Should I Become an Electrical Systems Engineer?
Electrical systems engineers design, develop and construct power generation systems for communication systems, automobiles, buildings and other technologies. These engineers plan out the wiring architecture and electrical components. Experienced engineers may become more deeply involved in project management.
|Degree Level||Bachelor's degree required; some more advanced positions may require a graduate degree|
|Degree Field||Computer or electrical engineering|
|Licensure||Licensure as a Professional Engineer (PE) is encouraged|
|Experience||Experience required for many positions|
|Key Skills||Math skills, communication skills, detail oriented; knowledge of and ability to use tools like signal generators, evaporators and spectrometers; Field-specific software, such as computer-aided design (CAD) software and circuit simulation software; skills in C++ programming|
|Salary (2014)||$91,410 per year (Median salary for electrical engineers)|
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*NET Online, Multiple job posts (December 2012)
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree in Electrical Engineering
Earning a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from an ABET-accredited program is the first step to becoming an electrical systems engineer. In addition to receiving a general education, students take electronic systems and energy conversion classes. CAD courses can teach students how to use computer software to calculate power requirements and test the performance of a system. Electrical engineering programs may include courses in electromagnetics, electronics and statistics. Bachelor's degree programs in computer engineering are usually acceptable to employers as well.
- Take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam. Engineering graduates are eligible to take the first exam required to become licensed engineers. Those who pass this exam become known as engineer interns or engineers in training (EITs) and can start gaining the experience needed to take the second exam.
Step 2: Consider Earning a Master's Degree
Some employers prefer candidates who have completed a master's degree program in electrical engineering. Graduate programs may allow students to focus their studies in electronic circuits, communications or many other areas. Course topics may include embedded systems, systems engineering and digital signal processing.
Additionally, earning a master's degree can open up opportunities for employment in academia. Some schools may offer a combined bachelor's and master's degree program that can be completed in five years.
Step 3: Gain Experience
Entry-level positions typically include working under the supervision of an experienced engineer as well as on-the-job and in-class training. New hires may assist with collecting data on electrical system requirements, determining the efficiency of power generators and conducting field surveys to identify power system problems. Gaining experience can lead to mid-level engineering jobs and help an engineer get closer to obtaining an engineering license.
Step 4: Get an Engineering License
EITs with four years of work experience are eligible to take the second part of the licensing exam. EITs who successfully complete the exam become licensed PEs. Keep in mind that each state has different guidelines for PEs, so prospective engineers should check with their state board for more details.
States may require PEs to participate in continuing education activities to keep their licenses. Each state has different statutes and renewal periods.
- Find out what continuing education options are accepted by the state board and begin earning hours. Each state may have a different list of what counts as continuing education hours, but some common options include completing college courses, authoring papers and completing self-study programs. PEs may also wish to join an organization that offers continuing education courses.
Step 5: Advance to a Supervisory Position
Engineers who have enough experience and expertise may be qualified to supervise other engineers or manage engineering projects. Experienced engineers may also parlay their technical skills into a sales engineering job.