Electrical and Electronics EngineersElectrical engineers design, develop, and supervise the production and installation of electrical equipment, including equipment used by electric utilities, radar and navigation systems, airplanes, cars, electric wiring, lighting, and electric motors. Even though electrical and electronics engineers specialize in and study similar engineering concepts, electrical engineers specialize in the generation of power, electrical equipment production, or power systems engineering, and electronics engineers specialize in electronic device function.
Electronics engineers are professionals who create electronic devices. Many are employed by the federal government and private industry. The electronic devices created by these engineers require a lot of research, development, and evaluation, and are used in many different areas (like computing, manufacturing, transportation, and aviation). Electronics engineers work on flight systems, radar, sonar, communications systems, and other such devices and systems.
There are many similarities between electronics engineers and electrical engineers. Both kinds of engineers do their work with the help of special software and design tools. Also, they both need to collaborate with other members of their field to exchange ideas and explore possibilities for new projects.
Some electronics engineers focus entirely on computer hardware. These engineers are called "computer hardware engineers". To learn more about this field of engineering, refer to the profile entitled "Computer Hardware Engineers".
Work EnvironmentElectrical and electronics engineers hold over 294,000 jobs.
These engineers can be divided into various specialties, as illustrated by the following table:
- Architectural, engineering, and related services – 22%
- Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing – 10%
- Electric power generation, transmission and distribution – 10%
- Semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing – 7%
- Scientific research and development services – 5%
- Federal government, excluding postal service – 14%
- Wired telecommunications carriers – 11%
- Semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing – 11%
- Architectural, engineering, and related services – 8%
- Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing – 8%
An electronics engineer typically works 40 hours a week, but working more is quite common.
How to Become an Electrical or Electronics EngineerA bachelor's degree is required to start out as an electrical or electronics engineer. Some universities offer cooperative engineering programs, which provide practical on-the-job experience while the student is still finishing his or her degree. Engineers who complete these cooperative engineering programs are more appealing to employers. Professional Engineers (engineers who have been licensed by the state) are also regarded as highly valuable by employers.
Students who want to become an electrical or an electronics engineer should study higher mathematics (trigonometry, algebra, and calculus) and physics. Engineers are frequently asked to make technical drawings for their projects, so a course in drafting would be very beneficial as well.
Undergraduate students of these fields of engineering study in classrooms, laboratories, and the field for 4 years before receiving a bachelor's degree. They study subjects like electrical circuit theory, differential equations, and digital systems design. Undergraduate programs in electrical engineering are evaluated by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).
Cooperative programs, which are available in most universities and colleges, let students finish their degree while simultaneously receiving valuable experience in their field.
Many universities also offer five-year programs in electrical and electronics engineering. Students who complete these programs receive a master's degree as well as a bachelor's degree. Engineers who hold a master's degree or higher are able to teach at universities and work on research and development projects.
LicensingElectrical and electronics engineers who hold licenses are relatively uncommon, when compared to other fields of engineering. However, for engineers who work under contract with the federal government, licensure is highly encouraged. Licensed electrical and electronics engineers are called professional engineers (PEs). In order to receive a license, an engineer must have:
- A degree from an engineering program accredited by the ABET
- A passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam
- Relevant work experience
- A passing score on the Professional Engineering (PE) exam
Every state's licensing requirements are different. In some states, professional engineers must take further courses in their field, or else they lose their license. State licenses are typically valid in other states, depending on the particular requirements for licensure in that state.
PayThe median salary of an electrical engineer is more than $84,000. The median salary is the salary at which 50% of the workers earned more and 50% earned less. The lowest 10% of engineers earn less than $54,000, and the highest 10% earn more than $128,000.
The median salary of an electronics engineer is more than $90,000. The lowest 10% of engineers earn less than $58,000, and the highest 10% earn more than $135,000.
The following table shows the industries which employ the most electrical engineers, as well as the median salary of electrical engineers in those industries:
- Semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing – $92,070
- Scientific research and development services – $90,790
- Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing – $89,590
- Electric power generation, transmission and distribution – $83,960
- Architectural, engineering, and related services – $83,750
- Federal government, excluding postal service – $104,310
- Semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing – $93,610
- Architectural, engineering, and related services – $89,360
- Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing – $88,690
- Wired telecommunications carriers – $81,380
PayIt's estimated that job prospects for electrical and electronics engineers will grow by 6% in the next decade. This growth is slower than usual, when compared to the average occupation. More and more technologies are being developed by electrical and electronics engineers, who have shown themselves to be very versatile in their research and development. This will fuel job growth, as these new technologies bring with them new areas of industry. However, this growth is expected to be slow, because the manufacturing sectors which employ a large percentage of electrical and electronics engineers are expected to grow only gradually, or even decline.
Most of the job growth will take place in engineering services firms, because more and more companies are tending to contract engineering work out, instead of paying salaried engineers within the company. In addition, the demand for electrical and electronics engineers is expected to go up in the fields of wireless telecommunications and computer systems design. Companies in these fields are continually developing improved portable computing devices, and they'll need the help of many electrical and electronics engineers to keep this development going.
Technology is evolving very quickly. As things change, the knowledge and skills of electrical and electronics engineers will be increasingly valuable to industries of all kinds.
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