Earning an electrical engineering degree opens the door to many exciting and lucrative careers in the engineering field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that electrical and electronics engineers made a median annual salary of $97,970 in 2017, which is much higher than the median salary in the U.S. Many careers in the pay range will require employees to earn a master's or doctoral degree; however, earning an electrical engineering bachelor's degree means that aspiring professionals can spend less time and money on school and start making a large salary quicker. In fact, engineering managers -- another possible career for individuals who hold a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering -- made the BLS's list of highest paying occupations in April 2018.
Electrical engineers work in many industries on a variety of project types, including developing telecommunication systems and designing handheld devices. The field offers variety, autonomy, and the chance to help people and organizations solve practical problems.
Should I Get a Bachelor's in Electrical Engineering?
If you want to work as an electrical engineer, you need to earn at least a bachelor's degree. Online bachelor's programs often appeal to professionals looking to change careers while continuing to work full time or part time. Alternatively, on-campus programs tend to attract recent high school graduates who know they want to work as electrical engineers.
Students in electrical engineering programs gain the skills needed to design and analyze systems or products that use or create electric power. Aspiring electrical engineers learn a combination of fundamental engineering theories and practical skills. Most programs include a heavy mathematics component that teaches learners how to make the detailed calculations used in the field. Students also learn to think critically, communicate well with others, and manage projects. Typical courses include differential equations and electrical circuit theory. Participants also take labs that give them experience working with industry-based design tools and hardware.
Besides gaining the skills necessary to succeed as a professional engineer, earning an electrical engineering degree gives students the opportunity to network with classmates and instructors. Additionally, many schools provide internship and job placement assistance when students near the end of their programs; employers tend to view these practical experiences favorably. Postgraduation, a school's career center may also offer help with resume writing and interview preparation.
What Can I Do With a Bachelor's in Electrical Engineering?
Most electrical engineering graduates become professional electrical or electronics engineers. However, the degree also prepares individuals to work in many other areas of engineering, including aerospace engineering, computer hardware engineering, and biomedical engineering. Some professionals who hold extensive experience can pursue work as engineering managers, taking on a supervisory role to lead a teams of engineers. Generally speaking, individuals who succeed in the engineering field possess good interpersonal, math, and writing skills, in addition to a strong technical background. Employers also seek out engineers who demonstrate initiative.
- Electrical and Electronics Engineers
Electrical and electronics engineers develop, design, and test a variety of electrical equipment and systems, including communications systems, electric motors, GPS devices, and power-generation equipment. Employers require a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering or a related engineering field to work in this position.
Median Annual Salary: $97,970
Projected Growth Rate: 7%
- Aerospace Engineers
Aerospace engineers design and test satellites, aircraft, missiles, and spacecraft. They evaluate designs to ensure products meet safety, environmental, and customer requirements. Entry-level positions require a bachelor's degree in engineering. Aerospace engineers working on projects related to national defense may also need to obtain security clearances. Many aerospace engineers specialize in either aeronautical engineering or astronautical engineering.
Median Annual Salary: $113,030
Projected Growth Rate: 6%
- Architectural and Engineering Managers
Architectural and engineering managers play a supervisory role. They plan and coordinate a variety of activities for their organizations and often supervise other staff members. Most need a bachelor's degree and extensive experience working as an engineer or architect.
Median Annual Salary: $137,720
Projected Growth Rate: 6%
How to Choose a Bachelor's Program in Electrical Engineering
Before choosing where to pursue your electrical engineering degree, you should consider a variety of programmatic factors. Things to think about include program length, cost, accreditation status, and location. You also need to consider the curriculum, such as available courses and specializations, and if the program facilitates internships or cooperative work experiences.
Full-time students can typically complete an electrical engineering degree in four years. If you plan to study part time, you can expect an extended graduation timeline. A variety of other criteria can impact program length, including whether the school offers classes year-round or a fast-track option. Additionally, many students count program cost as one of their top concerns. The type of school you choose can dramatically impact the overall cost of your degree, with community colleges typically representing the most affordable option and private or out-of-state universities ranking as the most expensive. Choosing a school where you qualify to pay in-state or resident tuition can save you a great deal of money.
You also need to decide if you want to complete your degree through an online or on-campus program. Both offer potential benefits, depending on your priorities. If you choose an on-campus program, consider the convenience, cost of living, and employment opportunities associated with the school's location.
Although electrical engineering programs cover fundamental theories and practical skills related to the field, different programs offer different specialties. Coursework may also vary -- particularly electives. If you want to gain practical experience while in school, make sure your program includes a robust internship or professional experience component.
