Electrical and Electronic Engineering


Quick Facts: Electrical and Electronics Engineers
2017 Median Pay $97,970 per year 
$47.10 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Bachelor's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2016 324,600
Job Outlook, 2016-26 7% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 21,300

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Electrical and Electronic Engineering Career, Salary and Education Information

What Electrical and Electronics Engineers Do

Electrical engineers design, develop, test, and supervise the manufacturing of electrical equipment, such as electric motors, radar and navigation systems, communications systems, or power generation equipment. Electrical engineers also design the electrical systems of automobiles and aircraft.

Electronics engineers design and develop electronic equipment, including broadcast and communications systems, such as portable music players and Global Positioning System (GPS) devices. Many also work in areas closely related to computer hardware.

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Electrical & Electronics engineering

Duties of electrical engineers

Electrical engineers typically do the following:

  • Design new ways to use electrical power to develop or improve products

  • Perform detailed calculations to develop manufacturing, construction, and installation standards and specifications

  • Direct the manufacture, installation, and testing of electrical equipment to ensure that products meet specifications and codes

  • Investigate complaints from customers or the public, evaluate problems, and recommend solutions

  • Work with project managers on production efforts to ensure that projects are completed satisfactorily, on time, and within budget

Electronics engineers typically do the following:

  • Design electronic components, software, products, or systems for commercial, industrial, medical, military, or scientific applications

  • Analyze customer needs and determine the requirements, capacity, and cost for developing an electrical system plan

  • Develop maintenance and testing procedures for electronic components and equipment

  • Evaluate systems and recommend design modifications or equipment repair

  • Inspect electronic equipment, instruments, and systems to make sure they meet safety standards and applicable regulations

  • Plan and develop applications and modifications for electronic properties used in parts and systems in order to improve technical performance

Electronics engineers who work for the federal government research, develop, and evaluate electronic devices used in a variety of areas, such as aviation, computing, transportation, and manufacturing. They work on federal electronic devices and systems, including satellites, flight systems, radar and sonar systems, and communications systems.

The work of electrical engineers and electronics engineers is often similar. Both use engineering and design software and equipment to do engineering tasks. Both types of engineers also must work with other engineers to discuss existing products and possibilities for engineering projects.

Engineers whose work is related exclusively to computer hardware are considered computer hardware engineers.


Work Environment for Electrical and Electronic Engineers

Electrical engineers held about 188,300 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of electrical engineers were as follows:

Engineering services: 19%

Electric power generation, transmission and distribution: 10%

Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences: 8%

Semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing: 6%

Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing: 6%

Electronics engineers, except computer held about 136,300 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of electronics engineers, except computer were as follows:

Telecommunications: 18%

Federal government, excluding postal service: 13%

Semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing: 12%

Engineering services: 9%

Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing: 7%

Electrical and electronics engineers generally work indoors in offices. However, they may visit sites to observe a problem or a piece of complex equipment.

Work Schedules

Most electrical and electronics engineers work full time.


How to Become an Electrical or Electronic Engineer

Electrical and electronics engineers must have a bachelor’s degree. Employers also value practical experience, such as internships or participation in cooperative engineering programs, in which students earn academic credit for structured work experience.

Education

High school students interested in studying electrical or electronics engineering benefit from taking courses in physics and math, including algebra, trigonometry, and calculus. Courses in drafting are also helpful, because electrical and electronics engineers often are required to prepare technical drawings.

In order to enter the occupation, prospective electrical and electronics engineers need a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, electronics engineering, electrical engineering technology, or a related engineering field. Programs include classroom, laboratory, and field studies. Courses include digital systems design, differential equations, and electrical circuit theory. Programs in electrical engineering, electronics engineering, or electrical engineering technology should be accredited by ABET.

Some colleges and universities offer cooperative programs in which students gain practical experience while completing their education. Cooperative programs combine classroom study with practical work. Internships provide similar experience and are growing in number.

At some universities, students can enroll in a 5-year program that leads to both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree. A graduate degree allows an engineer to work as an instructor at some universities, or in research and development.

Important Qualities

Concentration. Electrical and electronics engineers design and develop complex electrical systems and electronic components and products. They must keep track of multiple design elements and technical characteristics when performing these tasks.

Initiative. Electrical and electronics engineers must apply their knowledge to new tasks in every project they undertake. In addition, they must engage in continuing education to keep up with changes in technology.

Interpersonal skills. Electrical and electronics engineers must work with others during the manufacturing process to ensure that their plans are implemented correctly. This collaboration includes monitoring technicians and devising remedies to problems as they arise.

Math skills. Electrical and electronics engineers must use the principles of calculus and other advanced math in order to analyze, design, and troubleshoot equipment.

Speaking skills. Electrical and electronics engineers work closely with other engineers and technicians. They must be able to explain their designs and reasoning clearly and to relay instructions during product development and production. They also may need to explain complex issues to customers who have little or no technical expertise.

Writing skills. Electrical and electronics engineers develop technical publications related to equipment they develop, including maintenance manuals, operation manuals, parts lists, product proposals, and design methods documents.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Licensure is not required for entry-level positions as electrical and electronics engineers. A Professional Engineering (PE) license, which allows for higher levels of leadership and independence, can be acquired later in one’s career. Licensed engineers are called professional engineers (PEs). A PE can oversee the work of other engineers, sign off on projects, and provide services directly to the public. State licensure generally requires

  • A degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program

  • A passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam

  • Relevant work experience, typically at least 4 years

  • A passing score on the Professional Engineering (PE) exam

The initial FE exam can be taken after earning a bachelor’s degree. Engineers who pass this exam commonly are called engineers in training (EITs) or engineer interns (EIs). After meeting work experience requirements, EITs and EIs can take the second exam, called the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE).

