What Can You Do With an Electrical Engineering Degree?
Updated March 10, 2023
Pursuing a degree in electrical engineering can lead to a variety of exciting career paths. However, job options and opportunities depend on the degree you earn, so it is important to understand what degree and career options are available and what qualifications they require. In this article, we will discuss electrical engineering degrees, how to earn them and what careers they make available to you.
What types of electrical engineering degrees are there?
If you are interested in a degree in electrical engineering, you can explore these degrees:
An associate degree in electrical engineering covers the basics of electrical engineering required for employment in the industry and typically takes two years to complete. The curriculum includes courses in physics, electrical circuitry and drafting. This degree prepares you to work in areas such as telecommunications, computers and electronics. After earning this degree, you may also choose to transfer to a four-year institution to pursue a bachelor's degree.
Most careers in the industry require at least a bachelor's degree and passing both the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam and the Professional Engineer (PE) exam. A bachelor's degree typically takes four years to complete unless you already earned an associate degree. The curriculum provides a general competence with electrical engineering and provides the opportunity for specialization such as in biometrics and microcomputer design.
Electrical engineers may consider getting a master's degree if they are interested in specializing in the industry. Master's programs give students greater experience and expertise in a focused area of study, like artificial intelligence or computer hardware engineering. Students with an electrical engineering bachelor's degree or a bachelor's degree in another STEM area may enter an electrical engineering master's degree program.
Electrical engineers who earn a doctorate degree can work as university and college professors or researchers. Electrical engineering Ph.D. programs may also admit students with strong academic backgrounds in math and science who want to switch fields.
Related: How to Become an Electrical Engineer
How to get a degree in electrical engineering
If you're interested in getting a degree in electrical engineering, here are four steps to take:
1. Choose a degree or certification
Whether you are just deciding on pursuing an electrical engineering degree or already possess one and are looking to specialize, finding a career that interests you can help determine your next move. Most careers in electrical engineering have predetermined education, licensure and certification requirements if you specialize within the industry.
2. Apply to the institution of your choice
Research various institutions that may offer the degree or certification you need. You may prefer colleges famous for their prestigious engineering programs or keep costs practical and look at institutions near you. Keep in mind that some degrees may not be available everywhere. For example, bachelor's degrees are not available at two-year colleges and only universities offer doctorate degrees.
3. Complete the degree or certification program
Commit to your coursework, maintain your GPA and pass your exams. Time in education is also a great opportunity to network with other electrical engineers among your classmates and instructors.
4. Take and pass the licensing exam
After earning your degree, you can become a licensed electrical engineer by taking the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam. The FE exam tests a newly graduated engineer's knowledge of vital subjects, such as statistics, probability and circuit analysis.
What jobs can you do with a degree in electrical engineering?
While most careers in the electrical engineering industry require a minimum of a bachelor's degree, some positions require only an associate degree. Job opportunities and salary can vary based on education, location and work experience. The following are 12 career paths you may consider in the electrical engineering industry:
National average salary: $23.89 per hour
Primary duties: Electrical technicians install wiring and equipment according to the specifications of an electrical engineer. They are also responsible for diagnosing the source of malfunctions and failures and take appropriate corrective actions. An associate degree is the minimum required qualification to be an electrical technician.
National average salary: $53,764 per year
Primary duties: A broadcast engineer maintains and repairs the equipment necessary for radio and television broadcasting. Their duties span across recording studios, editing rooms and transmission facilities. To work as a broadcast engineer, you must have at least an associate degree.
National average salary: $57,785 per year
Primary duties: Technical writers synthesize original writing and provide edits for researchers. A technical writer c ommunicates with electrical engineers and other scientific staff. They explain complex scientific materials in a clear, concise way. An associate degree is a minimum requirement to work as a technical writer.
National average salary: $60,584 per year
Primary duties: Also called a control systems engineer, a controls engineer designs circuits, microcontrollers and digital signal processors to facilitate the safe functioning of various machines. They may also update and regulate engines and mechanical systems. A bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement to be a control systems engineer.
National average salary: $27.42 per hour
Primary duties: A substation technician works on large-scale commercial, industrial and residential power systems. They ensure the electrical grid is functional, not overloaded and allocating power appropriately. An associate degree is a minimum requirement to be a substation technician, however there are some roles with greater responsibility that may require a bachelor's degree or higher.
National average salary: $83,890 per year
Primary duties: Electrical project managers supervise and delegate tasks in large projects. They are not only in charge of staff but also manage budgets, scheduling and communication between office administration and building sites. To work as an electrical project manager, you must have at least an associate degree.
National average salary: $90,285 per year
Primary duties: Electrical designers plan and execute hardware space allocation, cable routing and nodal network configuration. They are also proficient with software design and integration. An associate degree is a minimum requirement to be an electrical designer.
National average salary: $95,226 per year
Primary duties: Electrical engineers design and develop all varieties of small and large-scale electrical systems. They test, troubleshoot and improve electrical systems, devices and individual components. To work as an electrical engineer, you must have a minimum of a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering.
National average salary: $98,329 per year
Primary duties: Electronic communications engineers develop systems and products that enable individual and mass communication. Their expertise covers traditional broadcasting, radio, and wireless and satellite communications. A bachelor's degree in electrical engineering is the minimum requirement to be an electronic communications engineer.
10. Systems engineer
National average salary: $99,892 per year
Primary duties: A systems engineer sets up and maintains the electrical performance systems critical to the operation of complex engineering projects. Systems engineer is a manageable mid-career transition for electrical engineers with an interest in computer programming. To work as a systems engineer, you must have a minimum of a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering.
National average salary: $7,768 per month
Primary duties: Hardware engineers primarily design new computer components. They draft blueprints for innovative computer designs and work with software developers to upgrade hardware capacity, power and function. A bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement to work as a hardware engineer.
National average salary: $121,624 per year
Primary duties: Also called a network engineer, a network architect designs computer networks for local area and intranet system communication. They are also responsible for securing data, maintaining network functioning and installing hardware and software. To work as a computer network architect, you must have a minimum of a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering.
Tips on advancing your career after getting a degree in electrical engineering
The following are some helpful tips to consider:
Meet people in the industry. Networking with other professionals in the industry can be helpful in finding career opportunities. It also increases scientific collaborations and research advancements. Attending conferences, joining professional associations and alumni organizations are good options for networking.
Enroll in a certificate program. Online and on-campus certificate programs are common methods for those with general electrical engineering experience to learn specialized skills and show expertise. Some employers may offer enrollment in a certificate program to their employees. Common certificate programs include electromagnetics, wireless communications, signal processing and biomedical engineering.
Take a licensure exam. After passing the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam and working for several years, you may take the Principles and Practices of Engineering (PE) exam. These exams vary by state but typically test knowledge of general engineering and magnetic and electrical field theory.
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