Programmatic Accreditation for Bachelor's Programs in Electrical Engineering
Attending a regionally or nationally accredited school means that your college or university meets minimum educational standards at the institutional level. Students who fail to attend an accredited school often fail to qualify for certain types of financial aid and face difficulties transferring their credits to other institutions. When choosing an electrical engineering program, you also need to consider programmatic accreditation -- a process that accredits specific academic programs or departments within a college or university.
Your electrical engineering program needs to hold programmatic accreditation from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). By choosing an ABET-accredited electrical engineering program, you know that the program meets industry standards agreed on by the electrical engineering field. If you do not attend an ABET-accredited school, you might not learn the practical skills necessary to work as an electrical engineer. You may also encounter difficulties finding a job or qualifying for state licensure as a professional electrical engineer.
Bachelor's in Electrical Engineering Program Admissions
The process of applying to bachelor's in electrical engineering programs varies slightly by school, although many similarities exist. For example, most electrical engineering bachelor's degree programs require applicants to hold a minimum GPA. Admissions departments generally ask applicants to submit transcripts, letters of recommendation, test scores, and an application fee. Some programs may also ask for a personal essay or statement of interest, and competitive programs tend to use a more rigorous application process. Aspiring undergrads typically apply to at least five programs. Generally speaking, it makes sense to choose a mix of target schools and safe schools. If you gain admittance to multiple schools, create a list of pros and cons for each program to help ease your decision.
- Minimum GPA: Many electrical engineering bachelor's programs require prospective students to hold a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0. However, students with lower grades can sometimes offset this GPA requirement if they earned exemplary test scores or hold ample experience.
- Application: Applications typically ask for your academic and demographic information. If you plan to apply to several schools, you can use the The Common Application to help expedite the process.
- Transcripts: Colleges and universities require applicants to submit transcripts from previously attended colleges and/or high schools. Many schools charge a nominal fee to prepare and forward these documents.
- Letters of Recommendation: Most schools ask applicants to submit multiple letters of recommendation. Try and find letter writers who can speak to your academic strengths, such as former or current teachers, and make sure to give recommenders ample time to finish and submit these letters.
- Test Scores: Many schools require applicants coming straight from high school to submit either SAT or ACT scores. However, schools do not typically list a required minimum score, instead considering test scores in combination with other admissions materials.
- Application Fee: Typical application fees for bachelor's in electrical engineering programs range from $40-$50, although some charge as much as $100. Students with financial need can sometimes request an application fee waiver.
What Else Can I Expect From a Bachelor's Program in Electrical Engineering?
Electrical engineering programs provide a broad overview of the theory and practical applications in the field. However, the specifics of what to expect from a bachelor's in electrical engineering program varies by school. Depending on the institution, the curriculum can differ substantially.
|Electronics||Students go over the fundamental theories and applications of electronics engineering, learning how to use electrical components and design electronic devices. Learners take courses related to physics, mathematics, project management, and chemistry. Specific topics covered include electromagnetics, network analysis, and control systems.||Electronics engineer|
|Power Systems||A power systems concentration covers topics like programmable logic controllers, battery design, instrumentation and data acquisition, and electric power generation and transmission. Students gain an in-depth understanding of how different types of power systems work, including how to design, analyze, and repair these systems.||Power systems engineer, energy engineer|
|Computer Engineering||Learners pursuing a computer engineering concentration may take courses related to embedded system design, advanced processor systems, and computer programming in C. The curriculum combines electrical engineering with computer science, preparing students to design hardware and software systems.||Computer engineer|
|Environmental Applications||Designed for electrical engineering majors with a passion for the environment, this concentration offers courses like introduction to environmental engineering, solid and hazardous waste engineering, and digital signal processing. Topics explored include water treatment, environmental remote sensing, and industrial controls for energy generation.||Environmental engineer|
|Photonics||This concentration features classes in optical sensing and imaging, laser systems and applications, and real-time signal processing. Industries using photonic applications include defense, communications, and energy generation.||Photonics engineer|
Courses in a Bachelor's in Electrical Engineering Program
Bachelor's in electrical engineering programs primarily focus on technical, engineering-related courses, with substantial mathematics requirements. Most programs also include several laboratory-based classes and feature at least one professional work experience. Specific courses vary depending on the school, but many programs feature similar required classes, such as some of the ones listed below.
- Introduction to Electrical Engineering
Students receive an introduction to the major theories and practices related to electrical engineering. They learn problem-solving techniques, methods of analysis and design, and how to analyze circuits. This course may also require students to engage in teamwork and collaboration on a semester-long design project. Participants also learn about professional engineering ethics.
