Students working towards electrical engineering degrees gain the hands-on experience and expansive skill set needed to design and operate electrical systems, such as circuitry, power station generators, flight systems, and computers.
Electrical engineering graduates work in a variety of environments, including manufacturing facilities, government agencies, and engineering firms. The following guide discusses the career outlook for electrical engineering and offers resources that can bolster students' professional opportunities.
Why Pursue a Career in Electrical Engineering?
Electrical engineering degrees incorporate rigorous coursework in STEM, including mechanics, power systems, circuitry, physics, and programmable logic. With the rise of technology, many different employers need professionals proficient in designing and maintaining electrical systems and equipment. Electrical engineers can provide critical skills in diverse areas, including medical and military environments.
Many electrical engineering jobs are projected to grow in the coming years, and a lot of these positions offer high salaries.
Regardless of setting, electrical engineers should be adept at technical communication, design, research methods, and project management. They hone these skills in an academic environment. Electrical engineers are organized, driven, and typically possess a natural inclination towards math and science.
Electrical Engineering Career Outlook
The electrical engineering field is not growing as rapidly as some other STEM areas, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) still projects that more than 10,000 new electrical and electronics engineer positions will be created between 2019 and 2029. This translates to 3% growth, which is roughly in line with the national average for all occupations.
Entry-level electrical engineering careers available with an associate degree provide median wages of $45,000-$72,0000 per year. However, experienced and well-educated electrical engineers tend to earn over $100,000 annually. A worker's education and experience have a significant impact on their potential earnings.
Although numbers don't indicate a rapidly growing field, as technologies advance and become even more essential, the need for effective electrical engineers should continue.
|Senior Electrical Engineer||N/A||$92,730||$98,700||$107,450|
Skills Gained With a Electrical Engineering Degree
rospective electrical engineers enroll in academic programs to develop core competencies and learn about the opportunities the industry offers skilled professionals. Engineering curricula center on math and science, with students taking required classes in calculus, differential equations, and physics.
Students apply this knowledge to analyze electrical circuits, explore engineering designs, and write code using languages like Python and C++. College programs also train candidates in transferable soft skills, such as those related to communication, teamwork, and critical thinking. After graduation, electrical engineers can gain specialized skills by taking continuing education courses and earning professional certificates.
- Technical Communication
Because electrical engineers often work within multidisciplinary teams, they must be able to translate complex theories and methods to nontechnical audiences. To this end, students develop the ability to effectively communicate in oral and multimedia forms. They also learn to write cogently with regard to industry standards, producing research reports, technical documents, and academic papers.
- Project Management
A standard skill across multiple disciplines, project management is particularly crucial for senior engineers, design engineers, and production managers. College programs train students to work through the entire project cycle. They conceptualize project criteria, conduct cost-benefit analyses, and develop work breakdown structures. Candidates define project scope with regards to stakeholder expectations. Finally, students learn to transfer deliverables to consumers and engage in post-project review.
- Research Methodologies
Research and development represent the bulk of an electrical engineer's job. Students discuss theoretical and applied research methods, including descriptive, interpretive, and correlational techniques. They also learn how to gather, evaluate, and cite appropriate literature when writing research reports and scholarly papers. They apply research skills to determine an experiment's feasibility and develop an implementation plan.
- Critical Analysis
Electrical engineering students develop critical analysis skills by delving into vector mechanics and applying linear algebraic models. These skills enable candidates to make simplifying conjectures and model physical diagrams, techniques that allow them to tackle diverse engineering challenges. Students also learn to use computer software to critically analyze and solve problems.
- Engineering Design
Through required coursework, students learn the fundamental concepts of electrical engineering. These topics include AC/DC circuit analysis, analog filtering, feedback and control systems, channel capacity, and semiconductor devices. They apply these concepts to design system prototypes according to defined specifications. Electrical engineering students also examine safety standards, ethical implications, and environmental concerns relevant to the industry.
Electrical Engineering Career Paths
- Computer Engineering
This concentration synthesizes electrical engineering and computer science concepts, training students to develop and manufacture computer hardware and smart devices. Candidates take classes like digital electronics systems design, advanced computer architecture, and multiprocessor synchronization. They also delve into machine intelligence and cybersecurity. A computer engineering concentration prepares students for careers as network architects, information security analysts, and computer programmers.
