Electrical Project Manager Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

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An electrical project manager's median annual salary is around $91,000. Is it worth the education requirements? See real job descriptions and get the truth about career prospects to find out if becoming an electrical project manager is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career as an Electrical Project Manager

Becoming a project manager in the field of electrical engineering can be a highly rewarding career path with opportunities to lead others and develop technical expertise. Read on to investigate the pros and cons of a career as an electrical project manager.

Pros
Strong income (roughly $91,000 median salary for electrical engineers in 2014)*
Bachelor's degree enough for some positions*
High degree of control over project direction*
Opportunity to lead others and develop people skills*

Cons
Slow job growth (4% expected between 2012-2022)*
High level of responsibility for project outcomes*
Some employers expect lengthy experience and/or graduate studies*
Can be stressful when delegating work to others and dealing with project obstacles*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Information

Job Description

As an electrical project manager, you'll oversee the planning, implementation and completion of a project related to electrical equipment. Items as diverse as navigation systems, electric motors, power generators and the electrical components of automobiles or aircraft are within the scope of the profession. You'll make sure all the components necessary to create or improve a product are thoroughly analyzed to ensure they meet industry standards. Troubleshooting will be crucial to making sure products are not faulty. You'll also need to respond promptly to any problems that arise.

When it comes to managing the specific project at hand, you'll develop goals, motivate your team, delegate work and overcome obstacles. You'll be fully in charge of the project from start to finish, which provides you with a tremendous amount of control as well as responsibility.

Salary and Employment Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the decline of many manufacturing areas in which electrical engineers and project managers work is expected to limit job growth to only about 4% from 2012-2022 (www.bls.gov). Still, electrical project managers will continue to be valuable assets in the production of new and evolving technologies. The BLS also states that the median annual salary for electrical engineers was about $91,000 in 2014. The bottom 10% of these earners are paid roughly $59,000 or less, and the top 10% bring home about $143,000 or more. As a project manager overseeing the work of other engineers, you would likely see pay higher than the median.

Education Requirements and Qualifications

To work in electrical engineering, you'll almost certainly need, at minimum, a bachelor's degree in the field. Be sure your education specifically highlights courses in physics, advanced math and drafting since you'll need to regularly make efficient calculations and prepare detailed technical drawings for projects. Some employers also expect a graduate degree, either in electrical engineering or project management. In addition, significant hands-on experience is usually required to be considered for jobs, so you may want to seek out programs where you can earn credit for actual work experience or where you can do an internship.

What Employers Are Looking For

Substantial experience facilitating projects can be the most important factor to an employer. You'll want to be able to show you have what it takes to get a project finished with quality and efficiency. Here are some job postings from real employers in June 2012:

  • An engineering company in Virginia sought an electrical/power project manager to facilitate design and maintenance of high voltage power systems. Candidates needed a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and at least 5 years of experience monitoring similar electrical or construction projects.
  • An engineering firm in New York, NY, searched for a senior electrical engineer and project manager. A bachelor's degree was required and a master's degree preferred, along with 10-15 years of experience. An in-depth understanding of power distribution, lighting and general electrical engineering concepts was expected.
  • An Indiana engineering firm looked for a senior electrical project manager with significant expertise in power systems project team leadership. A bachelor's degree in electrical engineering was required, in addition to at least 10 years of experience.
  • An electrical and data contractor located in California wanted to hire a senior electrical project manager to oversee various projects and forecast company progress. Strong labor management and communication skills were expected, as well as at least 7 years of experience.

How to Stand Out

Whether or not a position requires a graduate-level degree, pursuing one could increase your knowledge base and improve your credentials in the eyes of employers. You may also want to pursue licensure as a professional engineer (PE), although this is not as common for electrical engineers as for other engineering professions. If you decide to become licensed, you'll need a degree from a school accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), experience and passing scores on both the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) and PE exams. With the goal of becoming a project manager, you might also consider becoming certified by the Project Management Institute. This requires at least 3 years of relevant experience and a passing score on the Institute's exam.

If you already work for a company with a project management department, you could begin assisting more advanced managers. How well you help facilitate small projects can go a long way towards gaining input into larger projects and eventually overseeing projects completely on your own.

Alternative Career Paths

Electrical Engineering Technician

If you like electrical engineering but aren't sure about the education requirements needed for engineers or project managers, you could become an electrical engineering technician and help engineers assemble and monitor equipment. The median pay is certainly less (around $57,000 in 2011, according to the BLS) and expected job growth from 2010-2020 is low at 2%, but you may only need an associate's degree to get an entry-level position.

Electrician

Perhaps you don't like the engineering side of things, but are interested in knowing how electrical systems work and how to keep them going. You could look into becoming an electrician who maintains electrical systems in a wide range of buildings. As little as a high school diploma is needed to begin this career. In addition, the BLS reports that job growth is expected to be 23% from 2010-2020, and the median salary (approximately $49,000 in 2011) is relatively high considering the requirements.

Aerospace Engineer

If you do want to focus on engineering but not specifically on electrical components, aerospace engineering - where you'd design and construct planes or spacecraft - might be the profession for you. Though only 5% job growth is expected during the 2010-2020 decade, median pay is a good deal higher than for electrical engineers, at roughly $102,000 in 2011, per the BLS.

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Featured Schools

Lincoln Tech

  • Electrical/Electronics

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Purdue University Global

  • BS in Cloud Computing and Solutions
  • BSIT: Network Admin
  • AASIT: Network Admin

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Universal Technical Institute

  • Marine Technician Specialist
  • Diesel Technology
  • Motorcycle Technician Specialist

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Full Sail University

  • BS - Cloud Technologies (Campus)

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Regent University

  • Bachelor of Applied Science in Information Systems Technology
  • Bachelor of Arts in Leadership Studies - Information Technology

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Colorado Technical University

  • Master: Computer Engineering

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Northcentral University

  • PhD-TIM - Engineering Management
  • PhD in Business Admin - Management of Engineering and Technology
  • MSTIM - Engineering Magagement
  • MBA - Management of Engineering and Technology

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Purdue University

  • Master of Science in Engineering Technology

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