What do Electrical Engineers Do? (2023)

An electrical engineer is someone who designs and develops new electrical equipment, solves problems and tests equipment. They work with all kinds of electronic devices, from the smallest pocket devices to large supercomputers.

Graduates with electrical engineering degrees can choose from careers in a wide range of engineering industries. Electrical engineers usually work in a lab, an office, a mine or in industrial plants. An electrical engineer attends different electrical training courses and can pursue a technical career in any industry. They usually supervise computer programmers, electricians, scientists and other engineers. A typical work week is composed of 40 hours although there might be some overtime to meet deadlines.

An electrical engineer also spends a lot of time doing project management, such as meeting with clients, determining budgets and preparing project schedules. Engineering projects usually require written documentation, so strong writing and communication skills are important.

Table of Contents

How much do electrical engineers make?

Electrical engineers earn an average annual salary of $103,390 in the United States, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. This amount can vary according to your location, education, and experience. The highest-paid workers are in research and development, followed by those who manufacture semiconductors and other electronic components.

Duties of an Electrical Engineer

An electrical engineer’s job duties may require:

  • Evaluating electrical systems, products, components, and applications
  • Designing and conducting research programs
  • Applying knowledge of electricity and materials
  • Confirming system’s and components’ capabilities by designing testing methods and properties
  • Developing electrical products by studying customer requirements
  • Researching and testing manufacturing and assembly methods and materials
  • Developing manufacturing processes by designing and modifying equipment
  • Assuring product quality by designing electrical testing methods
  • Testing finished products and system capabilities
  • Preparing product reports by collecting, analyzing, and summarizing information and trends
  • Providing engineering information by answering questions and requests
  • Maintaining product and company reputation by complying with federal and state regulations
  • Maintaining product data base by writing computer programs and entering data

Fields of electrical engineering

Electrical engineering is a broad field covering a wide range of industries. A career in electrical engineering often means specializing in a certain area. Some common specialties include (but are not limited to):

  • Energy and power systems: In this field, you’ll work on generating, distributing, and maintaining electric power systems. This might include traditional sources of power, like motors, generators, and transformers, or emerging technologies, like fusion or green energy.
  • Computer engineering: While sometimes considered a separate field altogether, computer engineering overlaps with electrical engineering in many ways. As a computer engineer, you’ll work to develop and improve computer hardware and software across a range of industries.
  • Telecommunications: We can communicate with people around the globe almost instantaneously, thanks to new technologies in telecommunications. Telecommunications engineers address the basic challenge of delivering information from one place to another, securely and efficiently.
  • Microelectronics: The field of microelectronics deals with small (often very small) electronic components. In this career, you’ll work toward further reducing the size of circuits and microchips for use in electronic devices and even nanotechnology.
  • Systems and control: This discipline of electric engineering deals with the design of control systems that behave a certain way in controlled environments. This could involve everything from home thermostats to biomedical prosthetics.
  • Robotics and artificial intelligence: Robotics engineers design and build robots and robotic systems from the circuits up. Some of these systems may also involve artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning.

Sub-Disciplines of Electrical Engineering

There are many sub-disciplines of electrical engineering. Some electrical engineers specialize exclusively in one sub-discipline, while others specialize in a combination of sub-disciplines.

The most popular sub-disciplines are:

Electronic Engineers

Electronic engineers conduct research, design, manufacture, and test electronic systems and components for applications such as telecommunications, acoustics, aerospace guidance and propulsion control, and instruments and controls.

This job is very similar to that of an electrical engineer; in the United States, the terms are used interchangeably. The main distinction is specialization. While electrical engineers manage entire electrical systems, electronics engineers focus on the smaller components, such as individual computers, electronic circuits, resistors, capacitors, inductors, transistors, and diodes, and apply their knowledge of electronic theory and material properties.

Microelectronics Engineer
Microelectronics is a subfield of electronics and relates to the study and microfabrication of very small electronic designs and circuit components typically made from semiconductor materials. Many components of normal electronic design are also available in a microelectronic equivalent which can include transistors, capacitors, inductors, resistors, diodes, insulators, and conductors.

Microelectronics engineers use specialized equipment and unique wiring techniques such as wire bonding because of the unusually small size of the components, leads and pads. As techniques have improved, the scale of microelectronic components has continued to decrease, therefore, the impact of circuit properties such as interconnections may become of more interest.

The goal of the microelectronics engineer is to find ways to minimize these ‘parasitic’ effects, while delivering smaller, faster, and cheaper devices.

Signal Processing Engineer
A signal processing engineer analyzes and alters digital signals to make them more accurate and reliable. Responsibilities include developing, managing, and updating digital signals, and creating algorithms to process them more efficiently.

