, staying engaged in the coursework, and seeking help when needed.

Overall, online education can be a viable option for individuals who prefer or require the flexibility of remote learning. It allows aspiring Electrical Engineers to pursue their degree while balancing other commitments, making education more accessible and inclusive.

Explore Alternative Pathways: Online Certifications & Practical Experience

Although an electrical engineering degree packs a good punch, certifications and practical experience also hold weight. The increasingly dynamic job market has paved the way with online education– albeit it may not be a conventional pathway to success, it is a unique journey.

If you are considering supplementing your graduate degree, online education and practical experience will not only equip you with field-specific skills but also showcase your commitment to the industry. So whether you’re looking to switch up your career or climb the ladder of success, consider taking a detour through the road less traveled.

Here is an overview of some potential options to explore:

  • Apprenticeships and Vocational Training: Seek out apprenticeship programs or vocational training opportunities where you can learn practical skills under the guidance of experienced professionals. This hands-on experience can help you gain industry-specific knowledge and build a portfolio of work.
  • Certifications: Consider obtaining relevant certifications in specific areas of Electrical Engineering. Certifications can demonstrate your proficiency in specialized skills and technologies, increasing your employability.
  • Self-Study and Online Resources: Take advantage of online courses, tutorials, and open educational resources to learn and enhance your understanding of Electrical Engineering. Engage in self-study and personal projects to develop practical skills and showcase your abilities.

Electrical Engineering Internship Opportunities

  • Power and Energy Companies: Internships in power and energy companies offer exposure to electrical power systems, renewable energy, smart grids, and power distribution. You may assist in power system analysis, maintenance, or implementation of energy-efficient technologies.
  • Electronics and Semiconductor Companies: Interning at electronics or semiconductor companies allows you to work on designing and testing electronic components, integrated circuits, or consumer electronics. You may gain experience in areas such as PCB design, circuit simulation, or firmware development.
  • Telecommunications and Networking Companies: Internships in the telecommunications industry involve working on communication systems, network infrastructure, or wireless technologies. You may assist in the design, optimization, or troubleshooting of telecommunications networks.
  • Engineering Consulting Firms: Interning at engineering consulting firms provides exposure to various projects in areas such as electrical system design, power distribution, or building automation. You may contribute to engineering calculations, drafting, or field inspections.
  • Manufacturing and Industrial Companies: Internships in manufacturing and industrial settings involve working with electrical equipment, automation systems, or process control. You may gain experience in troubleshooting, quality assurance, or product testing.
  • Research Institutions and Laboratories: Interning at research institutions or laboratories allows you to contribute to ongoing research projects in fields such as renewable energy, robotics, or biomedical engineering. You may assist in experimental setups, data analysis, or prototype development.
  • Aerospace and Defense Companies: Internships in the aerospace and defense industry involve electrical system design, avionics, or defense technologies. You may work on projects related to aircraft electrical systems, satellite communications, or control systems.
  • Government Agencies and Utilities: Interning at government agencies or utility companies provides insight into public infrastructure projects, energy management, or regulatory compliance. You may contribute to power grid analysis, renewable energy initiatives, or sustainability programs.

What Skills Will I Learn as an Electrical Engineer?

  • Circuit Analysis: You will learn to analyze electrical circuits using techniques such as Kirchhoff’s laws, nodal analysis, mesh analysis, and network theorems.
  • Electronics: You will gain knowledge of electronic components, devices, and their behavior, including transistors, diodes, amplifiers, operational amplifiers, and digital logic gates.
  • Power Systems: You will study the generation, transmission, distribution, and control of electrical power, including topics like power generation plants, transformers, power factor correction, and power system stability.
  • Control Systems: You will learn about control theory, feedback systems, stability analysis, and the design and implementation of control systems for various applications.
  • Electromagnetics: You will develop an understanding of electromagnetic fields, Maxwell’s equations, electromagnetic wave propagation, transmission lines, antennas, and electromagnetic compatibility.
  • Digital Systems: You will gain knowledge of digital logic design, binary arithmetic, Boolean algebra, logic gates, combinational and sequential circuits, and digital system design using programmable logic devices.
  • Signal Processing: You will learn techniques for analyzing and manipulating signals, such as Fourier analysis, filtering, modulation, and digital signal processing algorithms.
  • Programming and Software Skills: You will develop programming skills in languages like C/C++, MATLAB, or Python, which are commonly used for simulation, analysis, and design in Electrical Engineering.
  • Laboratory Skills: You will gain hands-on experience in designing and conducting experiments, using laboratory equipment, and analyzing experimental data.

Electrical Engineering Web Resources That Boost Your Career

  • IEEE Xplore Digital Library: IEEE Xplore is a comprehensive online library that provides access to a vast collection of technical papers, journals, conference proceedings, and standards in electrical engineering and related fields. It is an invaluable resource for research, staying updated with emerging technologies, and exploring cutting-edge advancements.
  • Electrical Engineering Stack Exchange: Stack Exchange is a question-and-answer platform specifically dedicated to electrical engineering and electronics. It offers a community of experts who provide answers, insights, and discussions on a wide range of electrical engineering topics. Participating in discussions and seeking help on this platform can deepen your understanding and problem-solving skills.
  • All About Circuits: All About Circuits is an online resource that offers comprehensive educational content on various aspects of electrical engineering, including circuit analysis, electronics, signal processing, and power systems. It provides tutorials, articles, forums, and interactive tools to enhance your knowledge and skills.
  • Electrical4U: Electrical4U is an educational website that provides comprehensive resources on electrical engineering subjects. It offers tutorials, articles, quizzes, and interviews to enhance your understanding of various concepts in electrical engineering, including power systems, electrical machines, and electrical measurements.

