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How to Become an Electrical Engineer

As an electrical engineer, you’ll get to perform a wide variety of duties. If you like working with electrical equipment and are great at figuring out electrical problems, this position may be the fit for you. An electrical engineer gets to work with different navigation systems, communications systems, electrical motors, and power equipment. 

In this job, you’ll get to test, control, and design different electrical systems, be in charge of engineering projects, ensure a project’s safety standards are being met, and collaborate with other engineers to process and design new systems. A bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering is required, and some employers even require a master’s degree or Ph.D. depending on the position you apply for. It’s advised that you have strong mathematical skills for this job, as well as 2+ years of experience prior as an engineer.

Sample job description

Electrical engineers are responsible for the design and development of electrical devices and equipment. They also perform testing to ensure the devices, systems, and equipment are functioning properly. They also may oversee the manufacture of these devices, systems, and equipment. An electrical engineer must have a deep understanding of electrical manufacturing processes as well as electrical engineering codes and safety standards. They must also be excellent problem-solvers and have solid attention to detail. [Your Company Name] will be hiring an experienced electrical engineer for our business. Those with proven experience designing and implementing complex industrial, commercial, or domestic electrical systems will be the ideal candidate for this position.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Design, control, test, and implement electrical systems and products
  • Create manufacturing processes according to global engineering codes and standards
  • Manage engineering projects and deliver them on time
  • Define customer needs and requirements
  • Ensure that projects match customer needs and safety standards
  • Collaborate with engineers and technicians to design and apply new system processes
  • Monitor maintenance and inspection plans

Education and experience

This position requires a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and coursework in computer science, physics, chemistry, mathematics, and statistics. Some employers prefer that a candidate has a master’s degree or PhD for certain positions.

Required skills and qualifications

  • Analytical, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills
  • Proficiency in advanced mathematics
  • Teamwork and interpersonal communication skills
  • Strong technical writing ability
  • Experience with database and spreadsheet software
  • Expertise in working with engineering and computer-assisted design software
  • Demonstrated ability in solving complex technical problems

Preferred qualifications

  • Strong mathematical skills
  • 2+ years working as an engineer
  • Bachelor’s degree in engineering or a related field

Typical work environment

Electrical engineers can work in a variety of environments, such as laboratories, research facilities, factories, mines, industrial and production plants, power stations, and office settings. Electrical engineers typically work 40-hour weeks during traditional business hours. They may be required to work overtime to meet deadlines or to address urgent issues.

Typical hours

The typical work hours for an electrical engineer are usually from 9 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday. However, many electrical engineers work longer hours to hit project deadlines or troubleshoot project issues.

Available certifications

Electrical engineers work in a variety of manufacturing industries, and many institutions offer certifications to help them develop their skills and advance their careers. Check out the following top certifications: 

  • Certified Electrical Safety Compliance Professional (CESCP). This certification program is designed for electrical and safety professionals who oversee electrical safety programs or who manage electricians and other personnel exposed to electrical hazards. The certificate recognizes your knowledge of electrical safety in workplace environments and your competence as related to the standards for electrical safety in the Workplace. 
  • Professional Engineer (PE) License. The National Society of Professional Engineers offers the PE license, which demonstrates that you have the credentials to work as a professional engineer, displaying the highest standard of competence and quality. Obtaining the PE license can greatly enhance your career options. To earn your license, you must complete a four-year college degree from an accredited engineering program, work under a professional engineer for at least four years, and pass the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam.

Career path

This position requires a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and coursework in computer science, physics, chemistry, mathematics, and statistics. Some employers prefer that a candidate has a master’s degree or PhD for certain positions. Several companies also require a Professional Engineer (PE) license, which means passing the Fundamentals of Engineering exam, on-the-job experience, and passing score the Principles and Practice of Engineering Examination. Successful electrical engineers can advance to supervising a team of engineers and receive greater independence to design and evaluate projects and processes.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 17-2071

2020 Employment313,200
Projected Employment in 2030333,600
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 7% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift20,400 increase

According to the international engineering firm Skelia, one major trend changing the electrical engineering field in the coming years is the use of smart power grids. Energy customers are getting their energy from more than just the traditional power grid now. Some who produce excess energy at their homes are opting to sell that energy back to their electric company. This requires the use of smart devices at their homes to monitor the energy flow back and forth, in addition to predicting surges and detecting outages. Electrical engineers will likely need to either work with or develop smart grids much more often in the next several years.

Another trend in the electrical engineering field is the growing popularity of wearable wireless technology. Many electrical engineers are developing various wireless devices such as health and fitness monitors; they are also using them to do their jobs. There are now watches that tell the wearer when they are too close to high-voltage electricity, and boots equipped with sensors to detect overheating and other job site dangers.