A signal processing engineer can work in areas such as image processing, speech processing, pattern recognition, chip designing, radio frequency designs, biomedical signal processing, and space and military applications, including satellite and mobile communications.

Efficient use of signals arises from implementing precise algorithms coded in software packages with concise steps and real-time outputs. Engineers need to develop the steps needed, provide the specifications, design the processor which acts like the machine, and simulate the system pre-hand before the fabrication.

Power Engineer
A power engineer, also called a power systems engineer, deals with a subfield of electrical engineering that involves the generation, transmission, distribution, and utilization of electric power, along with the electrical equipment associated with these systems (such as transformers, generators, motors, and power electronics).

Although much of a power engineer’s focus is concerned with the issues faced with three-phase AC power, another area of focus is concerned with the conversion between AC and DC power and the evolution of specific power systems like those used in aircraft or for electric railway networks. Power engineers draw the majority of their theoretical base from electrical engineering.

Control Engineer
Control engineering, or control systems engineering, is typically taught along with electrical engineering at many universities, and specifically focuses on implementation of control systems obtained by mathematical modeling of a wide range of systems.

This type of engineering discipline uses the automatic control theory to design controllers that cause systems to behave in a certain way, using micro-controllers, programmable logic controllers, digital signal processors, and electrical circuits. By using detectors and sensors to measure the output performance of the controlled process and provide corrective feedback, desired performance can be achieved.

Telecommunications Engineer
Telecommunications engineering is a discipline centred on electrical and computer engineering which attempts to assist and improve telecommunication systems.

A telecommunications engineer’s work will range from doing basic circuit design, providing high-speed data transmission services, and overseeing the installation of telecommunications equipment (such as electronic switching systems, optical fibre cabling, IP networks, and microwave transmission systems).

They use an assortment of equipment and transport media in order to design the network infrastructure (such as twisted pair, coaxial cables, and optical fibres), and provide solutions for wireless modes of communication and information transfer, such as wireless telephone services, radio and satellite communications, and internet and broadband technologies.

Instrumentation Engineer
Instrumentation engineering finds its origin in both electrical and electronics engineering and deals with the design of measuring devices for pressure, flow, and temperature.

In short, this field deals with measurement, automation, and control processes which involves a deep understanding of physics. Instrumentation engineers develop new and intelligent sensors, smart transducers, MEMS Technology, and Blue tooth Technology.

One can find instrumentation engineers working at almost all process and manufacturing industries involved with steel, oil, petrochemical, power, and defense production.

Computer Engineer
Most universities offer computer engineering as either a degree, sub-discipline of electrical engineering, or offer a dual degree in both electrical and computer engineering.

Computer engineers research, design, develop, and test computer systems and components such as processors, computer circuit boards, memory devices, networks, and routers, microchips, and other electronic components.

They specialize in areas like digital systems, operating systems, and computer networks. Computer engineering attempts to match digital devices with software to meet the scientific, technological, and administrative needs of business and industry.

Are you suited to be an electrical engineer?

Electrical engineers have distinct personalities. They tend to be investigative individuals, which means they’re intellectual, introspective, and inquisitive. They are curious, methodical, rational, analytical, and logical. Some of them are also realistic, meaning they’re independent, stable, persistent, genuine, practical, and thrifty.

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What do electrical engineers do in a day? ›

Daily activities include studying technical manuals, articles, and other publications; designing, testing, and assembling devices; and writing reports and keeping track of various assignments. Computer skills are a must.

Is electrical engineering hard? ›

The electrical engineering major is considered one of the most difficult majors in the field, and these are the common reasons students list to explain why it is hard: There is a lot of abstract thinking involved.

Where do most electrical engineers work? ›

Typical employers

Electronic and electrical engineers are highly employable and can find work in many areas, including the electronics, automotive, IT, gaming, telecoms, manufacturing, power, transport, utilities and construction industries.

What skills do electrical engineers need? ›

What Electrical Engineer Skills Do I Need to Become an Electrical Engineer?
  • Critical thinking.
  • Technological knowledge.
  • Active learning.
  • Interpersonal skills.
  • Organizational skills.
  • Complex problem-solving skills.
  • Mathematics and physics skills.
  • Innovative thinking.

Do electrical engineers enjoy their job? ›

Electrical engineers are below average when it comes to happiness. At CareerExplorer, we conduct an ongoing survey with millions of people and ask them how satisfied they are with their careers.

