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.
Electrical engineers typically do the following:
Electronics engineers typically do the following:
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.
Electrical engineers hold about 188,300 jobs. The largest employers of electrical engineers arere as follows:
|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 hold about 136,300 jobs. The largest employers of electronics engineers, except computer are as follows:
|Federal government, excluding postal service||13|
|Semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing||12|
|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.
Most electrical and electronics engineers work full time.
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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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
The median annual wage for electrical engineers is $94,210. 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 $59,720, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $149,040.
The median annual wage for electronics engineers, except computer is $99,210. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $63,760, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $155,330.
The median annual wages for electrical engineers in the top industries in which they work are as follows:
|Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences||$113,100|
|Semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing||100,450|
|Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing||96,130|
|Electric power generation, transmission and distribution||92,570|
The median annual wages for electronics engineers, except computer in the top industries in which they work are as follows:
|Federal government, excluding postal service||$107,510|
|Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing||105,880|
|Semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing||99,760|
Most electrical and electronics engineers work full time.
Overall employment of electrical and electronics engineers is projected to grow 7 percent over the next ten years, 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.
|Occupational Title||Employment, 2016||Projected Employment, 2026||Change, 2016-26|
|Electrical and electronics engineers||324,600||345,800||7||21,200|
|Electronics engineers, except computer||136,300||141,300||4||5,100|