What Is Electronics Engineering?

By Indeed Editorial Team

February 23, 2021

Electronics engineering is a branch of electrical engineering focusing on the design and development of products using electronic technology. Understanding more about this professional discipline and how to become an electronics engineer can help you decide whether to pursue a role in this career field.

In this article, we will discuss what electronics engineering is, the common duties of an electrical engineer and the steps to take to secure roles in this subset of electrical engineering.

What is electronics engineering?

Electronics engineering, sometimes called "electronic engineering," is a modern engineering discipline focused on the design and development of products and systems using electronic technology. It developed in the early 20th century as electronic broadcasting methods, including radio and television, became more widespread. The use of electronic technologies in World War II, including sonar, radar, and advanced weaponry, further developed the field of electronics engineering.

Today, electronics engineering is a diverse field encompassing the design and development of items that use traditional analog technology and more high-tech digital components. Many of the devices we use every day are the work of electronics engineers, including smartphones, personal computers and WiFi networks. It is the key force behind the growth of information technology in the modern age.

A variety of industries utilize electronics engineering to modernize their sector including telecommunications, radio and television, utilities, health care, science, personal technology manufacturing and government and military. The field of electronics engineering is as diverse as its applications, with many subsets including analog electronic engineering, radio frequency engineering, software engineering and systems engineering focusing on different applications of electronic technology.

Key functions of electronics engineers

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

  • Planning electronics projects

  • Manufacturing electronics products

  • Testing and evaluating electronics products

  • Coordinating with relevant individuals

  • Writing usage recommendations

  • Performing maintenance and repairs

Planning electronics projects

Electronics engineers are involved with the preliminary stages of any electronics product, planning how everything from small individual electronics to large-scale operations should be created. The planning process requires determining how each project should look and function, how much its development should cost, where budget money will be allocated and how long the project should take to complete. Electronics engineers must carefully consider the requirements of their employer or client and any international, national and local safety guidelines governing their work.

Manufacturing electronic products

Electronics engineers follow the plans developed by themselves or other electronics engineers to manufacture electronics products and systems. Most electronics engineers work as part of a team, creating individual electronics components or products, then assembling them with their colleagues' creations to make larger electronics works. This work requires an understanding and adherence to each project's specifications and international, national and local product and safety guidelines.

Testing and evaluating electrical products

After assembly, electronics engineers conduct final tests before their electronics engineers are released. They assess whether their products operate as intended and adhere to the guidelines and specifications provided. Rigorous tests determine whether electronics products are durable and safe for consumers.

Electronics engineers may also note any areas where their electronics items or components may be improved. Proposed changes are evaluated, to determine whether they add enough value to consumers to justify additional costs and time. If approved, the changes electronics engineers suggest are implemented before the product's release.

Coordinating with relevant individuals

Since they work as part of larger teams, electronics engineers spend a lot of time coordinating with others inside and outside their business. Collaborating with other electronics engineers ensures that their work benefits the projects they are working on. Brainstorming with other team members can enhance electronics projects.

Depending on their seniority, electronics engineers may talk to vendors and suppliers, to source electronics components, and clients, to determine each project's requirements and provide status updates. Many electronics engineers also provide status updates to their project managers.

Electronics engineers may use various methods to coordinate their efforts with other individuals and businesses, including meetings in person, telephone calls, videoconferencing and email. They may also write and review written documents, including contracts and proposals.

Writing usage recommendations

Electronics engineers write usage recommendations to ensure consumers use their products correctly. The recommendations electronics engineers write instruct users how to handle, operate and troubleshoot electronics products. They may also offer maintenance procedures. The instructions electronics engineers write help consumers use their products safely and efficiently, to maximize their lifespans.

Performing maintenance and repairs

Some electronics products, such as industrial machinery with electronics components, require regular maintenance from electronics engineers. If they detect any small problems during maintenance, they may perform repairs before these problems escalate or suggest replacing the goods. This often involves doing full or partial circuit traces to detect faults, then replacing components including drives, circuit boards or power supplies.