Which engineering is toughest? ›

What Is the Hardest Engineering Major?
Top 3 Hardest Engineering MajorsTop 3 Easiest Engineering Majors
1. Chemical engineering (19.66 hours)1. Industrial engineering (15.68 hours)
2. Aero and astronautical engineering (19.24 hours)2. Computer engineering and technology (16.46 hours)
1 more row

What's the hardest type of engineering? ›

1. Electrical Engineering
  • Electrical Engineers are primarily focused on the physics and mathematics of electricity, electronics, and electromagnetism. ...
  • Students consider electrical engineering to be the toughest major mostly because of the abstract thinking involved.
Jun 2, 2020

What kind of math do electrical engineers use? ›

Electronics engineering careers usually include courses in calculus (single and multivariable), complex analysis, differential equations (both ordinary and partial), linear algebra and probability. Fourier analysis and Z-transforms are also subjects which are usually included in electrical engineering programs.

What is the average age of electrical engineers? ›

39 years

Which engineering has highest salary? ›

10 Highest Paying Engineering Jobs
  • Civil Engineer. ...
  • Mechanical Engineer. ...
  • Industrial Engineer. ...
  • Biomedical Engineer. ...
  • Electrical Engineer. ...
  • Chemical Engineer. ...
  • Software Engineer. ...
  • Computer Engineer.
Jun 21, 2022

How hard is the maths in Electrical Engineering? ›

Electrical engineering as a student is 90% math and 10% design projects. Electrical engineering as a career is 90% design projects and 10% math. Most college professors have lost touch with that fact and make classes harder than they should be.

What to study to become an electrical engineer? ›

Required Qualification/s

To qualify as an Electrical Engineering, you will need one of the following qualifications: University: BEng in Elctrical Engineering, Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering (there is also the option of getting an honours or masters)

Can electrical engineers code? ›

Which may have you asking: do electrical engineers code or do only computer engineers? The answer is: sometimes they do! But learning to read and write code is important for all jobs.

What are the disadvantages of being an electrical engineer? ›

Cons: - Very large scale job and it requires numerous hours spent on several different parts of the job. - It requires abilities and knowledge with numbers which is difficult for some. - It takes at least a bachelor's degree, plus years of apprenticing another electrical engineer/electrician.

How stressful is electrical engineering? ›

Stress. While working as an electrical engineer can be rewarding, it can also be challenging. Electrical engineers are responsible for troubleshooting and resolving issues to ensure each system, device and component they work on operates effectively.

What are the challenges of being an electrical engineer? ›

5 Electrical Engineering Challenges
  • Continuing Education: Show Up or Fall Short. ...
  • Stress Management: If You're Not Multitasking, You're Not Working Hard Enough. ...
  • Price and Performance: Key Components of a Successful Project. ...
  • Powered by Safety: Punch Out the Same Way You Punched In.

What type of engineer is Elon Musk? ›

Elon Musk has no formal engineering degree, but he clearly is industrial engineer by profession. His approach to business and problem solving is typical industrial engineering approach. His actual degrees (BS in both economics and physics) have good overlap with undergraduate curriculum in IE.

Which university is best for electrical engineering? ›

Here are the Best Electrical Engineering Programs
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • Stanford University.
  • University of California, Berkeley.
  • California Institute of Technology.
  • Georgia Institute of Technology.
  • University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
  • University of Michigan--Ann Arbor.
  • Carnegie Mellon University.

Who is the number 1 engineer in the world? ›

1. Nikola Tesla. Arguably at the top of the list of greatest engineers is Nikola Tesla.

How do you know if engineering is for you? ›

If you're wondering if a career in engineering is right for you, then look for the following signs:
  • You are Skilled in Science and Math. ...
  • You Enjoy Solving Problems. ...
  • You Tinker, Alter, Design and Create. ...
  • You Like Working with Others. ...
  • You Want a Meaningful Career.

Which engineering is best for future? ›

Here are the best engineering branches and courses for the future:
  • Aerospace Engineering.
  • Chemical Engineering.
  • Electrical and Electronics Engineering.
  • Petroleum Engineering.
  • Telecommunication Engineering.
  • Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.
  • Robotics Engineering.
  • Biochemical Engineering.

What is the quickest engineering degree to get? ›

Easiest Engineering Degrees
  • Industrial Engineering.
  • General Engineering.
  • Computer Engineering.
  • Environmental Engineering.
  • Civil Engineering.
  • Mechanical Engineering.
  • Biomedical Engineering.
  • Electrical Engineering.
Nov 28, 2021

Is electrical engineering the hardest major? ›

Electrical engineering is a common engineering major for college students, but it is still ranked as one of the hardest. There are so many small systems to learn within electrical engineering so it can be difficult to see what you're physically doing.

