An electrical and electronics engineer could...
|Develop construction plans for a skyscraper's electrical lighting system.||Design a remote-controlled toy race car.|
|Devise a reliable radio collar so that researchers can track and study wild animals.||Design the electrical system for a factory robot that can weld a car.|
Key Facts & Information
|Overview||Just as a potter forms clay, or a steel worker molds molten steel, electrical and electronics engineers gather and shape electricity and use it to make products that transmit power or transmit information. Electrical and electronics engineers may specialize in one of the millions of products that make or use electricity, like cell phones, electric motors, microwaves, medical instruments, airline navigation system, or handheld games.|
|Key Requirements||Creative and detail-oriented, with excellent math and analytical skills, and an ability to communicate well with others|
|Minimum Degree||Bachelor's degree|
|Subjects to Study in High School||Chemistry, physics, computer science, geometry, algebra II, pre-calculus, calculus, English; if available, statistics, applied technology, physiology|
|Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)||More Slowly than Average (3% to 6%)|
Meet Electrical and Electronics Engineer Vince Reinhardt who works at Motorola.
Read an interview with Carl Allison, a senior electronics engineer who creates special effects for theme rides at Walt Disney World.
Read an interview with a real-life electrical engineer, Daniel D. Holt, who describes what work as an engineer in a small company is like, compared to school.
Read an interview with a professional electrical engineer, Tiffany Ann Clute, who is designing the electrical system for a 427-ft.-tall building!
Training, Other Qualifications
Electrical and electronics engineers typically enter the occupation with a bachelor's degree in an engineering specialty, but some basic research positions may require a graduate degree. Engineers offering their services directly to the public must be licensed. Continuing education to keep current with rapidly changing technology is important for engineers.
Education and Training
Typically electrical and electronics engineers have earned a Bachelor's or Master's degree in engineering in areas that include electronics, electrical engineering, or computer engineering. A junior engineer may spend the first year or two on the job learning the company's products and design procedures before choosing a technical specialty. Job responsibilities include specification, design, development, and implementation of products or systems, as well as research to create new ideas. This role provides a number of challenges ranging from problem identification and the selection of appropriate technical solutions, materials, test equipment, and procedures, to the manufacture and production of safe, economical, high-performance products and services.
An electrical engineer may choose to couple the technical aspects of a position with management responsibilities. The technical expertise required for management today is increasing because of the explosion of knowledge in engineering, technology, and science.
A Bachelor of Science degree in engineering with a specialty in electrical engineering may also serve as a starting point for careers in many other diverse fields, ranging from business to law, medicine, and politics, since the problem-solving skills acquired in an electrical engineering program provide an extraordinarily valuable asset. The same skills will equip you to assume leadership roles in your community and in professional circles outside the workplace.
In addition to the primary fields of electrical, electronics, and computer engineering, a Bachelor's degree in electrical engineering serves as an appropriate base for several allied fields. These include, for example, biomedical engineering, computer science, and aerospace engineering.
Engineers should be creative, inquisitive, analytical, and detail oriented. They should be able to work as part of a team and to communicate well, both orally and in writing. Communication abilities are becoming increasingly important as engineers frequently interact with specialists in a wide range of fields outside of engineering.
Nature of the Work
Electrical engineers design, develop, test, and supervise the manufacture of electrical equipment. Some of this equipment includes electric motors; machinery controls, lighting, and wiring in buildings; automobiles; aircraft; radar and navigation systems; and power generation, control, and transmission devices used by electric utilities. Although the terms electrical and electronics engineering often are used interchangeably in academia and industry, electrical engineers have traditionally focused on the generation and supply of power; whereas electronics engineers have worked on applications of electricity to control systems or signal processing. Electrical engineers specialize in areas such as power systems engineering or electrical equipment manufacturing.
Electronics engineers, except computer, are responsible for a wide range of technologies, from portable music players to the global positioning system (GPS), which can continuously provide the location of, for example, a vehicle. Electronics engineers design, develop, test, and supervise the manufacture of electronic equipment, such as broadcast and communications systems. Many electronics engineers also work in areas closely related to computers. However, engineers whose work is related exclusively to computer hardware are considered computer hardware engineers. Electronics engineers specialize in areas such as communications, signal processing, and control systems, or have a specialty within one of these areas; for example, control systems or aviation electronics.
