Becoming an Electronic Circuit Designer: Job Description & Salary

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Learn about an electronic circuit designer's job duties and responsibilities, salary and educational requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of an electronic circuit designer career.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming an Electronic Circuit Designer

Electronic circuit designers, also known as electronic engineers, use principles of electrical conduction and resistance, logic, mathematics and engineering to create the circuit boards that power the technologies that make life in the digital age possible. Read the pros and cons of becoming an electronic circuit designer to decide if it's the right career for you.

Pros of Becoming an Electronic Circuit Designer
Significantly above-average wages (median annual salary of about $95,790 in 2014)*
Only a bachelor's degree is required*
Advancement to managerial positions is possible through work experience*
Can design electronic circuits for a variety of purposes (communication, travel, navigation, power systems, etc.)*

Cons of Becoming an Electronic Circuit Designer
Little to no career growth predicted (0% from 2014-2024)*
For some electronic circuit designers, working overtime is common*
Many companies are hiring electronic engineering firms rather than directly hiring an electronic circuit designer full-time*
Some states require continuing education for engineering licensure*

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

Essential Career Information

Duties and Responsibilities of an Electronic Circuit Designer

Electronic circuit designers, or electronics engineers, are technically skilled professionals who participate in the conceptualization, design and production of electronic components or systems. They analyze the needs of a particular electrical item or system, and develop an electrical circuit that meets the requirements, cost and capacity. This could include medical instruments, military equipment or commercial products. Electronic circuit designers also inspect equipment and make recommendations for improvement to ensure it meets regulatory and safety standards. Most commonly, electronic engineers work in telecommunication or manufacturing settings, or they work for the government.

Salary and Career Outlook for an Electric Circuit Designer

In 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) stated that electronic engineers, excluding those who worked on computers, earned a median annual salary of about $95,790. From 2014-2024, this field was expected to see no increase in employment rates. Opportunities were expected to be the most available in electronic engineering firms, as many manufacturing companies will still need the expertise of electronic circuit designers but may not necessarily hire them full time.

Requirements of an Electronic Circuit Designer

Education Requirements

To become an electronics engineer, you must earn a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering. These programs commonly include courses in subjects like calculus, digital electronics, circuit analysis, control systems and electromagnetism. Some programs include study in computer engineering, and some may allow you to choose an area of concentration, such as biomedical engineering. If you're interested in earning a master's degree, you may enroll in a program that offers an accelerated 5-year option combining undergraduate and graduate coursework. The electrical engineering program you choose should be accredited by the ABET, Inc. (formerly the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology).

Useful Skills

A highly logical mind and strong attention to detail are essential skills for engineers because there is a low tolerance for error in creating electronic circuits. Even the smallest error may lead to complete system failure. Electronic circuit designers need to be individuals who are innovative and knowledgeable in the field of electronic circuitry. They must also have adept communication skills, since the work of electronic circuit designers largely depends on other professionals who are responsible for project management, product manufacturing and other engineering tasks.

What Are Employers Looking for?

Some electronic circuit designer positions require years of experience, while others are at the entry-level. Most employers are looking for a competent professional with a bachelor's degree in the field. The following job postings found in April 2012 illustrate skills needed in electronic circuit designers:

  • An engineering manufacturing company in New York requires an electronic circuit designer who is able to act as a project manager and report on product development schedules by coordinating with other engineering professionals on the team. The applicant needs to have a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering.
  • Another engineering company in Pennsylvania requires a candidate who has 5 years of experience in both digital and analog circuit design in addition to a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering.
  • One engineering company based in California prefers an electronic circuit designer who is familiar with P.C.B. (printed circuit board) layout. The applicant is expected to have at least two years of experience and a bachelor's degree in electrical or electronics engineering.

How to Stand out in the Field

If you are looking to enter the field of electronic circuit design, you may benefit from having appropriate licensure, especially if you want to work for the federal government or for a company that works with the government. Any engineer that offers his or her services directly to the public is also required to hold licensure.

Upon graduation from a bachelor's degree program accredited by the ABET, candidates may take the first exam towards licensure. After relevant work experience is obtained, these workers may take the second exam towards licensure. Depending on the state an electronic circuit designer works in, he or she may need to continue education in order to keep the license current.

Alternative Career Choices

Computer Hardware Engineer

If you're interested in working with computers as well as electricity, you might consider becoming a computer hardware engineer. These professionals work with the design, development, research and production of computer chips, hardware and other equipment. Like an electronic circuit designer, they must have analytical competency in order to solve problems and create innovative products. You would need a bachelor's degree in computer engineering or a related field to begin your career as a computer hardware engineer. According to the BLS, computer hardware engineers earned a median annual salary of about $99,000 in 2011. The BLS also stated that the field is expected to see a nine percent growth in employment from 2010-2020, which is slower than the average.

Electrician

Another similar career to an electronic circuit designer would be an electrician. This career typically requires a high school degree plus the completion of an apprenticeship program. Electricians commonly need to be licensed, although specific requirements vary by state. According to the BLs, this career is expected to see an employment growth rate of about 23% from 2010-2020, and it was reported that they earned a median annual salary of about $49,000 in 2011.

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