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How to Become an Electrical Designer: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become an electrical designer. Research the education requirements, licensure information and experience required for starting a career in electrical design.

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Should I Become an Electrical Designer?

Electrical designers use design software to develop designs for projects such as lighting, electrical equipment and instruments, power distribution and a variety of other applications. Some overtime might be required when deadlines draw near. Travel to work sites might be needed on occasion.

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Career Requirements

Degree Level Associate's or bachelor's degree preferred; some employers may accept a high school diploma with professional experience
Degree Field Electrical engineering, architectural engineering or similar field
Licensure and Certification Journeyman electrician preferred but not required, professional engineering (PE) license optional
Experience 0-7 years
Key Skills Excellent math and communication skills, ability to work with a team and be detail-oriented, experience with Autodesk Revit, AutoCad and Bentley Microstation software, knowledge of instrumentation designs, hazardous area designs, NFPA and NEC codes and regulations, Class 1/Division 1 experience, conduit sizing, simple loop diagrams
Salary (2015) $58,817 yearly (median)

Source: Job postings from multiple employers (Dec. 2012), U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, PayScale.com

Step 1: Get an Undergraduate Degree

An associate's or bachelor's degree in electrical engineering can prepare students for a career in electrical design. Associate degree programs in electrical engineering technology can teach students how to apply their knowledge to applications such as electrical circuits and equipment. Courses may include digital electronics, AC/DC circuits, computer applications, CAD and drafting, analog electronics and electrical codes.

A bachelor's degree program in electrical engineering can provide a thorough foundation in electrical design. Programs typically have a strong base in math, physics and science. Coursework may include electrical and computer engineering, electrical circuits, material sciences and analytical methods. Students may apply their skills in a lab to gain experience. Admission requirements usually include a high school diploma or equivalent.

Success Tip

  • Join an internship program. Some schools offer electrical design or engineering internships that can provide additional hands-on experience. This can be valuable when looking for employment.

Step 2: Gain Work Experience

Graduates from an electrical engineering program can accept an entry-level position in electrical design. Job duties may include modeling, drafting, layouts and circuiting under supervision. Once adequate experience is gained, candidates can seek higher-level positions. Duties might include assisting project managers, developing estimates, schedules, designs and projects. Electrical designers may perform work-related research, travel to work sites to supervise projects and document project completion and accuracy.

Step 3: Become Licensed or Certified

Each state's licensing board offers an optional professional engineering (PE) license. In order to qualify for the license, applicants must first take and pass the fundamentals of engineering (FE) exam through their state licensing board. After 4 years of professional experience, they're eligible to take the PE exam. This license provides distinction and allows electrical designers to offer engineering services to the public in addition to other career advancement opportunities.

A journeyman electrician certificate is preferred by some jobs for electrical design positions. Each state has different requirements, but they generally include minimum professional or education experience and passage of a written electrical exam.

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