Electrical and Electronics Engineers

Career, Salary and Education Information

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What Electrical and Electronics Engineers Do[About this section] [To Top]

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, such as broadcast and communications systems, from portable music players to global positioning systems (GPSs). Many also work in areas closely related to computer hardware.

Duties of Electrical and Electronics 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 that 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 Electronics Engineers[About this section] [To Top]

Electrical and electronics engineers held about 315,900 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most electrical engineers in 2014 were as follows:

Engineering services 22%
Electric power generation, transmission and distribution 10
Semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing 7
Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing 7
Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 6

The industries that employed the most electronics engineers in 2014 were as follows:

Telecommunications 18%
Federal government, excluding postal service 13
Engineering services 11
Semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing 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.

Electrical and Electronics Engineer Work Schedules

Most electrical and electronics engineers work full time.

How to Become a Electrical or Electronics Engineer[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Electrical and Electronics Engineers near you!

Electrical and electronics engineers must have a bachelor’s degree. Employers also value practical experience, so participation in cooperative engineering programs, in which students earn academic credit for structured work experience. Having a Professional Engineer (PE) license may improve an engineer’s chances of finding employment.

Electrical and Electronics Engineer Education

High school students interested in studying electrical or electronics engineering benefit from taking courses in physics and mathematics, 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, or electrical engineering technology. 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 for Electrical and Electronics Engineers

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

Initiative. Electrical and electronics engineers must be able to 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 be able to 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 be able to 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
  • A passing score on the Professional Engineering (PE) exam

The initial Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam can be taken right after graduation from a college or university. Engineers who pass this exam commonly are called engineers in training (EITs) or engineer interns (EIs). After getting work experience, EITs can take the second exam, called the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam.

Several states require engineers to take continuing education courses to keep their license. Most states recognize licensure from other states if the licensing state’s requirements meet or exceed their own licensure requirements.

Advancement for Electrical and Electronics Engineers

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 Electronics Engineer Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

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Entry Level Experienced

The median annual wage for electrical engineers was $91,410 in May 2014. 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 $59,140, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $143,200.

The median annual wage for electronics engineers, except computer was $95,790 in May 2014. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $61,780, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $147,570.

In May 2014, the median annual wages for electrical engineers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing $105,200
Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 104,820
Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing 92,530
Engineering services 89,960
Electric power generation, transmission and distribution 88,790

In May 2014, the median annual wages for electronics engineers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Federal government, excluding postal service $104,830
Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing 102,560
Semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing 100,070
Engineering services 95,250
Telecommunications 87,200

Most electrical and electronics engineers work full time.

Job Outlook for Electrical and Electronics Engineers[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of electrical and electronics engineers is projected to show little or no change from 2014 to 2024. Change in employment is expected to be tempered by slow growth or decline in most manufacturing sectors in which electrical and electronics engineers are employed.

Job growth for electrical and electronics engineers will occur largely in engineering services firms, because more companies are expected to cut costs by contracting their engineering services rather than directly employing engineers. These engineers also will be in demand to develop sophisticated consumer electronics.

The rapid pace of technological innovation and development will likely drive demand for electrical and electronics engineers in research and development, an area in which engineering expertise will be needed to develop distribution systems related to new technologies. These engineers will play key roles in new developments having to do with solar arrays, semiconductors, and communications technologies.

Employment projections data for Electrical and Electronics Engineers, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Electrical and electronics engineers 315,900 315,700 0 -100
  Electrical engineers 178,400 180,200 1 1,800
  Electronics engineers, except computer 137,400 135,500 -1 -1,900


*Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Used by permission.

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