Electrical engineering careers combine strong wages with diverse job opportunities, offering professional security for graduates.
Electrical engineers work with electrical components, devices, systems, and machinery, finding new and more efficient ways to design, produce, and distribute electrical power and equipment. They also work in repair and maintenance. The field attracts students in high numbers for many reasons, including its high wages and job availability.
This guide examines the options for electrical engineering degrees, exploring different pathways students can take to pursue an electrical engineering career.
What Kinds of Electrical Engineering Degrees Are There?
Each degree offers different benefits, with programs available at every level degree level. The main qualification for becoming an electrical engineer is a bachelor's degree, but each degree level offers qualifications for various related careers. The list below explores electrical engineering degrees in greater detail.
Associate Degree in Electrical Engineering
Associate degrees in electrical engineering provide students with the base knowledge required for careers in the field. These two-year programs lay the foundation for further study, and graduates transfer into bachelor's degrees afterward. However, some graduates pursue entry-level careers as electronics engineering technicians.
Though each program has unique coursework, common courses in electrical engineering associate programs include electrical circuitry, electronic systems, and engineering drawing. Programs also provide general field training, math and science skills, and practical lab experience. Some associate programs may offer specializations, but most focus on more general topics and skills.
Bachelor's Degree in Electrical Engineering
Bachelor's degrees in electrical engineering allow graduates to pursue most electrical and electronics engineer careers. These four-year programs can also lead to master's programs after graduation, particularly for graduates who wish to specialize in power systems, computer engineering, or signals processing.
For the most part, online electrical engineering programs emphasize theoretical foundations and practical applications. Some common courses include electrical circuit analysis, electric networks, and engineering economics. In their junior and senior years, students delve into more advanced physics and mathematics, as well as electrical engineering design. Some programs may require an electrical engineering internship.
Master's Degree in Electrical Engineering
A graduate degree in electrical engineering builds off the foundations learned in undergraduate programs. Most master's programs in electrical engineering take 2-3 years to complete and include courses like electrical systems modeling, electrical systems protection, and system risk assessment.
With a master's degree, graduates get a competitive edge when pursuing engineering management careers, and a master's specialization can lead to more niche career options. Concentrating in machine learning, for example, can lead to careers in computer research science, whereas biomedical engineering specializations can lead to careers in that field. With so many available options, learners can let their interests and career goals guide their educational decisions.
Doctoral Degree in Electrical Engineering
A doctoral degree in electrical engineering is the terminal degree in the discipline. Typically, students complete these programs in 5-6 years and go on to pursue careers in research and development or as professors in academia. Doctoral students often focus on a specific discipline, such as computer engineering or software engineering.
Electrical engineering doctoral programs often emphasize research and design, including classes like chip architecture or energy system design. They may also explore the business side of these technologies, training students in the health, safety, and finance facets of electrical engineering companies. Doctoral programs also offer a high degree of personalization and individual research, allowing students to chart their own pathways.
Electrical Engineering Licensure
To become a professional engineer, each student needs to complete a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution, work as an understudy for four years, and pass the Fundamentals of Engineering exams, which are administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying. Successful candidates can then apply for licensure through their state licensing boards.
Licensure helps standardize the profession and ensure that qualified professionals can maintain their credentials across state borders. It also protects employers and clients, verifying that working engineers have acquired the necessary training to do their jobs safely, reducing the chances of injury or unsafe practices. In some states, engineering teachers also need licenses.
What Kind of Salary Can I Earn With an Electrical Engineering Degree?
Electrical engineer salary rates can vary substantially, depending on career specialization, employer, and location. Below, you will find some career options, along with their median salaries, projected job growth rates, and required degrees.
|Typical Degree Needed|
|Electrical and Electronics Engineering Technicians||$65,260||2%||Associate|
|Electrical and Electronics Engineers||$101,250||3%||Bachelor's|
|Computer Hardware Engineer||$117,220||2%||Bachelor's|
What Can You Do with an Electrical Engineering Degree?