- Biomedical Engineering
By pursuing this concentration, students learn to apply electrical engineering principles to transform human-made products and materials. Coursework includes foundations of living systems, instrumentation design, and biotransport processes. Biomedical engineers design new drugs, medical implants, medical equipment, and genetically engineered organisms. In addition to biotechnology, these professionals may work in industries like business, law, and healthcare.
- Engineering Management
A popular concentration for graduate students, engineering management combines technical proficiencies with skills in leadership and project management. Learners complete classes in continuous quality assessment, budgeting and financial management, and marketing communications. They also learn to effectively manage diverse teams and resolve conflicts. This concentration trains students for positions as senior engineers, production managers, and engineering consultants.
Within the context of electrical engineering, communications deal with processing, transmitting, and storing information in systems with finite capacities. Students learn to analyze and transform EKG signals, sound signals, images, and videos. They also examine topics like advanced biometrics, coding and information theory, and engineering optimization techniques. A communications concentration prepares candidates to work in the telecommunications and robotics industries.
- Energy Resources
This relatively new concentration encompasses the production and distribution of energy systems. Students take classes like sustainable electric energy conversion, solar thermal power systems, and wind energy engineering. They also learn to develop more efficient control systems that can extract oil and other fossil fuels while limiting damage to the environment.
How to Start Your Career in Electrical Engineering
A postsecondary education is fundamental for entering the vast majority of careers in electrical engineering. An associate degree can open doors to some entry-level work, although most students earn a bachelor's degree prior to joining the workforce.
A bachelor's program, whether completed online or on campus, provides learners with extensive training and hands-on opportunities, acting as a foundation for a career in electrical engineering. Obtaining certifications can also increase the competitiveness of an already strong resume.
Associate Degree in Electrical Engineering
Associate degrees in electrical engineering traditionally take students two years to earn and feature 60 credits. Required classes may cover topics such as general and technical physics, engineering drawings, and electric circuits. Some schools offer expedited degree programs that students can complete in less time.
Graduates can pursue entry-level technician roles in areas such as electrical installation and electronics repair. Professionals with an associate degree may also pursue careers in manufacturing.
While an associate degree offers a practical and relatively inexpensive way to introduce students to careers in electrical engineering, it is common for learners to continue their education by completing a bachelor's.
What Can You Do With an Associate in Electrical Engineering?
- Manufacturing Technician
These professionals operate production equipment and assemble components. Manufacturing technicians rely on their training to effectively follow blueprints, diagrams, and guidelines. They often work closely with clients and design engineers to ensure that product performance remains at the forefront. Basic math skills and the ability to interpret schematics are essential.
- Electrical and Electronics Installers and Repairers
Working in industries like telecommunications and transportation, these electrical engineering professionals work closely with clients to install and repair equipment according to customer needs. Technological proficiency is key, as many of these professionals use software to diagnose and solve problems.
Sources: BLS and PayScale
Bachelor's Degree in Electrical Engineering
Electrical engineering bachelor's programs typically take around four years to complete. The curriculum includes general education requirements covering topics such as the sciences and humanities, along with coursework in engineering fundamentals.
One of the many benefits of bachelor's in electrical engineering programs is the ability to tailor the degree to your specific needs and career ambitions. Electrical engineering electives cover a diverse array of topics, including biometrics and microcomputer design. Internship opportunities and project-based work in lab settings prepare students for engineering careers.
In addition to the comprehensive training provided by an electrical engineering bachelor's degree, many schools provide additional resources to prepare graduates for the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam. This test acts as a first step towards obtaining professional licensure.
What Can You Do With a Bachelor's in Electrical Engineering?
- Electrical and Instrument Engineer
These electrical engineering professionals maintain a wide variety of responsibilities within the manufacturing of electrical equipment. Design, development, and testing can all fall under their purview. A bachelor's degree and professional experience are typically required for this role. Work environments include commercial, medical, and military sectors.
- Junior Software Engineer
Within the context of electrical engineering, these professionals design code and new software. They take on engineering-level testing to evaluate product viability, find defects, and address problems in production. Alongside a team of peers, junior software engineers often consult with design engineers and IT professionals.
- Electrical Engineer
Relied upon to design and implement production for a broad swath of electrical components in many different industries, electrical engineers often work in teams of engineers from differing fields. Skilled in math and science, they are talented problem-solvers who work creatively and collaboratively to address complex design and production issues.
- Controls Engineer
Whether working on space flight or power grids, controls engineers oversee the development and implementation of engineering processes. These engineers must work well in a team setting, and they are typically fluent in a variety of computer programming languages.
