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Electrical Engineers: Job Description & Career Info

Learn about the work environment of an electrical engineer. Explore educational requirements, skills necessary, salary and employment outlook to determine if this is the right career choice.

Career Definition for an Electrical Engineer

Electrical engineers are responsible for implementing electrical components into any number of devices that use electricity. They help to design and manufacture electrical products of all shapes and sizes, making it a career constantly on the cutting edge. Due to the job's complexities, electrical engineers frequently work with computers; many of these professionals also work in team settings. While there is overlap with electronics areas, electrical engineers generally focus on supply and generation of power.

Education Bachelor's degree in electrical engineering
Job Skills Proficiency in math and science, problem solving, technical skill, written and verbal communication
Median Salary (2015)* $93,010 (all electrical engineers)
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 1% (all electrical engineers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Needed

Having at least one degree in electrical engineering is an absolute necessity for advancement in the field; many firms require electrical engineers to have a master's or doctoral degree for career advancement. Degrees offered in the field include Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, Bachelor of Engineering with concentration in electrical engineering, Master of Science in Electrical Engineering, Master of Engineering with concentration in electrical engineering and Doctorate of Philosophy in Electrical Engineering. Gaining entrance into most engineering schools is quite difficult; applicants need top grades in classes such as computer science, physics, chemistry, mathematics and statistics.

Skills Required

Having exceptional understanding of science and math is a major requirement for a career in electrical engineering; in addition, knowing computers inside and out is a plus. Electrical engineers must be good problem-solvers and have a creative bent, since finding new ways to provide power to products in the development phase is often the main task. Public speaking and writing are also good skills to have; electrical engineers frequently write technical reports and present material before large groups.

Career and Economic Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that 178,000 electrical engineering jobs existed in 2014. The BLS also states that job growth is expected to be just one percent for the 2014-2024 decade. As of May 2015, the average annual wage for electrical engineers was $93,010.

Alternative Careers

Those pursuing careers as electrical engineers may be interested in related jobs, including electrical engineering technicians or electricians.

Electrical Engineering Technician

For those who have in interest in the engineering field but may not be ready to pursue a bachelor's degree, a career as an electrical engineering technician is a possibility. These technicians build electrical systems and devices, repair equipment, create diagrams and reports, set up tests and analyze results. An associate degree in a related electrical or electronics field is generally required in order to gain employment, and coursework in mathematics and science is essential.

The BLS expects a 2% decline in the number of jobs in this profession from 2014 to 2024, due to a decrease in traditional manufacturing. However, jobs will become more available in the computer and mobile technology industry. In May of 2015, the BLS estimated that electrical engineering technicians received an average salary of $61,130.

Electrician

If working with power and electrical equipment is desired, becoming an electrician could be the right choice. Electricians read and interpret blueprints, install wiring and electrical fixtures, troubleshoot problems and make necessary repairs, oversee electrical technicians and make sure all regulations and codes are adhered to. Training at a technical school or in a 4-year apprenticeship is how most enter this field, and licensing is required in most states. Faster than average employment growth for this occupation of 14% is expected by the BLS between 2014 and 2024. It also reported that the average salary of electricians in 2015 was $51,880.

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