Each state issues its own licenses. Most states recognize licensure from other states, as long as the licensing state’s requirements meet or exceed their own licensure requirements. Several states require continuing education for engineers to keep their licenses.

Other Experience

During high school, students can attend engineering summer camps to see what these and other engineers do. Attending these camps can help students plan their coursework for the remainder of their time in high school. The Engineering Education Service Center has a directory of engineering summer camps. 

Advancement

Electrical and electronic engineers may advance to supervisory positions in which they lead a team of engineers and technicians. Some may move to management positions, working as engineering or program managers. Preparation for managerial positions usually requires working under the guidance of a more experienced engineer. For more information, see the profile on architectural and engineering managers.

For sales work, an engineering background enables engineers to discuss a product's technical aspects and assist in product planning and use. For more information, see the profile on sales engineers.


Electrical and Electronic Engineering Salaries

The median annual wage for electrical engineers was $95,060 in May 2017. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $60,250, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $150,340.

The median annual wage for electronics engineers, except computer was $102,180 in May 2017. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $64,030, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $160,360.

 

In May 2017, the median annual wages for electrical engineers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences: $110,150

Semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing: $99,120

Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing: $96,930

Electric power generation, transmission and distribution: $94,620

Engineering services: $92,380

In May 2017, the median annual wages for electronics engineers, except computer in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing: $110,650

Federal government, excluding postal service: $110,200

Semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing: $105,280

Engineering services: $99,290

Telecommunications: $93,570

Most electrical and electronics engineers work full time.


Job Outlook for electrical and electronic engineering

Overall employment of electrical and electronics engineers is projected to grow 7 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations. The change in employment is expected to be tempered by slow growth or decline in most manufacturing industries in which electrical and electronics engineers are employed.

Job growth for electrical and electronics engineers is projected to occur largely in engineering services firms, as more companies are expected to tap the expertise of engineers in this industry for projects involving electronic devices and systems. These engineers also will remain in demand to develop sophisticated consumer electronics.

The rapid pace of technological innovation will likely drive demand for electrical and electronics engineers in research and development, an area in which engineering expertise will be needed to design distribution systems related to new technologies. These engineers will play key roles in new developments with solar arrays, semiconductors, and communications technologies. The need to upgrade the nation’s power grids will also create demand for electrical engineering services. Additionally, these engineers may play a role in assisting with the automation of various production processes.

Employment projections data for electrical and electronics engineers, 2016-26

Employment, 2016: 324,600

Projected Employment, 2026: 345,800

Change, 2016-2026: +7%, +21,300


Careers Related

Aerospace Engineers

Aerospace engineers design primarily aircraft, spacecraft, satellites, and missiles. In addition, they create and test prototypes to make sure that they function according to design.

Architectural and Engineering Managers

Architectural and engineering managers plan, direct, and coordinate activities in architectural and engineering companies.

Biomedical Engineers

Biomedical engineers combine engineering principles with medical sciences to design and create equipment, devices, computer systems, and software used in healthcare.

Computer Hardware Engineers

Computer hardware engineers research, design, develop, and test computer systems and components such as processors, circuit boards, memory devices, networks, and routers.

Electrical and Electronics Engineering Technicians

Electrical and electronics engineering technicians help engineers design and develop computers, communications equipment, medical monitoring devices, navigational equipment, and other electrical and electronic equipment. They often work in product evaluation and testing, and use measuring and diagnostic devices to adjust, test, and repair equipment. They are also involved in the manufacture and deployment of equipment for automation.

Electrical and Electronics Installers and Repairers

Electrical and electronics installers and repairers install or repair a variety of electrical equipment in telecommunications, transportation, utilities, and other industries.

Electricians

Electricians install, maintain, and repair electrical power, communications, lighting, and control systems in homes, businesses, and factories.

Electro-mechanical Technicians

Electro-mechanical technicians combine knowledge of mechanical technology with knowledge of electrical and electronic circuits. They operate, test, and maintain unmanned, automated, robotic, or electromechanical equipment.

Network and Computer Systems Administrators

Computer networks are critical parts of almost every organization. Network and computer systems administrators are responsible for the day-to-day operation of these networks.

Sales Engineers

Sales engineers sell complex scientific and technological products or services to businesses. They must have extensive knowledge of the products’ parts and functions and must understand the scientific processes that make these products work.

OccupationENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION2017 MEDIAN PAY
Aerospace EngineersBachelor's degree$113,030
Architectural and Engineering ManagersBachelor's degree$137,720
Biomedical EngineersBachelor's degree$88,040
Computer Hardware EngineersBachelor's degree$115,120
Electrical and Electronics Engineering TechniciansAssociate's degree$63,660
Electrical and Electronics Installers and Repairers$57,210
ElectriciansHigh school diploma or equivalent$54,110
Network and Computer Systems AdministratorsBachelor's degree$81,100
Sales EngineersBachelor's degree$98,720
Electro-mechanical TechniciansAssociate's degree$56,740

Citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Electrical and Electronics Engineers,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/electrical-and-electronics-engineers.htm