The technological advancements of the digital age require electricity. We can see how power keeps the most basic models moving like our homes. It also serves an essential part in complex networks like traffic lights system, transportation structures, and technology.
Electrical engineers help keep electricity flow to maintain the process and the progress of technology in our lives. Some of the most important works of electrical engineers include the power grid of a nation and the microchips of the average person’s smartphone.
The History of Electrical Engineering
The inception of electrical engineering dates back from the late 19th century. In 1904, John Ambrose Fleming invented the thermionic valve diode vacuum tube, which kickstarted the field of electronics. Electronics would soon dominate the mid-20th century, which includes radios, radar, and televisions.
Electrical engineering acts as the foundation of some of the most important discoveries in the world, including Thomas Edison’s electric light bulb, Nikola Tesla’s induction motor, George Westinghouse’s alternating current, Philo T. Farnsworth’s television, and Guglielmo Marconi’s radio.
Since then, electrical engineering widened its reach to power, telecommunications, control systems, and signal processing. Electrical engineering is a necessary field in the modern world as technology integrates itself as an essential part of the future.
An Electrical Engineer’s Job Description
Electrical engineering handles the development, design, and manufacturing of electrical equipment. Electrical engineers review and apply mathematics and physics of electronics, electricity, and electromagnetism to test and create systems that transmit energy. Engineers work on numerous projects and require computer-aided design applications for creating the blueprint needed for electrical systems and devices essential to the function of industries and daily living.
Here are some of the duties of electrical engineers:
- Evaluating systems, components, applications, and products that produce or require electricity.
- Conducting research programs to improve electrical engineering
- Applying physics, mathematics, and knowledge of power
- Developing electrical products based on customer demands
- Designing methods for improvement of electrical systems and their capabilities
- Assembly of materials needed to conduct research and test manufacturing
- Designing equipment to develop manufacturing processes for electrical equipment
- Designing electrical testing processes to assure quality products
- Providing engineering information for finished electrical equipment
- Entering data to maintain product database and complying with state and federal regulations
Different Branches of Electrical Engineering
Electrical engineering has many branches, making it possible for an engineer to pick a specialty. There are others who would want to specialize in many sub-disciplines. Here are some of the most popular types of electrical engineering.
1. Electronic Engineer
Electronic engineers take care of electronic systems used in different areas like acoustics, propulsion control, telecommunications, and aerospace guidance. Electrical engineering and electronic engineering are interchangeable in the United States. The difference between the two careers is that electrical engineering takes care of electrical systems while electronic engineering specializes in smaller components like computers, circuits, capacitors, inductors, resistors, and transistors.
2. Signal Processing Engineer
Signal processing engineering requires the analysis and alteration of digital signals. The duties of signal processing engineers include creating working algorithms, as well as development and management, for digital signals. A digital signal represents data in discrete values, which is present in many technological outputs. Here are some of the work areas where a signal processing engineer can thrive in:
- Image processing
- Chip designing
- Radiofrequency designs
- Pattern recognition
- Biomedical signal processing
- Speech processing
- Space communication and satellites
- Military applications
3. Microelectronics Engineer
Microelectronics is the study of micromanufacturing on electronic circuits made from semiconductor components. The process of microelectronics is similar to electronic engineering but on a smaller scale. As technology transforms into smaller and more efficient tools, microelectronics engineers need to come up with special equipment and special wiring techniques to help them adjust to the needs of the customer. The main goal of microelectronics is to remove “parasitic” effects from devices while making them smaller and faster.
4. Power Engineer
Power engineering involves the utilization, transmission, and distribution of electric power, which is present in systems like generators, motors, power electronics, and transformers. A power engineer’s work focuses mostly on three-phase AC power but can also transition into AC and DC power conversion. Power engineers use their knowledge of electrical theories for their practice on power systems used in sophisticated machinery like electric railway networks and aircraft.