- Introduction to Engineering Design
Participants learn the basics of the engineering design processes in this teamwork-oriented course. The class covers issues like writing design specifications, assessing customer needs and system design principles, and documenting requirements. Students typically spend substantial time in lab working on a design project based on a practical engineering problem.
- Differential and Integral Calculus
In this mathematics course, students learn the theories and applications of differential and integral calculus functions. Topics explored include differentiation, integration, the fundamental theorem of calculus, and transcendental functions.
- Engineering Communication
This course includes a heavy writing component and teaches engineering majors advanced communication skills. Students focus on online communication, collaboration in the writing process, oral reports, and using graphics in technical documents.
- Senior Design Project
Senior electrical engineering majors at many schools complete an experimental design project related to actual problems in the field. They may also explore research ethics and issues of safety and regulation. Students prepare an engineering report and give a presentation on their findings. The course includes a heavy laboratory component.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor's in Electrical Engineering?
Numerous factors affect program length, but most students need four years of full-time study to complete an electrical engineering degree. Bachelor's programs in electrical engineering typically require participants to complete around 120 semester credits. However, many programs do give students the option to take fewer credits per term if they need to work or hold other obligations. Of course, if you enroll part time or take time off, it will take longer to finish your electrical engineering program and your overall tuition-related expenses will likely be higher. Additionally, some schools offer a fast-track option for students looking to finish their degrees in less than four years. Finally, if you also plan on earning a master's in electrical engineering, you can look for schools that offer combined programs where students earn their bachelor's and master's in engineering in five years.
How Much Is a Bachelor's in Electrical Engineering?
As the cost of higher education continues to rise each year, many students encounter problems paying for their degrees. The total cost associated with earning an electrical engineering degree varies by program. Factors that can affect the cost of a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering include program length, the type of school, and whether a student attends on a part-time or full-time basis. Keep in mind that tuition does not reflect the total cost of your degree; you also need to think about additional expenses related to your education, including student fees, housing costs, and other living expenses.
According to the College Board, the average cost for an in-state undergraduate education at a public four-year school totaled nearly $10,000 for the 2017-18 academic year. Assuming you graduate with your bachelor's in electrical engineering in four years, this cost would likely exceed $40,000. Additionally, this number does not include room and board, which is estimated at an additional $10,800 a year. Students who attend out-of-state public schools or private schools typically pay substantially more.
Resources for Electrical Engineering Students
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers offers this collection of interactive online courses and learning materials. Course topics cover several technologies, including cyber security, photonics and electro-optics, robotics and control systems, and signal processing and analysis.
This website includes a variety of materials relevant to engineering education, including books, DVDs, presentations, and material kits. Students can also find an engineering scholarship directory, a list of engineering schools, and an engineering summer camp directory.
This webpage -- hosted by Electrical Engineering Schools -- offers tips to help engineering students succeed. Individuals can also find links to articles that detail becoming an electrical engineer and what graduates can do with their electrical engineering degrees.
This popular blog -- written by a professional engineer with years of experience -- discusses engineering news and research, engineering higher education, and the economic impact of engineering.
EEP includes a variety of resources, including technical articles, video trainings, and a newsletter.
Professional Organizations in Electrical Engineering
Joining an electrical engineering professional group offers numerous benefits to students, recent graduates, and seasoned professionals. You can gain access to networking opportunities, discounts on conferences and professional development courses, and subscriptions to industry publications. Many professional organizations also give students substantial membership discounts.
The largest global professional group dedicated to advancing technology, IEEE advocates for engineering, technology information, and computing professions. The organization offers members access to conferences, professional development tools, publications, and networking opportunities.
This multidisciplinary organization works with engineers from many fields. Membership benefits include professional development tools and access to a large library. Students and recent graduates can join IET Advantage -- a special, discounted membership program.
EPRI works on environmental and energy projects in the U.S. The group engages in research and development related to electric power, exploring ways to make electric power more affordable, safe, reliable, and environmentally sustainable. Members receive access to EPRI publications, events, and a career center.
The world's largest organization devoted to computing, ACM membership benefits include access to a network of more than 100,000 colleagues, a career center, and the chance to join one of ACM's special interest groups. Members can also peruse ACM's digital library and obtain a subscription to its journal and newsletter.
ASEE advances educational standards for all areas of engineering. ASEE members include engineering students, teachers, and industry professionals. Member benefits include discounted conference fees, subscriptions to publications, and access to local workshops and professional interest groups.