An electrical engineering or electronics degree is required to pursue a career as an electrical engineer or electronics engineer. Both electrical engineers and electronics engineers are required to be licensed, and must fulfill continuing education requirements to maintain their license.
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Electrical or Electronics Engineering Career Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), many people think electrical and electronics engineering are the same; however, they are separate and distinct industries. Electrical engineers are generally concerned with the generation and transmission of electricity. They may, for example, devise electric motors, power generators or wiring systems for buildings. Electrical engineers apply their knowledge to a variety of industries, including power production and communication systems.
Electronics engineers, on the other hand, focus on the application of electricity. They design and develop many electronic technologies, ranging from toys to satellites, and they may also oversee the manufacture of these products. While these professionals typically work in the production of electronics, they may also find employment in computer-related industries. Many electronics engineers specialize in a particular area, such as telecommunications, control systems or aviation.
|Required Education*||Bachelor's Degree|
|Other Requirements*||Licensed through NCEES|
|Projected Job Growth* (2014-2024)||0% (for electrical and electronics engineers combined)|
|Median Salary* (2015)||$95,230 annually (for electrical and electronics engineers combined)|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
The BLS indicates that employment opportunities for electrical engineers were expected to increase just 1% from 2014-2024, while electronics engineers were expected to see a 1% job decline in the same decade. Overseas competition and outsourcing are two of the major reasons for these low projections.
The BLS reports that electrical engineers earned a median salary of $93,010 in May 2015. Electronics engineers earned a median salary of $98,270 in the same year. With both professions, none of the top employers were among the top-paying. Architectural, engineering and related services employed the highest levels of electrical engineers, while wired telecommunications carriers were the top-employing industry for electronics engineers.
To practice as an electrical or electronics engineer, students must graduate from a bachelor's degree program accredited by ABET, Inc., formerly the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In the first two years of study, curriculum is comprised of general education and foundational engineering coursework, such as classes in calculus, differential equations and physics.
The remaining years of electrical and electronics programs tend to cover topics in circuitry, communication systems and engineering design. Electrical engineering students tend to focus more on technical theory, such coursework in electromagnetics, device theory, control circuit principles and stochastic processes. Electronics engineering students often complete more application-based coursework, like classes in digital technology, programming and transform methods. Students may be required to complete a capstone or senior project in which they create and present an original design.
According to the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES), engineers must be licensed to perform many job functions, such as providing their services to the public or bidding for government contracts. The path to professional licensure includes passing two NCEES-sponsored exams. The first is the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, which may be taken near college graduation. The NCEES offers an electrical engineering version of the FE exam that includes topics in circuitry, electromagnetism and signal processing.
After passing the FE, aspiring engineers must work as engineer in training (EITs) for four years. They may then sit for the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam to become licensed. To maintain licensure, engineers must fulfill continuing education requirements.
With an electrical engineering or electronics degree that is recognized by ABET, it is possible to pursue a career as an electrical engineer or electronics engineer. Electrical engineers focus on the generation and transmission of electricity while electronics engineers focus on how electricity is applied. Electronics engineers may develop toys or appliances and oversee the production of these items.