Electronics engineer salary

The average annual salary for electronics engineers in the United States is $99,769. Yearly earnings can vary though between $36,000 and $195,000. Experience is a key salary indicator, with senior electronics engineers earning more than entry-level employees. Advanced degrees and licensing are also typically rewarded with higher salaries.

How to become an electronics engineer

You should complete an electronics engineering degree and gain practical experience in this field to secure work as an electronics engineer. The following steps will help you achieve your electronics engineer goals:

1. Tailor high school studies to electronics engineering career

Many aspiring electronics engineers begin preparing themselves for their careers while attending high school. Studying advanced mathematics, including algebra, calculus, and trigonometry, and physics courses during high school can provide a strong foundation for electronics engineering courses.

Drafting courses can also teach aspiring electronics engineers how to make technical drawings for creating new projects. Enrolling in an engineering summer camp with electronics engineering classes can also provide some early hands-on experience. Contact your local research center or university for details of relevant camps.

2. Complete an electronics engineering degree

A Bachelor's Degree in Electronics Engineering or another relevant engineering discipline, such as electrical engineering or electrical engineering technology, is an entry-level requirement for electronics engineers. Your degree program should be recognized by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc.

Electronics engineering degrees usually involve a mix of classroom instruction, laboratory work and studies in the field. You may continue your studies with a master's degree or doctorate if you hope to work in a high-level position involving the research and development of new electronics technologies or lecturing at a university.

3. Get practical experience in electronics engineering

Practical experience in electronics engineering complements your studies. Some colleges and universities have cooperative programs which provide this practical experience. Others help their students secure internships that provide practical experience in businesses using electronics technology.

If your college or university doesn't offer these programs, you could organize your own internships during your summer vacation. Focus on making strong professional connections and learning as much from these people working in your intended industry as you can.

Once you have worked with a Professional Engineer for four years, you can apply for a Professional Engineer license from the National Society of Professional Engineers. You must pass the Fundamentals of Engineering and Professional Engineering examinations to secure this license. While licensure isn't essential for working as an electronics engineer, it lets you supervise other electronics engineers. This nationally recognized credential may help you secure a higher salary or advance in your career.

Essential skills for electronics engineers

Strong technical and interpersonal skills help electronics engineers excel in their chosen careers. Focus on developing the following skills during your studies and work experience to succeed as an electronics engineer:

  • Technical knowledge

  • Creativity

  • Ability to work as part of a team

  • Written and verbal communication

  • Attention to detail

  • Time management

Technical knowledge

Electronics engineers require a thorough knowledge of technical concepts including circuit design and the operation of electronic devices. Most should also know common programming languages such as C++ and Java.

Creativity

Electronics is an industry driven by innovation, so electronics engineers must be creative to help their employers succeed. Creative minds identify solutions that can help electronics products last longer, be more user-friendly and operate faster and more sustainably.

Ability to work as part of a team

Electronics engineers typically work in teams, so they must be able to work well with others. They know how to communicate with others and encourage them so they feel comfortable sharing their ideas. They get to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the people they work with regularly and know how to use these traits to achieve the best project results.

Read more: Teamwork Skills: Definition and Examples

Written and verbal communication

Communicating well is a key part of teamwork, but a good electronics engineer should know how to communicate with people outside their team as well. This often involves speaking to clients and colleagues outside the engineering department about technical concepts using more accessible language.

Read more: Communication Skills: Definition and Examples

Attention to detail

Working as an electronics engineer requires keen attention to detail to ensure calculations are correct and any design flaws are identified corrected before electronics reach the marketplace. The best electronics engineers use their attention to detail to ensure accuracy in their own work and the work of others around them. Employing electronics engineers with good attention to detail can help businesses maintain a reputation for quality.

Time management

Electronics engineers work to strict deadlines, so good time management skills are essential. They must prioritize time-sensitive tasks and plan their work effectively to complete projects accurately, on time and to a high standard. As electronics engineers work as part of a team, they must also ensure their time schedule matches the work of their colleagues.

Read more: Time Management Skills: Definition and Examples

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