If you are curious about electrical engineering, multiple opportunities await you should you consider pursuing this career path. A report by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) state that electrical engineers typically earn around USD 96,640 per year or a median hourly salary of USD 46.46. The wage figures are over three times higher than the median wage for all occupation types. If you are drawn towards science and mathematics, this may be among the best course option for you.
Taking a Bachelor in Electrical Engineering
If you are resolved to be an electrical engineer, the first step to reach that goal is to apply for an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering. On the average, completion of the course will require 120 to 126-semester credits, which will take four years to complete. This duration may be extended if you opt to take part-time work alongside studying.
The course content for electrical engineering may vary depending on the university, but most will require practical training to equip you after graduating. Since the discipline is highly specialized, advancement to higher classes will require passing prerequisite subjects.
The course work will typically provide you with topics on fundamental engineering theories, including hardware and software systems, information systems, and physical technology and sciences as well as mathematics, on subjects like calculus and differential equations. You can choose a university that aligns with your interest and future job aspiration.
Electrical Engineering Subject Focus
Electronics: cover topics on electrical components and design, electromagnetics, network analysis, and control system.
• Power systems: includes programmable logic controllers, battery design, electric power generation, and transmission.
• Photonics: focuses on optical sensing and imaging, laser systems and application
• Computer engineering: includes system design, advanced processor systems, and computer programming
• Environmental use: cover topics on solid and hazardous waste engineering, digital signal processing, water treatment, remote sensing and industrial control for energy generation
Admission to a bachelor in electrical engineering would usually require at least a 3.0 GPA, and knowledge in physics and mathematics. For some universities, it is mandatory to take the ACT or SAT first.
Study Options for a Bachelor in Electrical Engineering
When exploring options to study electrical engineering, you should consider the cost and mode of study. Enrolling to an online degree is recommended for individuals who wish to change career paths. However, on-campus learning is preferred for recent high school graduates. As stated by the College Board, the total cost of studying may range from USD 13,000 to USD 60,000.
Tuition and other related fees for in-state public schools cost around USD 8,893 per year, while out-of-state public schools cost USD 22,203. Enrolling in private schools will be more expensive, averaging at USD 30,094 per year.
Another critical factor is to choose a school in which the Accreditation Board accredits the course for Engineering and Technology (ABET). This will ensure that the route you take meets industry standards and has sufficient practical skills to help you find work in the future. The credits gained can also be transferrable should you opt to switch schooling.
Options after Completing Your Undergraduate Degree
Graduates in Electrical engineering can opt for further studies by taking a one-year masters degree. This will allow them to gain an in-depth knowledge of power systems, control systems, and telecommunication systems to build on their undergraduate degree. Since most will require a graduate thesis, students can focus on a specific field of interest. Postgraduate holders in the area can take jobs in the academic institutions as an instructor, or they can take research roles. An additional degree will be advantageous, especially since employers seek graduates who have the skills to match the emerging technological trends occurring in electrical engineering.
Another option is to take the licensure exam called Fundamentals of Engineering (FE). However, your school would need to be ABET certified. Graduates who finished similar or related degrees may also qualify. It is recommended to take the exam shortly after graduating so that the examinees have better recall of the topics recently learned from school. The exam is computer-based with 110 multiple-choice questions, and it takes six hours long. Passers of the FE exam are called engineers-in-training (EIT) or engineering interns (EI).
Career Path: Your Growth Prospects
There are various routes available for undergraduate holders of electrical engineering. If working for the academe is not for you, then you can work for an engineering firm that utilizes your skills and abilities. Gaining experience is crucial in building your professional career. The work may involve engineering design, calculation, planning for engineering works, and analysis. Being directly supervised by a licensed professional engineer is particularly advantageous because you will be mentored to apply what you have learned and be trained with the best practices in the field.
With four years of relevant work experience, you will qualify to take the PE exam. Check your State Licensing Board to confirm if your work experience is acceptable. Many benefits await you once you become a licensed professional engineer. They include the following:
• Being legally qualified to pursue careers as a consulting engineer or private practitioner
• As more government agencies require engineers to be licensed, you will have the opportunity to qualify for government positions
• Employers look at your licensure as a mark of competence and dedication to your field
• An increasing number of teaching positions require an engineering licensure
Knowledge and Skills
To progress in your career as an electrical engineer, it is essential that you have the technical and soft skills for the job. This means you will need the ability to analyze electrical systems and be able to convey your knowledge to team members by articulating complex ideas well. As most engineering roles require teamwork, having excellent communication skills is essential. Most tasks are project-based, and this will require you to work in a dynamic environment.
As an electrical engineer, you are expected to handle laboratory equipment such as semiconductor systems, signal generators, tube furnaces, and spectrometers. Additionally, you will need adequate knowledge on system software, including scientific software, Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software, development environment software, and object or component-oriented development software.
For those who have completed masters, pursuing higher studies can be another option. Students studying doctorate will require specialization in one area of electrical engineering as the focus of their research. They must be prepared to take a higher level of subjects. While studying, most Ph.D. students teach undergraduates. Upon completing the degree, they will be considered as experts of the field and equipped to take leading positions.
If you don’t find yourself taking a Ph.D., you may add to your credentials by taking certification relating to electrical engineering such as:
• Energy Efficient Management Certificate
• Electrostatic Discharge Control Technician
• Associate Systems Engineering Professional
• Fiber Optics for Traffic System Technician
Earnings for Electrical Engineers
The highest 10% income earners in this profession had a salary of more than USD 153,240 as of May 2018, while the bottom 10% earned less than USD 61,190. For electrical engineers that belong to the top industries, the highest paid have an average annual salary of USD 108,130. They work for research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences. The second top earners received USD 100,630 a year, working for navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing.
The third highest worked in the semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing, and they earn USD 99,810 a year. Most electrical engineers work full time. According to the College Board, the highest earners work in California, Alaska, Massachusetts, District of Columbia, and Washington State. Meanwhile, the states with the largest employers are in California, Texas, New York, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.
The road to becoming an electrical engineer will require a keen interest in the subject matter and the willingness to be an expert on the field, which will take years of comprehensive study. With the rise of globalization and technology, there will be a higher demand for electrical engineers who will provide the expertise in solar arrays, semiconductor, communication technologies, and automation in production processes. The BLS estimates that the employment growth for electrical and electronics engineers will be 7% from 2016 to 2026.