- Avionics Engineer
Employed by companies working in the aviation industry, these professionals usually need a bachelor's degree and several years of technical experience in the field. Avionics engineers work with aircraft, troubleshooting electronics such as autopilot, navigation, and onboard entertainment systems. Problem-solving and computer programming skills are necessary for this career.
Master's Degree in Electrical Engineering
Master's degrees in electrical engineering traditionally support students who previously obtained an accredited baccalaureate degree in electrical engineering or a closely similar field. Students with a degree or experience in engineering or other related STEM fields typically take prerequisite electrical engineering courses to prepare for the degree.
Master's programs usually consist of 30-40 credits and take about two years to complete. While two years is the norm, degree-seekers can sometimes complete accelerated online master's programs in as little as a year. Engineering schools also sometimes offer a 4+1 curriculum, allowing learners to complete both their BS and MS in just five years.
Curricula vary, but master's programs typically allow learners to dig deeper into a concentration. This helps students prepare for more advanced careers in electrical engineering and leadership positions, all while increasing earning potential.
What Can You Do With a Master's in Electrical Engineering?
- Electrical Engineering Manager
Often holding an advanced engineering degree, these managers oversee electrical engineering teams. From initial ideas and drafts to project updates and maintenance, these leaders work with their teams to create, troubleshoot, and produce final products in consultation with other engineers and company executives. They also oversee staffing and budgetary issues.
- Senior Electrical Engineer
With responsibilities including design, production, and testing, senior electrical engineers work in an expansive set of industries, including manufacturing and power generation. These engineers often hold an advanced degree in the field. Senior engineers possess the ability to work collaboratively and independently. These experienced professionals also act as mentors, training new employees in their particular field.
Sources: BLS and PayScale
Doctoral Degree in Electrical Engineering
Typically taking 4-6 years to complete, electrical engineering doctoral programs usually require 60-90 credits and provide rigorous and highly specialized training. Graduates can find work in academia, research labs, and the private sector.
Learners often spend the first two years of a program tackling coursework, projects, and preliminary research, preparing for an eventual dissertation.
Following their initial coursework, doctoral candidates spend the majority of their remaining time working on their dissertation. This work is often augmented by publishing scholarly articles and attending academic conferences.
While doctoral programs typically prepare graduates for careers related to conducting research and teaching, securing a terminal degree can offer a wide variety of lucrative career options. Whether a student aspires to file patents or work in upper management, a doctorate can provide them with in-depth training and technical expertise.
What Can You Do With a Doctorate in Electrical Engineering?
- Senior Research Scientist
Senior research scientists in electrical engineering traditionally work in academic or commercial laboratory environments. They may spend their days developing new products for a company or producing groundbreaking works of research. These professionals stay up to date on developments in the field by continuing their education, writing for journals, and attending conferences. Grants and fellowships typically supplement the salaries of those working in academia.
Working within higher education, professors teach students, conduct research, and help learners cultivate the skills necessary for future career and academic opportunities. Professors working in the sciences also tend to publish regularly in peer-reviewed journals, offering both reviews and original research. Professors must have expertise in their field and a passion for teaching.
How to Advance Your Career in Electrical Engineering
Whether obtaining and maintaining certifications and licenses or networking and reading industry journals, continuing to learn is paramount in electrical engineering careers. As scientific knowledge grows, it is vital to keep your skills relevant and stay up to date in this evolving field.
Earning a degree in electrical engineering is critical to having a successful career in the field, but it's only a start. Pursuing continuing education, earning additional certifications, and joining professional organizations all represent additional steps that can help advance your career in electrical engineering. Taking advantage of conferences, alumni associations, and other networking opportunities also help you make connections that can impact career growth.
Certifications and/or Licensure
Graduating with a degree in electrical engineering provides a great start and can lead to a diverse set of career opportunities. Becoming a licensed electrical engineer can provide an additional boost to any engineer's resume. As graduation approaches, learners can sign up to take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Exam, which tests knowledge of topics such as probability, statistics, and circuit analysis.
Upon passing the FE exam and gaining several years of work experience under a licensed professional engineer, individuals can take the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) Exam. The PE test examines general engineering knowledge, electrical and magnetic field theory, and control systems fundamentals. These exams are state-proctored and licensing requirements vary.
To boost their resumes and demonstrate expertise in a specific area, professionals can also pursue voluntary certifications offered by organizations like ETA International and the Association of Energy Engineers.
