Career Definition of a Smart Grid Engineer
Smart grid engineers focus on smart grid technology in their work. Smart grids are designed to improve power distribution by making power grids operate more efficiently. Smart grids also integrate renewable energy sources, so when electricity from wind or solar power is available then the grid will use the energy from those sources. The grid switches to other sources, such as coal-based electricity, when renewable energy isn't sufficient to meet demands.
Smart grid engineers are involved with designing systems that can regulate smart grids and make them operate effectively. Their work involves developing design plans and then they evaluate the effectiveness of those designs. They may do a cost-benefit analysis of the proposed component before overseeing the manufacturing process. They must document their work, report to managers to inform them of proposed systems or processes and the expected benefits of implementing these proposals and then oversee production and implementation. They direct staff within their department to ensure projects are completed efficiently and may be involved with teaching others how to use the smart grid technology they help develop.
|Educational Requirements||Bachelor's degree|
|Job Skills||Leadership skills, strong communication skills, analytical skills, interpersonal skills, attention to detail, teaching skills, mathematical skills, computer skills|
|Mean Salary (2017)*||$88,055|
|Job Outlook (2014-2024)**||0% (for all electrical and electronics engineers)|
Sources: *Glassdoor; **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
With a bachelor's degree in electrical or electronics engineering it's possible to seek entry-level work as a smart grid engineer. It's common for employers to prefer applicants with a master's or doctoral degree due to the level of technological knowledge required for smart grid engineering. Certification may be required and some employers will expect applicants to have a Professional Engineer (PE) license as well.
Smart grid engineers perform a lot of tasks on computers so they need strong computer skills and familiarity with computer-aided design software and may need experience working on Linux or Unix operating systems. Their work involves teaching customers about smart grid technology, reporting to management and overseeing other staff in their department so they need to have strong leadership skills and good interpersonal skills. Since they are involved with instructing people they need good oral communication skills and the ability to teach. Mathematical skills are required to perform calculations when working on designs. They also need analytical skills to assess the processes they've developed and identify issues or areas for improvement.
Career Outlook and Salary
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that electrical engineers and electronics engineers are most commonly employed to work with smart grids. The BLS projected no job growth for electrical and electronics engineers from 2014 to 2024. Glassdoor indicated in 2017 that the average annual salary for smart grid engineers was $88,055.
Aspiring smart grid engineers may also be interested in pursuing engineering opportunities with renewable energy sources. These links connect to articles that discuss the work that wind energy engineers, geothermal engineers and solar energy engineers do and how to prepare for careers in those fields.