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What Does an Electrical Engineer Do?

Electrical engineers work with everything from robots to laser technology to Wi-Fi. Keep reading to learn more about what electrical engineers do and what it takes to become one.

Career Overview

Electrical engineers create and implement electrical systems for everything from houses to rockets. Devices that transmit signals such as GPS and radar are products of electrical engineering. As an electrical engineer, you'll focus on power generation and transmission processes. You'll also experiment with new ways to use electronics, like using biomedical devices that allow physicians to accurately assess a patient's condition without an invasive procedure.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Licensure Not required, but a Professional Engineering license may be earned for career advancement
Key Skills Math, interpersonal, concentration, initiative
Work Environment Office environment; some on-site work
Similar Occupations Aerospace engineer, biomedical engineer, electrician, sales engineer

Research

One of the options you'll have if you become an electrical engineer is research in new technology. Energy conservation is becoming increasingly important, and electrical engineers are at the forefront in developing new ways to use solar, wind, water, and other natural sources for power generation. Some fields of research an electrical engineer may opt to focus on include:

Electrical Ships

Ships use an enormous amount of energy, and they can require multiple power systems to run every type of ship operations, from navigation to weapons. Electrical engineers are investigating the feasibility of using superconductors to run all ship systems. Electric motors run by superconductors use less energy and take up less space than traditional motors

Planet Observation

Scientists study natural phenomena and disasters through satellite and relay systems. Electrical engineers help create these systems and ensure that satellites remain functional while orbiting the Earth.

Biometric Technology

Electrical engineers are working to refine things like fingerprint identification systems. For example, a fingerprint applied to a rubber glove may be mistaken for an actual fingerprint by the system, allowing access to an unauthorized individual. Through electrical engineering expertise, systems can be upgraded to recognize the difference between the rubber glove and the actual human fingerprint.

Education

To become an electrical engineer, you'll need a strong foundation in math and science. Many colleges and universities offer programs accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc. (ABET) at both bachelor's and graduate levels. Electrical engineers can generally get entry-level jobs with a bachelor's degree, but if you plan on a career in higher levels of research, you may need a master's or doctorate degree.

Employment Outlook and Salary Statistics

The employment of electrical engineers is predicted to grow by about 5% between 2019 and 2029, reports the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov). The BLS published the median annual salary of such engineers as $100,830 in May 2020. It also noted that engineers working for oil and gas extraction companies made $131,710 annually in 2020, which was the highest average salary across all industries of employment for electrical engineers.