Myriad options exist to help electrical engineers continue their education. Online courses and certificate programs offer helpful training and are a relatively quick, inexpensive way to shore up a resume. Earning additional degrees and/or certification can also help.
While additional academic work towards a more advanced degree in electrical engineering may seem daunting, it provides the most effective way to augment a CV and increase your earning potential. The challenging coursework and prestige of an advanced degree provide substantial benefits to graduates pursuing careers in electrical engineering.
If the cost and time associated with a full degree seems like too much of a commitment, schools such the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee offer a number of online courses specifically for electrical engineers. Additionally, some professional organizations, such as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, may host online libraries and offer various certificate programs.
After earning an electrical engineering degree, there are many steps that graduates can take to obtain work and advance in their careers. Earning and maintaining licenses and certifications can be indispensable, and continuing education opportunities can add important skills to graduates' resumes.
Even though engineering work sometimes appears to outsiders as a relatively individual pursuit, any industry thrives through the collaborative work of many people. Taking advantage of networking opportunities can provide a lot of value. By attending conferences and trade shows and completing internships, you can make connections with others in the field to enhance your job prospects.
Active participation in professional organizations provides yet another way for students and graduates to keep their skills sharp and connect with other engineering professionals.
How to Switch Your Career to Electrical Engineering
Switching from a career in a different field to a new electrical engineering position can be difficult. That said, individuals with a background in math and/or science typically possess the intellectual tools and experience needed to make the transition. However, as electrical engineering is a fairly specific discipline within the STEM world, additional formal education is typically mandatory.
Even though institutions tailor most electrical engineering MS and Ph.D. programs to students with an electrical engineering background, prospective learners with a foundational academic background in math and science are often admitted into these advanced degree programs. These learners typically complete prerequisite electrical engineering coursework prior to beginning their core studies.
Where Can You Work as a Electrical Engineering Professional?
- Architectural, Engineering, and Related Services
This industry consists of engineering firms that provide design and development services to individual clients and corporations. Electrical engineers may also work in drafting organizations, creating detailed layouts based on specifications.
Average Salary: $102,980
- Electric Power Generation, Transmission, and Distribution
Electrical engineers who focus on the power-generation side of this industry often work to create renewable energy resources. When working in distribution and transmission, engineers improve the efficiency of transformers, electric lines, and smart-grid technologies.
Average Salary: $101,490
- Navigational, Measuring, Electromedical, and Control Instruments Manufacturing
In this industry, electrical engineers design and develop aeronautical instruments, control mechanisms, and navigation and guidance systems. With a concentration in biomedical engineering, professionals can also create electromedical devices and laboratory analytical instruments.
Average Salary: $109,090
- Scientific Research and Development Services
Research engineers and dedicated scientists conduct experiments and use their findings to help solve pertinent challenges in manufacturing, healthcare, and energy distribution. Biotechnology is one of the fastest-growing fields for researchers, who work to develop life-saving medicine and efficient industrial processes.
Average Salary: $115,210
- Semiconductor and Other Electronic Component Manufacturing
Companies in this industry produce computer chips and other components used in electronic devices. To access these positions, electrical engineers often gain specialized skills in computer programming and software development.
Average Salary: $114,220
LocationsAccording to the BLS, the state of California is home to the most electrical engineers in the nation. Other states with large numbers include Texas, Michigan, and New York. Electrical engineers working in the District of Columbia, New Jersey, New Mexico, and California make the highest median salaries, earning more than $117,000 annually.
Resources for Electrical Engineering Majors
Many professional organizations support students and well-established electrical engineering professionals. From small, specialized organizations to international groups with memberships exceeding 100,000 people, many options can be found to suit an individual's needs.
- Professional Organizations
Association for Computing Machinery: Boasting over 100,000 members, ACM is the world's largest computing society. The association connects students, practitioners, and researchers through local chapters and special-interest groups that center on areas such as computer architecture and software engineering. ACM provides ample resources for students, including a digital library, fellowship opportunities, and a career center.
Audio Engineering Society: AES was founded in 1948 and operates about 100 chapters all over the world. Student members benefit from discounts on engineering software and hardware. Engineers and researchers collaborate through technical committees and interest groups. In addition to a job board, AES maintains a vast e-library of audio engineering research documents.
