What Is Electronics Engineering? (Duties, Skills and Salary)

Updated December 12, 2022

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An engineer conducts tests from their work table, which holds a laptop, tools and diagnostic equipment.

Electronics engineering is a branch of electrical engineering that centers on the design and development of products using electronic technology. As a profession, it comprises multiple specialist areas that each require specific education and training to enter. Understanding more about electronics engineering and what it entails can help you make an informed decision about pursuing a career in the field.

In this article, we define electronics engineering, list the common duties of an electrical engineer and share the steps to take to secure roles in this field.

What is electronics engineering?

Electronics engineering is a modern engineering discipline focused on the development of products and systems using electronic technology. It emerged as a discipline in the late-19th century as electronic broadcasting methods, including radio and television, became more widespread. The use of electronic technologies in World War II — such as sonar, radar and advanced weaponry — helped to further develop the field of electronics engineering.

Today, electronics engineering is the key force driving the growth of information technology, and many of the devices we use every day are the work of electronics engineers, such as smartphones, personal computers and Wi-Fi networks. The field is as diverse as its applications, as it comprises various subfields, like: 

  • Analog electronics engineering

  • Radio-frequency engineering

  • Software engineering

  • Systems engineering

Additionally, a variety of industries apply electronics engineering principles to modernize their respective sectors, including but not limited to:

  • Telecommunications

  • Radio and television

  • Utilities

  • Health care

  • Science

  • Personal technology manufacturing

  • Government and military

What do electronics engineers do?

Electronics engineers design, develop and oversee the production of electronic systems and products. Testing these products and their components is a key part of the process of making sure all electronics work efficiently, safely and reliably for personal and commercial use. The responsibilities of electronics engineers vary depending on their specialty and industry but usually include:

Planning electronics projects

Electronics engineers participate in the preliminary stages of any electronic product. During the planning process, they help to determine various factors relating to the product, such as: 

  • Appearance

  • Overall cost

  • Budget allocation

  • Project length

While undertaking planning activities, electronics engineers also carefully consider the requirements of their employer, their client and any international, national and local safety guidelines governing their work.

Manufacturing electronic products

Electronics engineers not only develop plans but also follow them to manufacture electronic products and systems. Most electronics engineers work as part of a team, creating individual electronic components and then assembling them with others to make larger works.

This work requires both an understanding and an adherence to each project's specifications, along with international, national and local product and safety guidelines.

Testing and evaluating electrical products

After assembly, electronics engineers conduct final tests before the release of the product, assessing whether it operates as intended and adheres to specifications. They also note potential areas of improvement and evaluate proposed changes to determine whether they add enough value to justify the additional expenditure of resources. If approved, the changes get implemented before the product's release.

Coordinating with stakeholders

Electronics engineers spend a lot of time coordinating with internal and external stakeholders, such as vendors, suppliers, project managers and other engineers. They may use various methods to coordinate their efforts, including:

  • In-person meetings

  • Telephone calls

  • Videoconferencing

  • Email

They may also write and review written documents such as contracts and proposals.

Related: Key Stakeholders: Definition, Benefits and How To Identify

Writing usage recommendations

Electronics engineers write usage recommendations to ensure consumers use their products correctly. These recommendations instruct users on how to handle, operate, troubleshoot and maintain electronic products. Ultimately, this facet of the job helps consumers use their products safely and efficiently.

Performing maintenance and repairs

Some electronic products, such as industrial machinery with electronics components, require regular maintenance from electronics engineers. Maintenance often involves doing full or partial circuit traces to detect faults and then replacing components such as drives, circuit boards and power supplies.

If an engineer detects any problems during maintenance, they may recommend replacement or perform repairs before the problems escalate. 

How to become an electronics engineer

If you'd like to become an electronic engineer, follow these steps to maximize your chances of entering the field:

1. Match your studies to the field

Many aspiring electronics engineers begin preparing themselves for their careers in high school. To build a strong foundation for your future academic and professional life, devote your pre-college studies to advanced mathematics and science subjects, such as: 

  • Algebra

  • Calculus

  • Trigonometry

  • Physics

Also consider drafting courses to learn how to make technical drawings, along with an engineering summer camp to gain early hands-on experience. Contact your local research center or university for details concerning relevant camps.

Related: How To Prepare for Engineering in High School in 10 Steps

2. Complete an electronics engineering degree

One of the entry-level requirements for electronics engineers is a bachelor's degree in electronics engineering or another relevant engineering discipline from a program recognized by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.

Electronics engineering programs usually involve a mix of classroom instruction, laboratory work and field studies. You may continue your studies with a master's degree or Ph.D. if you wish to work in a high-level position in research and development or academia.

3. Get practical experience in electronics engineering

Practical experience in electronics engineering complements your studies. Some universities have cooperative programs that provide this practical experience. Others help their students secure internships with businesses that employ electronics engineers.

If your college or university doesn't offer these programs, organize your own internship during breaks from school. During your internship, focus on making strong professional connections and learning as much from senior members in the field. 

4. Obtain a Professional Engineer license

Once you've worked for four years under the supervision of a licensed engineer, you can apply for a Professional Engineer (PE) license from the National Society of Professional Engineers. Licensing requirements include passing the Fundamentals of Engineering and Professional Engineering examinations.

While licensure isn't essential for working as an electronics engineer, the PE license is a nationally recognized credential that may help you secure a higher salary or advance in your career. It also lets you supervise other electronics engineers.

Essential skills for electronics engineers

Focus on developing the following competencies to succeed as an electronics engineer:

  • Technical knowledge: Electronics engineering requires a thorough knowledge of technical concepts such as circuit design and the operation of electronic devices. Knowledge of common programming languages, such as C++ and Java, is also helpful.

  • Creativity: Electronics is an industry driven by innovation, so creativity is a key component of success. Creative minds can identify solutions that lead to faster, longer-lasting, more sustainable and more user-friendly products.

  • Teamwork: Electronics engineers typically work in teams, so teamwork is a fundamental skill in the discipline. That means understanding the strengths and weaknesses of others and knowing how to optimize those characteristics to achieve the best project results.

  • Written and verbal communication: Communicating well is a key part of teamwork, but a good electronics engineer knows how to communicate with people outside their team as well. The job often involves speaking to clients and other non-engineers about technical concepts using more accessible language.

  • Attention to detail: Working as an electronics engineer requires keen attention to detail to ensure calculations are correct and design flaws get corrected before products reach the market. The best electronics engineers use their attention to detail to ensure accuracy in both their own work and the work of others.

  • Time management: Electronics engineers often have strict deadlines, so good time management skills are essential. Also, given the team-based nature of the work, the ability to coordinate timelines with others is likewise critical.

Electronics engineer salary

On average, electronics engineers earn $111,230 per year. Your specific earning potential varies depending on a diverse range of factors. Experience is a key salary indicator, with senior electronics engineers earning more than entry-level employees. Advanced degrees and licensing also typically yield higher salaries.

For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the link provided. Also, please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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