What’s the Career Outlook for Electrical Engineer?

The career outlook for electrical and electronics engineers indicates a ballpark growth rate of 3% from 2021 to 2031. This moderate growth rate suggests that the job market for electrical and electronics engineers may be somewhat competitive. However, despite the relatively slow growth, there is still a demand for professionals in this field with around 20,100 job openings projected to become available each year over the next decade.

While the growth rate may be modest, there are several factors that contribute to the ongoing demand for electrical and electronics engineers. Technological advancements, particularly in areas such as renewable energy, automation, and telecommunications, continue to drive the need for skilled professionals in these fields. The evolving nature of technology and the increasing integration of electrical systems into various industries ensure that there will be opportunities for electrical and electronics engineers to contribute their expertise.

Additionally, advancements in areas like electric vehicles, smart grids, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices create new avenues for electrical and electronics engineers to apply their knowledge and skills. As industries continue to innovate and adapt to changing technologies, the expertise of electrical and electronics engineers becomes crucial for designing, implementing, and maintaining complex electrical systems.

Electrical Engineer Popular Career Specialties

Electrical Engineering Job Opportunities & Their Industries

Power and Energy Industry

  • Power Systems Engineer: Design, analyze, and maintain electrical power systems, including generation, transmission, and distribution networks.
  • Renewable Energy Engineer: Develop and implement renewable energy technologies such as solar power, wind power, or hydroelectric systems. With energy being one of the best industries for the future, this field comes highly recommended.
  • Power Electronics Engineer: Design and optimize power electronics devices and systems, including inverters, converters, and motor drives.

Electronics and Telecommunications Industry

  • Electronics Design Engineer: Design and develop electronic circuits, systems, and devices for consumer electronics, medical devices, or communication equipment.
  • Telecommunications Engineer: Design, implement, and maintain telecommunication networks and systems, including wireless communication, fiber optics, or satellite communication.

Control Systems and Automation Industry

  • Control Systems Engineer: Design and optimize control systems for industrial processes, robotics, or automation systems.
  • Robotics Engineer: Develop and program robotic systems for manufacturing, healthcare, or other applications.

Aerospace and Defense Industry

  • Avionics Engineer: Design and develop electrical systems and instrumentation for aircraft and spacecraft, including navigation, communication, and control systems.
  • Defense Systems Engineer: Work on the design, development, and integration of electrical systems and technologies for defense applications.

Manufacturing and Industrial Industry

  • Manufacturing Engineer: Optimize manufacturing processes, equipment, and systems, ensuring efficient production and quality control.
  • Industrial Automation Engineer: Design and implement automation systems for industrial processes, including programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems.

Research and Development

  • Research Engineer: Conduct research, experiments, and analysis to develop new technologies, products, or methodologies.
  • Test and Validation Engineer: Test, troubleshoot, and validate electrical systems and components for performance, reliability, and safety.

Consulting and Engineering Services

  • Electrical Design Consultant: Provide consulting services for electrical system design, analysis, and project management.
  • Energy Efficiency Consultant: Assess and recommend energy-efficient solutions for buildings or industrial facilities.

Academia and Education

  • Professor/Instructor: Teach electrical engineering courses at universities, conduct research, and supervise students.
  • Educational Content Developer: Create educational materials, textbooks, or online courses for electrical engineering education.

What’s the Work-Life Balance for Electrical Engineers?

As an electrical engineer, finding the perfect work-life balance can be like finding a needle in a haystack – tricky, but not impossible. The perfect balance between work and personal life can often feel like a never-ending quest. Regular work hours following a typical 40-hour week can provide a sense of predictability that allows individuals to plan around work obligations. However, not every job operates on the same schedule.

Project-based roles, for instance, may require periods of intense work and occasional overtime, followed by more flexible schedules. Thankfully, as companies increasingly recognize the importance of work-life balance, many are offering arrangements like telecommuting that allow individuals to work in a way that suits their unique needs. While deadline-driven projects in industries like aerospace or defense can often involve long hours and short-term stress, the satisfaction of completing a project often brings a sense of relief and calm.

Continuous learning and professional development are common, necessitating a balance between work and personal commitments. Above all, effective time management is key to making the most of each day, fulfilling work responsibilities, and still finding time to focus on the things that matter most in life- whether that’s family, friends, or finally learning to crochet.

Should I become an Electrical Engineer?

In conclusion, deciding whether to pursue a career as an electrical engineer is no easy task. Hopefully, the key points, including the potential job outlook, experience, and educational/skill requirements, highlighted in this article have helped shed some light on the subject and make your decision a little easier.

Only one question remains: is this the right path for you? Take some time to reflect. Be sure to tap into your interests and expertise, as well as your future aspirations, when making your final decision. It’s important to do your research and gather as much information as possible before making any life-changing decisions.

After all, you don’t want to end up feeling like a light bulb that’s burned out too quickly. So take your time, weigh your options, and remember to pursue what you’re truly passionate about. Good luck!

Careers Related to Electrical Engineer


Ajoke Aminu

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