If electricity sparks your interest, you might be interested in a career as an electrical or electronics engineer. Both careers generally require that you hold a bachelor's degree with a heavy concentration in mathematics.
Electrical engineering degrees have extensive mathematical requirements, including a sequence in calculus, plus advanced courses like differential equations or linear algebra. Graduates can expect to find employment as electrical engineers or electronics engineers. These professionals may be project managers or work in a specific division of electrical power and equipment. A bachelor's degree and professional license may be required.
|Career Title||Electrical Engineer||Electronics Engineer|
|Required Education||Bachelor's degree||Bachelor's degree|
|Licensure Requirements||Fundamentals of Engineering and Principles and Practice of Engineering exams, four years of professional work||Fundamentals of Engineering and Principles and Practice of Engineering exams, four years of professional work|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||1%||Decline - 1% (electronics engineers, except computers)|
|Average Salary (2015)*||$93,010||$98,270 (electronics engineers, except computers)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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Electrical engineers are concerned with the production and supply of electricity, while electronics engineers are concerned with electronic instruments and/or systems. They may design and develop electronic equipment, from portable music players to GPS devices.
Electrical engineers design and develop equipment such as battery networks, power-generating systems and operating systems for consumer products, including vehicles. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), electrical engineers may specialize in power systems engineering or electrical equipment manufacturing.
Electrical engineers often participate in each phase of the implementation process, from producing the technical drawings to overseeing a project. According to O*Net Online, they need to be skilled with various instrumentation and technologies, such as signal generators and spectrometers. Due to the potential dangers of electricity, electrical engineers must always be mindful of safety concerns.
The BLS indicated that employment opportunities for electrical engineers were expected to grow by just one percent from 2014-2024. While the services electrical engineers provide are needed, their predicted employment growth was lower than many other engineering disciplines. The BLS stated that this was due, in part, to companies' practice of contracting out rather than directly hiring engineers.
In May 2015, the BLS reported that the median yearly salary for electrical engineers was $93,010, and that those in the top 10 percent earned $146,820 or more per year. Besides engineering firms, electrical engineers can work in power generation, instrument manufacturing and research.
Electronics engineers research, design, develop and test electronics for companies across the commercial, industrial, military and scientific sectors. They also design electronic circuits and components for use in fields like telecommunications, aerospace and manufacturing. The BLS predicted employment decline of one percent for electronics engineers from 2014-2024. As of May 2015, per the BLS, electronics engineers made a median annual salary of $98,270.
Most electrical and electronics engineering jobs require a bachelor's degree. These curricula have extensive mathematics requirements. The courses specific to electrical engineering cover topics in circuits, electronics, signals and systems.
Some universities administer cooperative education (co-op) programs that allow students to apply for, and work on, employer assignments. Students contracted for these assignments are paid for their work and gain practical work experience, as well as contacts within the field.
According to the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES), licensed professional electrical engineers may bid for government contracts and offer their services to the public. Becoming licensed requires accruing work experience and passing two NCEES-administered exams, both of which have a version for electrical engineers. Individuals near completion of an undergraduate program may sit for the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam. After passing the FE and working for four years, electrical engineers may take the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam and become licensed.
The BLS predicts that jobs for electrical engineers will be much slower than average from 2014-2024, while job growth for electronics engineers will decline slightly during this time period. Licensure is generally not required for an entry-level position, although it is required if you intend to bid on government contracts.