Electrical and electronics engineers have high earning potential and are able to specialize in a variety of specific areas. Read on to find out about education requirements, job duties, employment outlook and earning potential for this field.
There are key differences between these two types of closely related engineers. Electrical engineers work on developing electrical equipment and designing methods to generate power. Electronics engineers create electronic devices and oversee the testing and manufacturing process of electronics. Electrical and electronics engineers are skilled in mathematics, engineering principles and electrical systems.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that job growth for electrical and electronics engineers was expected to be 4% from 2012-2022 (www.bls.gov). Foreign competition and job outsourcing were the main causes cited by the BLS for slower-than-average growth in these fields. The best opportunities will be found at engineering design firms. As of May 2013, electrical engineers made a median annual salary of $89,180, and electronics engineers (except those who work on computers) earned a median salary of $94,250.
Most employers look for electrical or electronics engineers who have obtained a bachelor's degree in engineering. Some engineering programs prepare students to continue on to graduate school, and some focus more on standard engineering knowledge, making it important for prospective engineering students to explore their degree options before selecting a program.
A bachelor's degree program in electrical engineering can include courses such as linear circuits, electrical communications and engineering physics. Electronics engineering students enrolled in a bachelor's program will take slightly different classes than electrical engineering students, such as digital electronics, semiconductors and circuit board design. Students in both fields will usually participate in hands-on projects in order to help them understand and apply engineering concepts.
A master's degree program in electrical engineering or electronics engineering prepares students for lead engineering and development positions. Most programs will include a thesis project, but a few offer alternative courses in place of a thesis. Some course options for electrical engineering master's-level students are systems engineering, digital signals and engineering numerical methods. Electrical engineering students can choose specializations in electromagnetics, bioelectronics and solid state circuits, among others.
Engineers who work for the public must be licensed. After completing a 4-year engineering bachelor's program accredited by ABET, you can take the Fundamentals of Engineering exam administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying. You'll then need to gain four years of experience before you can take the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam in electrical or electronics engineering to become a licensed engineer.