Electrical Design Engineer Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

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An electrical engineer's median annual salary is around $91,000. Is it worth the years of schooling and licensing requirements? Read on to get the truth about job duties and career prospects to find out if becoming an electrical engineer is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming an Electrical Design Engineer

Electrical design engineers create design concepts and turn them into real-life products. The following are some pros and cons of becoming an electrical engineer to help you decide if it is the right career for you.

Pros of Becoming an Electrical Engineer
High pay (median salary of around $91,000 per year in 2014)*
Opportunity to work in many different industries (manufacturing, government, engineering)*
Opportunity to develop new products (electric motors, radar systems, energy generators)*
Good job prospects in telecommunications and computer systems design*

Cons of Becoming an Electrical Engineer
Pressure to conform to design standards and deadlines*
Required 4-year apprentice period before being able to work as a professional engineer*
Little job growth (only a 1% increase in employment opportunities between 2014 and 2024)*
High international competition for jobs*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Essential Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Electrical engineers are typically concerned with power supply and power generation. In general, professionals in this field are responsible for designing, testing and maintaining electrical equipment. For example, you could work on electric motors, machinery wiring and lighting, communication systems, radar systems or control systems used by power plants.

Your daily job duties could include drafting technical drawings that outline the design specifications for electrical systems, using computer-aided design (CAD) software to create blueprints, consulting clients or other engineers about projects, overseeing product manufacturing or supervising electrical machine maintenance. You might also decide which materials should be purchased, develop manufacturing processes, look into clients' complaints or manage production budgets.

Salary Info and Career Prospects

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), electrical engineers earned a median annual salary of about $86,000 as of May 2014; the highest-paid professionals in this field earned upwards of $143,000, while the lowest made less than $59,000. Top-paying industries in this field include independent artists, writers and performers; information services; oil and gas extraction, wireless telecommunications; and residential building construction.

Additionally, the BLS reported that electrical engineers are likely to experience below-average employment growth through 2024, despite a large demand for electrical machines and components. This slow growth will likely be due to decreases in manufacturing. Architectural engineering, electric power generation, semiconductor manufacturing, navigational manufacturing and scientific R&D were among the industries with the highest levels of employment for this field.

What Are the Requirements?

Education Requirements

While it is possible to get a job in electrical engineering with a bachelor's degree only, many employers prefer candidates with a graduate degree in the field; this is especially true if you want to work in research. You can earn a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) or a Bachelor of Engineering (B.Eng) in this field; some B.Eng degree programs are 5-year professional programs that prepare you to sit for engineering exams. At the graduate level, you could earn a Master of Engineering (M.Eng) degree, which takes 2-3 years to complete.

Licensure

You need a license to work as a professional engineer (PE); however, before you can do that, you must complete a 4-year apprentice period as an engineer in training (EIT) or engineering intern (EI). To work as an EIT or an EI, you must pass a Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, which you can take after you graduate from an ABET-accredited engineering degree program. After you complete your four years as an apprentice, you can take the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam to become a PE. Additionally, some states enforce mandatory continuing education requirements to renew your engineering license.

Skills

Electrical engineers have to be adept at employing mathematical and scientific concepts in practical situations. Additionally, because engineers in this field commonly work with lots of other types of engineers, communication skills are required for most positions. Engineers must also be detail-oriented to make sure all the specifications of their designs are correct.

Job Postings

The minimum requirement for many engineering jobs is a bachelor's degree and work experience, although some jobs ask that applicants have experience with specific kinds of electrical systems or design software. You might also find that employers prefer experience with AutoCAD design software or experience with various electrical systems. The following are examples of job postings open in March 2012:

  • A consulting group based in Iowa wants an electrical engineer to work on electrical systems in fossil-fuel power plants, boiler heating and electrical energy generators, chilled-water plants, industrial process facilities and utility distribution systems. Candidates are expected to have a bachelor's degree in engineering, four years of work experience and a PE license.
  • A staffing company in Pittsburgh, PA, wants an electrical engineer specializing in telecommunication systems to test and design devices that use radio frequency transmission. It requires only two years of experience, but you must be able to work with network design protocols.
  • A manufacturing company in Michigan seeks an engineer to develop machine controls based on clients' needs. You'll need a bachelor's degree, at least three years of experience with machine controls and experience with AutoCAD design software.

How to Stand Out

Certification and Professional Societies

If you want to beat the competition as an electrical engineering, consider joining a professional society, which can give you free access to publications and other information on the latest in engineering technologies. For example, you could join the International Association of Engineers (IAENG), which has a sub-group dedicated to electrical engineering and offers opportunities to contribute to peer-reviewed engineering journals.

Alternative Career Paths

If you want to work in engineering but don't want to be an electrical engineer, you could pursue another engineering specialty, such as mechanical engineering. Like those who want to hire electrical engineers, employers expect applicants in mechanical engineering to have at least a bachelor's degree, but a graduate degree could increase your chances of employment. Mechanical engineers are expected to experience an employment growth rate of around 9% between 2010 and 2020, according to the BLS, and the median annual salary for mechanical engineers was about $79,000 as of May 2011.

Alternatively, you could work as an electrical engineering technician if you're interested in the field but don't want to commit to the education and licensing requirements of an engineer. In this position, you would be responsible for assisting engineers and helping to solve complex engineering problems. You only need an associate's degree to get this job, and the median annual salary is about $57,000.

Popular Schools

  • Campus and Online Programs
    1. South College

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate of Science in Electrical Engineering Technology
      • Associate of Science in Electrical Engineering Technology
  • Campus Locations:
    2. Lincoln Tech

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Electrical/Electronics
      • Electrical/Electronics
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    3. Kaplan University

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    Bachelor's
      • BSIT: Network Admin
      • BSIT: Network Admin
    Associate's
      • AASIT: Network Admin
      • AASIT: Network Admin
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    4. Regent University

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    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Arts in Leadership Studies - Information Technology
      • Bachelor of Arts in Leadership Studies - Information Technology
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    Certificate
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    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor's - Electronics Engineering Technology
      • Bachelor's - Mechatronics
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      • Associate's - Electronics Engineering Technology
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    7. Full Sail University

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      • BS - Cloud Technologies (Campus)
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    8. Purdue University

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      • Master of Science in Engineering Technology
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    9. CDI College

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      • Diploma in Construction Electrician Foundation
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    10. Penn Foster

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Featured Schools

South College

  • Associate of Science in Electrical Engineering Technology

What is your highest level of education completed?

Lincoln Tech

  • Electrical/Electronics

What year did you graduate High School / Receive GED?

Kaplan University

  • BSIT: Network Admin
  • AASIT: Network Admin

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Regent University

  • Bachelor of Arts in Leadership Studies - Information Technology

What is your highest level of education completed?

Universal Technical Institute

  • Marine Technician Specialist
  • Diesel Technology
  • Motorcycle Technician Specialist

What is your education level?

ECPI University

  • Bachelor's - Electronics Engineering Technology
  • Bachelor's - Mechatronics
  • Associate's - Electronics Engineering Technology

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Full Sail University

  • BS - Cloud Technologies (Campus)

What is your highest level of education?

Purdue University

  • Master of Science in Engineering Technology

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