Electric Power Research Institute: As a nonprofit organization, EPRI conducts public-interest environmental and energy research on electricity generation and distribution. The institute provides professional development resources, including research publications, job listings, and on-site workshops. Members can also access continuing education courses in areas like repair technology and equipment qualifications for nuclear power plants.
The Institution of Engineering and Technology: Established in 1871, the IET supports more than 168,000 members in 150 countries. The institution offers professional registration in areas such as chartered engineering, engineering technology, and chartered management. Engineers and technology professionals engage in global events and develop specialized skills through online courses. The IET delivers mentorship programs, awards and scholarships, and dedicated career guidance.
SPIE: Operating as the international society for optics and photonics, SPIE serves over 250,000 constituents by advancing light-based technologies through research and development initiatives. The society facilitates conferences in areas such as medical imaging, advanced lithography, and defense and commercial sensing. Members can access post-degree fellowships, job listings, and a professional development webinar series. SPIE operates a digital library that contains conference presentations, e-books, and research journals.
- Open Courseware
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Courses - Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT's open courseware platform offers free, in-depth education. Electrical engineering classes explore engineering principles through the lens of mathematics, computation, and physical sciences. Hundreds of courses, both current and archived, can be accessed online through MIT's platform.
Electrical and Computer Engineering Open Courseware - Cornell University: Students, faculty, and the general public can access material used in Cornell University's School of Electrical and Computer Engineering free of charge to. Self-paced coursework draws from classes previously taught at the university. The university structures offerings by level of difficulty, covering topics such as nanoengineering and the mathematics of signal and system analysis.
Electrical and Computer Engineering Open Courseware - Utah State University: Utah State University provides a collection of academic material used in formal campus courses. With the objective of offering anyone the opportunity to access high-quality learning tools, courses cover topics such as communication systems, error control coding, and the science of sound.
Stanford Engineering Everywhere - Stanford University: Expanding its academic reach through open courseware and online modules, Stanford offers a popular three-course introduction to computer science, as well as other advanced courses in electrical engineering and artificial intelligence.
Electrical Engineering: With a long history of publishing original research in the electrical engineering field, this journal focuses on a broad spectrum of topics, including electric power systems, power system planning, and renewable power generation. In addition to research articles, the journal publishes reviews of scholarly work.
IEEE Access: This multidisciplinary, open-access journal presents original research and development across IEEE's diverse fields of interest. Recently featured articles cover topics such as artificial intelligence and cybersecurity, smartphone-based biometrics, and deep-learning applications in medical image analysis.
EE Times: Published in the United States since 1972, EE Times takes a broad view of the electrical engineering field and includes tech-related current events, scientific trends, and investigative journalism articles. EE Times offers a weekly podcast and acts as a source for electrical engineering news.
Electronic Design: The largest print magazine for the electronic design industry, this publication was started in 1952. Editors focus on innovations in the field, news, and product reviews. In addition to the magazine's popular sections authored by experts in the field, editors strive to keep engineers current on industry trends.
New Electronics: This biweekly British magazine dedicates itself to electronic engineering design. With a circulation of more than 16,000 issues — coupled with active online content — New Electronics provides engineers with current industry information, news and technology articles, product information and reviews, and interviews with professionals working in the field.
Journal of Electrical Engineering: This free, open-source journal offers permanent and unrestricted online access to scholarly research. With no subscription fee, this forward-looking journal seeks to boost author visibility, increase citation rates, and allow authors to retain copyright to their own published material.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Is electrical engineering a good career?
Yes. A lucrative career, electrical engineering offers high wages; electrical and electronics engineers make a median annual salary of more than $100,000. Electricity and electronics are critical elements in the technologies that help maintain our daily lives, making this career highly valuable.
- Are electrical engineering majors in demand?
Electrical engineers are in steady demand, and employment in the field is projected to grow in the coming years. With a wide spectrum of career tracks available, electrical engineering skills translate to many business environments.
- What kind of jobs can you get with an electrical engineering degree?
Electrical engineering degrees build foundational, practical, and theoretical skills that prove valuable in myriad career settings. Education and experience play a large role in determining what kind of jobs electrical engineering graduates can secure. Graduates with an associate degree can find work in a variety of entry-level positions, while individuals with more advanced training may quickly transition into management or project design.
- Which field of electrical engineering pays the most?
High-paying electrical engineering positions include computer hardware engineer, artificial intelligence engineer, and electrical circuit engineer. A worker's salary tends to increase as they gain experience and improve their academic credentials.