Pros and Cons of a Career in Electrical Engineering
Electricity engineers, more commonly known as electrical engineers, design, test and oversee the production of electrical equipment, such as electric motors, navigation systems and power-generating devices. Find out the pros and cons of a career in electrical engineering to decide whether it's right for you.
|PROS of a Career in Electrical Engineering|
|Can work in a variety of industries (medical, architectural, government, communications)*|
|Higher-than-average salary ($91,410 median annual salary as of 2014)*|
|Sense of accomplishment from inventing products to solve problems*|
|Jobs are located throughout the country in rural and metropolitan areas*|
|CONS of a Career in Electrical Engineering*|
|Long work hours*|
|High stress due to strict deadlines and standards*|
|Slow job growth (expected four percent between 2012 and 2022)*|
|Continuing education may be necessary to keep up with advancing technology and stay ahead in the job market*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Essential Career Information
Electrical engineers design, develop, maintain and test electrical equipment, including various devices utilized by electric utilities. They also might design electrical systems for vehicles, including cars and airplanes. This career can be distinguished from electronic engineering in that electrical engineers work mainly with power generation and supply, while electronic engineers work with the application of electricity. Strong time-management and organizational skills are important qualities for electrical engineers because of project deadlines and budget constraints. Electrical engineers must be able troubleshoot problems effectively and efficiently.
As an electrical engineer, you might work in a variety of settings, including plants, laboratories or office buildings. Some jobs require travel for on-site monitoring and supervision. Most engineers work 40 hours per week, but some projects require longer hours to meet deadlines.
Salary and Job Prospects
Electrical engineering offers one of the highest starting salaries of all occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Engineers with a bachelor's degree earned an average annual starting salary of $60,000 as of 2008 (www.bls.gov). Annual median salaries as of 2014 ranged from around $59,140 at the low end to about $143,200 at the high end, according to the BLS.
Job growth for electricity engineers was predicted to be slow (four percent between 20012 and 2022) because of lack of growth in manufacturing, per the BLS. Electrical engineers might be more likely to secure employment with large firms that provide engineering services to manufacturing companies.
What Are the Requirements?
Most electrical engineering jobs require candidates to have a bachelor's degree for entry-level positions. Higher-level faculty and research positions within this field require candidates to have a graduate degree in electrical engineering. Electricity engineers who wish to provide their services to the public must become licensed by their state. This requires at least four years of work experience and passage of a two-part exam. Some skills useful in the electrical engineering field are:
- Excellent written and oral communication skills
- Time-management skills
- Strong math and science skills
- Attention to detail
- Ability to work under pressure and solve problems quickly
What Employers Are Looking For
Most electrical engineering jobs require applicants to have at least a bachelor's degree as well as a few years of job experience. Employers require different skill sets depending on the specific job duties performed. The following job posts from February 2012 can give you an idea of what qualifications and skills employers seek:
- An engineering company based in Tampa sought a lead engineer with at least a bachelor's degree, ten years of experience and a state license. The engineer was expected to manage and direct engineering staff and activities.
- An Illinois-based manufacturing company was looking for a candidate with a bachelor's degree and five years of experience to work as a controls engineer. Other requirements included experience with PLC and HMI programming, electrical controls design and motion control programming.
- A Santa Barbara manufacturer sought an electrical design engineer with a bachelor's degree and at least four years of experience to design electrical systems and components. Ideal candidates would have experience using AutoCAD, ELCAD and SolidWorks software, DC motors and RF technology. The candidate needed to be willing to travel to another country for work.
How to Stand Out
In addition to a bachelor's degree, a Professional Engineering (PE) license can help you stand out to employers. This license is earned after successfully completing two exams, the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) and the Principles and Practice of Engineering. Most states require a bachelor's degree for the FE test. Four years of work experience is generally required to take the second test.
Classes in written and oral communication can also benefit aspiring electrical engineers. Employers seek out highly trained, specialized engineers who keep up-to-date on the latest technology and computer software.
Alternative Career Paths
If you're interested in designing and developing software, a career in software engineering might be right for you. According to the BLS, computer software engineers earned a median annual salary of about $88,000 as of 2010, and jobs were expected to grow faster than average, at 32%, between 2008 and 2018. Educational requirements are similar to those of an electrical engineer, with most employers requiring a bachelor's degree for entry-level positions.
Electrical Engineering Technician
If you like the idea of working in the electrical engineering field, but the education and licensing requirements are too much, a career in electrical engineering technology might be right for you. Job duties include testing, evaluating and repairing electrical devices and equipment. Most employers require you to have an associate's degree in engineering technology. Jobs were expected to decline by two percent between 2008 and 2018, but median annual wages were near $56,000 as of 2010, according to the BLS. Additional training and education could increase an electrical engineering technician's chances of advancement.
If you want to pursue a more complex engineering specialty, biomedical engineering allows you to work with advanced technology in the healthcare field. Biomedical engineers develop medical devices, systems and prostheses. Most biomedical engineering jobs require a graduate degree. This field was expected to grow much faster than other occupations, at 72%, between 2008 and 2018, according to the BLS. The median annual wage for biomedical engineers was approximately $82,000 as of 2010.