5. Instrumentation Engineering
Instrumentation engineering specializes in the operation and principle of measuring instruments used in the configuration and design of automated electrical systems. Engineers usually work for industries that have automated processes to improve safety, stability, optimization, and productivity. They are responsible for integrating sensors with transmitters, displays, recorders, and control systems. They also design installation, signal conditioning, and wiring. Instrumentation engineers are also responsible for the testing, calibration, and maintenance of electrical instruments and systems.
6. Telecommunications Engineer
Telecommunications engineering focuses on improving and assisting in telecommunications systems in a company. The work of a telecommunications engineer consists of providing basic circuit design, improving transmission services for high-speed data, and supervising telecommunication equipment installation. Most of the telecommunications engineer’s work focuses on electronic switching systems, IP networks, microwave transmission systems, and optical fiber cabling. Telecommunications also try to improve wireless technology as companies transition into the creation of more wireless devices, broadband technologies, and more efficient satellite communications.
7. Control Engineer
Control engineering applies automatic control theory to provide systems with design behaviors in different environments. This engineering discipline requires the use of micro-controllers, digital signal processors, and electrical circuits to achieve the desired performance in a particular project. Some of control engineers’ most recognizable work includes maintaining space flight control of a rocket, cruise control of cars, and high-performance maintenance of aircraft. With the use of detectors and sensors in measuring the output of an electronic device, control engineers can achieve the desired performance.
8. Computer Engineer
Computer engineering is the development of computer hardware and software that integrates electronic engineering and computer science. Most of a computer engineer’s task includes creating firmware and software for microcontrollers and designing analog sensors, VLSI chips, mixed signal circuit boards, and operating systems. Since most industries require computer systems to function as one network fully, computer engineers are in huge demand.
An Electronic Engineer’s Workplace
Most engineers work in labs, offices, and industrial plants. However, an electrical engineer’s workplace is dependent on the nature of the industry he or she wants to pursue. Electrical engineers supervise electricians, scientists, computer programmers, and other engineers to make sure that the electrical devices are fully functioning. An engineer usually works at least 40 hours a week with the possibility of overtime.
Difference Between Electrical Engineers and Computer Engineers
Electrical engineers and computer engineers both work on the development and improvement of electrical systems. However, electrical engineering requires students to study electric systems, energy conversion, electromagnetic fields, and semiconductor circuits. Computer engineering involves the study of software systems, digital design, and microprocessor interfacing.
Where Electrical Engineers Can Work
Electrical engineers can work in different industries that all require technologies. Engineers serve in various environments from designing household appliances, telecommunications systems, to enhancing power grids and satellite communications. Some of the jobs that have a high demand for electrical engineers include GPS technologies, mobile networking, finance, banking, renewable energy, and management.
How Electrical Engineers Can Also Serve as Programmers
Electrical engineering students learn how to solve electrical problems using logical and analytical thinking using electrical theories. However, students also learn computer programming as part of their introduction to electrical engineering. Learning how to do programming can be an advantage for engineers because it gives them an idea on how to integrate computer programs with electronic devices, sandwiching two jobs into one mind.
Advice for Electrical Engineer Hopefuls
Electrical engineering students need to work hard to achieve their goals. To make the most out of the college course, students need to focus on delivering the following:
- Going to Class
Most students have control over their class schedules, which is why it is essential for them to pick the time where they can be most productive and focused. When you abide by your plan, it gives you a higher chance of getting to all of your classes. It is also essential to do your homework and try to find and solve more problems than the professors give you.
- Working with Professors
Electrical engineering professors usually have office hours for you to use when you are having difficulty with a subject. Should you encounter problems with a specific topic, you should try interacting with professors to show that you are making an effort to learn more about engineering.
- Choosing your Group of Friends
You will have many study nights with your classmates, which is why it is essential for you to assess if their top priority is acing tests and aiming to become masters of the electrical engineering field. When you have friends that aim to get straight A’s, you will adopt their principles and study habits to quench your desire to achieve success.
- Using your Internship Well
Most employers require graduates to have work experience before they hire them as engineers. Doing well in your internship will help establish connections and improve your CV, which will be beneficial when you are trying to land your first job.