What Does an Electrical Engineer Do?
Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More
Electrical engineers, taking into account the principles and practices of engineering, develop and design electrical equipment. This includes equipment that's used in cars and aircraft; power generation; communication systems; motors; and radar and navigation systems. They also supervise the manufacturing of this equipment and perform tests to make sure it is functioning properly.
Electrical Engineer Duties & Responsibilities
This job generally requires the ability to do the following duties:
- Develop or improve products using electrical power
- Help develop manufacturing, construction, and installation standards and specifications for electrical products
- Evaluate electrical products, components, and applications to ensure they meet specific standards and codes
- Conduct performance, reliability, and compliance testing
- Assist with equipment and process troubleshooting
Electrical engineers often use engineering and design software and equipment to do their work. They also sometimes work as part of cross-functionals team on large projects.
Electrical Engineer Salary
An electrical engineer's salary can vary depending on location, experience, and employer. As of May 2018, the salary range is as follows:
- Median Annual Salary: $96,640
- Top 10% Annual Salary: $153,240
- Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $61,190
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018
Education Requirements & Qualifications
Beyond education and licensing, having some practical work experience, through an internship or similar program, can give job candidates an advantage.
- Education: 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.
Engineering Summer Camps
A number of engineering summer camps are available to K-12 students in the U.S. to help them jump-start their education. The camps are offered by various universities and research centers. The Engineering Education Service center offers a list of those engineering camps by state—and updates it on an ongoing basis.
- Licensing: 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.
- Exams: 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.
Electrical Engineer Skills & Competencies
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 engineer, you need the ability to acquire new information and incorporate it into your work.
- Analysis: You will have to be able to assess your own and others' performances, as well as that of electrical products, components, and applications, and make improvements as needed.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment of electrical engineers will grow 7 percent through 2026, which is the same as the growth average for all occupations in the U.S.
Electrical engineers generally work in an office but will also visit different types of sites to investigate problems or gather information for new tasks.
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.
Jobs in electrical engineering are typically full-time. Exact hours will vary depending on the employer.
Comparing Similar Jobs
People interested in becoming electrical engineers may also be interested in the related careers listed below with their median salaries:
- Architectural and engineering manager: $137,720
- Aerospace engineer: $113,030
- Biomedical engineer: $88,040
- Computer hardware engineer: $115,120
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017