Which engineering does not require maths? ›

  • 1.1 Engineering Courses without Math.
  • 4.1 Software Engineering Courses.
  • 4.2 Data Engineering Courses.
  • 4.3 Sound Engineering Courses.
  • 4.4 Computer Science Engineering Courses.
  • 4.6 Biomedical Engineering Courses.
  • 4.7 Electrical Engineering Courses.
  • 4.8 Mechanical Engineering Courses.

Should I study electrical engineering? ›

Like in any other Engineering field, Electrical Engineering graduates have the chance to secure high paying jobs. Whether you decide to stay in the U.S. after you finish your studies and develop a career here, or you would rather work abroad, the international job market is very promising and full of offers.

Which is the toughest degree in the world? ›

It is believed that a Bachelor of Science in Nursing or BSN is the toughest course in the world as per the Guinness Book of World Records along with courses like MBBS, BCom, IAS, IPS and Engineering, etc.

Is an electrical engineering degree worth it? ›

With such strong job prospects, it's no wonder that an increasing number of students are considering electrical engineering as a field of study. So, if you're wondering whether electrical engineering is worth it, the answer is a resounding YES!

What is life like as an electrical engineer? ›

A typical day for an electrical engineer involves building devices using design software, problem-solving, going through design plans, working with your team, meeting with clients, carrying out maintenance checks, and testing devices.

What do engineers do on a daily basis? ›

On a typical day, an engineer will go through design plans, communicate with clients, go to the site of a project to supervise workers, monitor a project's finances, and work with other experts to solve problems and develop better ideas. This all depends on the engineer's role and industry.

What do bioengineers do on a daily basis? ›

Bioengineers and biomedical engineers typically do the following: Design equipment and devices, such as artificial internal organs, replacements for body parts, and machines for diagnosing medical problems. Install, maintain, or provide technical support for biomedical equipment.

What do engineers do simple? ›

Engineers design, build, and maintain various complex systems and structures, from buildings to software. While there are many engineering professions, there is one consistent engineering mindset: to innovate.

What are the disadvantages of electrical engineering? ›

Requires a High Level of Knowledge

The job of an electrical engineer is extremely intricate, as it requires a high level of intelligence and problem-solving skills. It requires ability and knowledge with numbers, which might be difficult for some.

Is electrical engineer stressful? ›

Stress. While working as an electrical engineer can be rewarding, it can also be challenging. Electrical engineers are responsible for troubleshooting and resolving issues to ensure each system, device and component they work on operates effectively.

Is electrical engineering a stable career? ›

No, the demand for EE is not necessarily going away, but electrical engineering and other branches of engineering are becoming increasingly hybrid. For example, go to any decently ranked US-based graduate EE programs, and you will see how specific topics like Neural Networks, AI, ML, DL, etc.

Do all engineers get a ring? ›

Engineers receive the ring after taking an oath known as the Obligation of The Engineer, during a ring ceremony. Only those who have met the standards of professional engineering training or experience are able to accept the Obligation, which is voluntarily received for life.

Which is the highest paid engineering field? ›

10 Highest Paying Engineering Jobs
  • Civil Engineer. ...
  • Mechanical Engineer. ...
  • Industrial Engineer. ...
  • Biomedical Engineer. ...
  • Electrical Engineer. ...
  • Chemical Engineer. ...
  • Software Engineer. ...
  • Computer Engineer.
Jun 21, 2022

Do bioengineers wear scrubs? ›

Working Conditions. What They Wear To Work: Scrubs (hospital) Lab Coat (lab)

Do bioengineers make a lot of money? ›

Health care is routinely at the top of the list of highest-paying industries, as are jobs in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. The median annual salary for bioengineers and biomedical engineers was $97,410 in 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

What does an engineer wear? ›

Most engineering companies (not all) maintain a business casual dress code, which might consist of a nice pair of khaki's and a long sleeve dress shirt for a man and a nice skirt and blouse for a woman.

Is engineering hard to study? ›

Engineering ranks among one of the hardest degrees you can do. The degree requires you to have everything from logic and common sense to a tremendous amount of patience when things don't go your way. Engineering can be very difficult because you're essentially becoming a “professional problem solver”.

Do you need math for engineering? ›

Although computers can solve many math problems, engineers still need a solid foundation in math and a good understanding of mathematical principles. Each university develops its own degree plan and course catalog, but certain types of engineering math courses are typically required.

Do Electrical Engineers build things? ›

Electrical engineers design, develop, test, and supervise the manufacture of electrical equipment, such as electric motors, radar and navigation systems, communications systems, or power generation equipment. Electrical engineers also design the electrical systems of automobiles and aircraft.

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