Most electrical and electronics engineers work in office buildings, laboratories, or industrial plants. Some engineers travel extensively to plants or work sites, both here and abroad.
Many engineers work a standard 40-hour week. At times, deadlines or design standards may bring extra pressure to a job, requiring engineers to work longer hours.
On the Job
- Confer with engineers, customers, and others to discuss existing or potential engineering projects and products.
- Design, implement, maintain, and improve electrical instruments, equipment, facilities, components, products, and systems for commercial, industrial, and domestic purposes.
- Operate computer-assisted engineering and design software and equipment to perform engineering tasks.
- Direct and coordinate manufacturing, construction, installation, maintenance, support, documentation, and testing activities to ensure compliance with specifications, codes, and customer requirements.
- Perform detailed calculations to compute and establish manufacturing, construction, and installation standards and specifications.
- Inspect completed installations and observe operations to ensure conformance to design and equipment specifications and compliance with operational and safety standards.
- Plan and implement research methodology and procedures to apply principles of electrical theory to engineering projects.
- Prepare specifications for purchase of materials and equipment.
- Supervise and train project team members as necessary.
- Investigate and test vendors' and competitors' products.
- Oversee project production efforts to assure projects are completed satisfactorily, on time and within budget.
- Prepare and study technical drawings, specifications of electrical systems, and topographical maps to ensure that installation and operations conform to standards and customer requirements.
- Investigate customer or public complaints, determine nature and extent of problem, and recommend remedial measures.
- Plan layout of electric power generating plants and distribution lines and stations.
- Assist in developing capital project programs for new equipment and major repairs.
- Develop budgets, estimating labor, material, and construction costs.
- Compile data and write reports regarding existing and potential engineering studies and projects.
- Collect data relating to commercial and residential development, population, and power system interconnection to determine operating efficiency of electrical systems.
- Conduct field surveys and study maps, graphs, diagrams, and other data to identify and correct power system problems.
Companies That Hire Electrical & Electronics Engineers
Explore what you might do on the job with one of these projects...
- A Battery That Makes Cents
- A Silver-Cleaning Battery
- Abracadabra! Levitating with Eddy Currents!
- Analyze This! Make a Colorimeter to Measure the Concentration of Blue Dye in Various Liquids.
- Are LEDs the Future? Energy Savings with LED Lighting
- Art Bot: Build a Wobbly Robot Friend That Creates Art
- Avoid the Shock of Shocks! Build Your Own Super-sensitive Electric Field Detector
- Bass or Treble? Measure the Frequency Response of a Speaker
- Build a Light-Tracking Bristlebot
- Build a Motion-Activated Guard Robot (BlueBot Project #1)
- Build a Reed Switch Motor
- Build a Simple Electric Motor!
- Build a Solar-Powered Bristlebot
- Build a Speedy Light-Tracking Robot (BlueBot Project #2)
- Build a Zippy Line-following Robot (BlueBot Project #3)
- Build an Obstacle-Avoiding Robot (BlueBot Project #4)
- Build Your Own Crystal Radio
- Build Your Own Radon Detector
- Color Mixing with Red, Green, & Blue LEDs
- Crank Up the Music!
Do you have a specific question about a career as an Electrical & Electronics Engineer that isn't answered on this page? Post your question on the Science Buddies Ask an Expert Forum.
- Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers: www.ieeeusa.org
- O*Net Online. (2009). National Center for O*Net Development. Retrieved May 1, 2009, from http://online.onetcenter.org/
- The Sloan Career Cornerstone Center: www.careercornerstone.org
- WGBH. (2001). Who Builds Big? Retrieved August 11, 2009, from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/buildingbig/profile/interview/index.html
- Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (2001, August 10). Your Career in the Electrical, Electronics, and Computer Engineering Fields. Retrieved September 18, 2009, from http://www.ieeeusa.org/careers/yourcareer.html
- CET. (2012). Electrical Engineering. ThinkTVPBS. STEM Career Lab. Retrieved March 19, 2014, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hqlN1L4BG6I
We'd like to acknowledge the additional support of: