Electrical engineers design, develop, test, and supervise the manufacture of electrical equipment. Some of this equipment includes electric motors; machinery controls, lighting, and wiring in buildings; automobiles; aircraft; radar and navigation systems; and power generation, control, and transmission devices used by electric utilities. Although the terms electrical and electronics engineering often are used interchangeably in academia and industry, electrical engineers have traditionally focused on the generation and supply of power, whereas electronics engineers have worked on applications of electricity to control systems or signal processing. Electrical engineers specialize in areas such as power systems engineering or electrical equipment manufacturing.
Power plants, research and engineering companies, medical equipment companies, aviation and aerospace industries, telecommunications providers, engineering firms, architectural and construction companies, all types of manufacturing plants, and the federal government all employ electrical engineers.
EDUCATIONAL REQUIREMENTS (AAS, BS)
A bachelor’s degree in engineering is required for almost all entry-level engineering jobs. Engineers offering their services directly to the public must be licensed. Engineers typically enter the occupation with a bachelor’s degree in an engineering specialty such as electrical, electronics, mechanical, or civil engineering, but some basic research positions may require a graduate degree. College graduates with a degree in a natural science or mathematics occasionally may qualify for some engineering jobs, especially in specialties in high demand. Engineers trained in one specialty may work in related specialties. This flexibility allows employers to meet staffing needs in new technologies and specialties in which engineers may be in short supply. It also allows engineers to shift to fields with better employment prospects or to those that more closely match their interests. In addition to the standard engineering degree, many colleges offer two-year or four-year degree programs in engineering technology.
These programs, which usually include various hands-on laboratory classes that focus on current issues in the application of engineering principles, prepare students for practical design and production work, rather than for jobs that require more theoretical and scientific knowledge. Graduates of four-year technology programs may get jobs similar to those obtained by graduates with a bachelor’s degree in engineering. Engineering technology graduates, however, are not qualified to register as professional engineers under the same terms as graduates with degrees in engineering. Some employers regard technology program graduates as having skills between those of a technician and an engineer. Continuing education to keep current with rapidly changing technology is important for engineers. Graduate training is essential for engineering faculty positions and many research and development programs. Many experienced engineers obtain graduate degrees in engineering or business administration to learn new technology and broaden their education. Many high-level executives in government and industry began their careers as engineers.