What Does an Electrical Engineer Do?

Job Description

Electrical engineer
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Electrical engineers, taking into account the principles and practices of engineering, develop and design electrical equipment. This includes systems that are used in cars and aircraft; communication systems; motors; and radar and navigation systems. They also supervise the manufacture of this equipment and perform tests to make sure it is functioning properly.

Quick Facts

  • In 2014,  approximately 178,000 people worked in this occupation.
  • Most electrical engineers work in the following industries: engineering services; electric power generation, transmission, and distribution; semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing; and navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing.
  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a job outlook that includes little or no change in employment through 2024. Most people will work as consultants for engineering services firms since companies will increasingly contract out work rather than hire in-house electrical engineers.
  • Jobs are typically full-time.

A Day in an Electrical Engineer's Life

We wanted to find out what duties you should expect to have if you work in this field. We perused job listings on Indeed.com to find out. Here are some:

  • "Evaluate electrical products, components, and applications by designing and conducting research programs"
  • "Ensure global standards are being met"
  • "Conduct performance, reliability, and compliance testing"
  • "Assist with equipment and process troubleshooting"
  • "Select electrical engineering consultants when needed to support projects and manage their activities to ensure consistent criteria, cost effective designs, and timely delivery"
  • "Work with a cross-functional team to develop and optimize current and next generation inertial measurement units and system"

Education and Training

To become an electrical engineer, you will have to earn a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering or electrical engineering technology from a program that is ABET accredited. ABET is a professional association that accredits associate, bachelor's, and master's degree programs in engineering, engineering technology, computing, and applied science. Only programs that meet the organizations' standards receive this designation. In addition to classroom study, you will also have to complete laboratory and field work.

Although you do not need a Professional Engineer (PE) license to work in an entry-level job, you may want to get this credential later on. It will allow you to provide services directly to the public as well as supervise other engineers. To become licensed, you will need work experience and passing grades on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam and the Professional Engineering (PE) exam. You can sit for the former test immediately after graduation and the latter one once you get experience.

What Soft Skills Do You Need?

Your education and training are imperative, but unless you have certain soft skills, you won't be able to succeed in this occupation.

They are:

  • Communication: To communicate ideas to colleagues and clients, you need excellent speaking and writing skills. Superior listening skills will allow you to understand clients' needs and receive feedback from them and coworkers.
  • Problem Solving: You must be able to identify problems and come up with possible solutions. Then you must use critical thinking skills to evaluating your options and choose the best one.
  • Active Learning: As an electrical engineering, you need the ability to acquire new information and incorporate it into your work.
  • Monitoring: You will have to be able to assess your own and others' performances, making improvements as needed.

What Will Employers Expect From You?

We consulted Indeed.com once more to find out what qualities employers are looking for in job candidates.

Here's what we learned:

  • "Be able to lead and influence the technical design solutions on prospective projects"
  • "Ability to “sell” your design concept to the client"
  • "Able to maintain a high degree of confidentiality concerning health service records and information"
  • "Able to obtain a Secret DoD [U.S. Department of Defense] Security Clearance"
  • "Good communication skills, both oral and written, are required for effectively working with all levels of employees, vendors, and contractors and preparing technical reports"
  • "Good reasoning abilities and sound judgment with engineering practices"

Is This Career a Good Fit for You?

  • Holland Code: IRC (Investigative, Realistic, Conventional)
  • MBTI Personality Types: ESTJ, ISTJ, ESTP (Tieger, Paul D., Barron, Barbara, and Tieger, Kelly. (2014)  Do What You Are. NY: Hatchette Book Group.)

Occupations With Related Activities and Tasks

 DescriptionAnnual Salary (2015)Educational Requirements
Computer Hardware EngineerOversees the manufacture and testing of computers and their components.$111,730Bachelor's degree in computer engineering
Electrical Engineering TechnicianAssists electrical engineers.$61,130Associate degree in engineering technology

Electrical Drafter

Uses CAD software to convert electrical engineers' designs into technical drawings and instructions.$59,520Associate degree in drafting

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 (visited February 6, 2017).

Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online (visited February 6, 2017).