Graduates with electrical engineering degrees enter a diverse employment field. BLS data indicates that most engineers work in the engineering services industry, but many pursue electric power generation, research, and manufacturing. Students can also use their degrees to pursue roles in aerospace engineering, sales engineering, and software development.
Engineering students can also choose specializations in electrical engineering subfields, which we explore below. Specializations allow learners to delve into one topic in greater detail or combine electrical engineering with another discipline.
Electrical Engineering Specializations and Career Paths
In a biomedical technologies specialization, electrical engineering students learn to design equipment that diagnoses and treats medical conditions and improves health outcomes. Students explore existing biomedical systems and devices, like wearable technologies and surgical enhancements. Learners may even receive practical training within medical environments, connecting them with healthcare professionals.
After graduation, biomedical technologies specializations can lead tohealthcare-related careers in research, development, or manufacturing. Graduates may also pursue careers in healthcare policy and management, depending on their level of training. Students can further specialize their training by focusing more narrowly on medical fields, like cardiology or athletics.
Microelectronics and nanoelectronics specializations cover small component parts of electronics, systems, and applications, like sensors, light detectors, converters, or imaging systems. While electrical engineering training often examines systems as a whole, this concentration provides greater detail on these minuscule technologies.
With this concentration, graduates can still pursue general electrical engineering positions, but the focus of their work is more narrow. For example, they could work in manufacturing and product design, helping to improve the strength and durability of materials. Industries that rely on energy capture and storage usually rely on nanotechnology, so they also offer careers for this sub-field, as do the security, healthcare, and health and safety industries.
Despite being a major element of electronic systems, power electronics is a somewhat new discipline within electrical engineering. This specialization explores power electronics skills like switching, converting, and inverting power supplies, as well as power factor correction.
As the world invests in renewable and efficient energy sources, the demand for power electronics specialists will increase. Workers can apply these skills to renewable and portable power, computer systems, and medical devices. In addition to the energy industry, power electronics specialists can find employment in the automotive, space, and utility industries, working in product design, manufacturing, or research.
In a signal processing specialization, students learn to design processing systems, work with sensors, and create algorithms to extract and analyze the data obtained. Graduates with this training can pursue careers in the medical, automotive, and video imaging industries, among others.
Students with this specialization may choose to focus on telecommunications, satellites, or artificial intelligence. After graduation, they can find work in sensor and chip design, or they can pursue jobs working with the instrumentation and measurement devices used in the field.
Engineers in this specialization work with transmission systems for communication, often working to improve clarity despite signal noise. This can cover several mediums, including radio, optical recording, or satellite broadcasting systems. Students explore information theory, coding, compression, digital communications, security, and analysis.
Professionally, these graduates can pursue careers in cellular communications, computer and digital technology, and satellite and space technology fields. They often work in research and development, manufacturing, or operations and maintenance. With the right experience or degree, they can also pursue careers in management or large-scale development.
Electrical Engineering Professional Organizations
Accreditation for Electrical Engineering Programs
Accreditation comes in different forms, but it's best to attend a regionally accredited institution. For programs like electrical engineering, however, students also need to seek out programmatic accreditation.
The major accrediting agency for electrical engineering is the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), which ensures that engineering programs meet industry standards. Employers often require engineers to graduate from ABET-accredited programs, and future licensure and continuing education opportunities in engineering may also depend on it.
Frequently Asked Questions
Electrical engineers work with electrical equipment, and their job responsibilities may include researching, designing, testing, and maintaining devices. They help improve things like power generation, communications, and navigational technologies.
Electrical engineering offers promising career opportunities. In some roles, professionals make close to three times more than the average worker. Projected career growth for electrical engineers is close to the national average.
All degrees can be challenging, but proper dedication and preparation can help students succeed. For an engineering degree, the most successful students are those with an aptitude for mathematics and science, as both skill sets are heavily relied upon for engineering work.
Electrical engineers can have a variety of responsibilities, including research and development, manufacturing, or even policymaking. They usually work for the government or in the communications, healthcare, manufacturing, or automotive industries.
Electronics engineers take home relatively high salaries. Within the industry, electrical engineers working in research development and electronics engineers working in navigation earn the most.
Header Image Credit: aldomurillo | Getty Images
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