How to become an electrical engineer
Electrical engineers have several chances for professional growth and can work in various sectors. Electrical engineers usually finish particular certifications before applying for positions because their job requirements might be technical. Discover the procedures you may have to take to get ready for your profession if you're thinking to become an electrical engineer. In this post, we go over the steps to becoming an electrical engineer, the job market outlook, certifications, and the academic requirements necessary to be an electrical engineer.
Job market outlook
The job market outlook for electrical engineers is generally positive. As per BLS, the employment of electrical engineers is projected to grow by 3% from 2020 to 2030, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. However, the job outlook can vary depending on the specific field of electrical engineering and the region of the country. Some areas of electrical engineering, such as renewable energy and smart grid technology are likely to see strong growth in the coming years. The increasing demand for renewable energy sources and the need to modernize the power grid is expected to create opportunities for electrical engineers in these fields. Additionally, the increasing use of technology in a wide range of industries has led to a need for electrical engineers who can design and develop advanced electronic systems. It has led to the opening of many positions in areas such as the automotive, aerospace, and telecommunications industries. However, job opportunities may be more limited in certain regions of the country, particularly in areas where there is a lower demand for electrical engineering services. It's crucial to check the job market outlook for the specific location where you want to work. Overall, the electrical engineering field is relatively stable with a good outlook and those with the right skills, education, and experience should have good prospects for finding a job in the field.
Steps to become an electrical engineer
Here are the steps to becoming an electrical engineer;
- Earn a high school diploma or equivalent: To enroll in a bachelor's degree program in electrical engineering, it is important to have a high school diploma or equivalent. It is the first step towards your goal. A high school diploma is a basic requirement for most colleges and universities. In addition to a diploma, you should focus on subjects such as math, physics, and computer science, as they are the foundation of electrical engineering.
- Complete a bachelor's degree program in electrical engineering or a related field: A bachelor's degree in electrical engineering is the most common entry-level education requirement for the profession. This degree program typically takes four years to complete and will provide you with the basic knowledge and skills necessary to work as an electrical engineer. The curriculum will include courses in mathematics, physics, and computer science, as well as specialized courses in areas such as circuit design, digital systems, and power systems. Some universities also offer a five-year program that leads to both a bachelor's and a master's degree.
- Gain practical experience through internships or co-op programs: Practical experience is an important aspect of becoming an electrical engineer. Many students choose to gain experience through internships or co-op programs. These programs provide students with the opportunity to apply their knowledge in real-world settings, work alongside experienced engineers, and develop their skills. Many employers prefer to hire engineers who have had some form of practical experience.
- Consider earning a master's degree: A master's degree in electrical engineering is not a requirement to become an electrical engineer, but it can open up more job opportunities and higher salaries. A master's degree program will provide you with a deeper understanding of the field and the opportunity to specialize in a particular area of interest.
- Obtain a professional engineering license: To work as a professional electrical engineer, you may need to obtain a professional engineering license. It typically requires passing the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam and the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam. These exams are offered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES).
- Continuing education: Electrical engineering is a field that is constantly evolving, so it is essential to continue learning and staying up-to-date with the latest developments in the field. This can be achieved through attending workshops, conferences, and seminars, reading relevant publications, and participating in professional organizations.
What is the job of an electrical engineer
An electrical engineer is a professional who designs, develops, tests, and supervises the production of electrical equipment and systems. The role of an electrical engineer is diverse and can include a wide range of responsibilities, such as;
- Designing and developing electrical systems: This can include everything from power generation and distribution systems to electronic devices and control systems.
- Conducting research and development: Electrical engineers often conduct research and development to improve existing electrical systems and develop new technologies.
- Testing and evaluating electrical systems: Electrical engineers test and evaluate electrical systems to ensure that they meet safety and performance standards.
- Supervising the production of electrical equipment: Electrical engineers often supervise the production of electrical equipment, ensuring that it is manufactured to the proper specifications and quality standards.
- Providing technical support: Electrical engineers provide technical support to clients, troubleshoot problems, and develop solutions to ensure that systems are operating efficiently.
- Overseeing maintenance and repair: Electrical engineers also oversee the maintenance and repair of electrical systems to ensure they are functioning properly and safely.
- Making recommendations for improvements: Electrical engineers often make recommendations for improvements to electrical systems, such as increasing energy efficiency or reducing costs.
- Staying current with new technology: Electrical engineers need to stay current with new technology and industry developments to design, develop, and improve electrical systems effectively.
What are the academic requirements to be an electrical engineer
The academic requirements to become an electrical engineer include;
- A bachelor's degree in electrical engineering or a related field: A bachelor's degree in electrical engineering is the most common entry-level education requirement for the profession. This degree program typically takes four years to complete and will provide you with the basic knowledge and skills necessary to work as an electrical engineer.
- Strong foundation in math and science: Electrical engineering is a highly mathematical and technical field. Therefore, it is important to have a strong foundation in mathematics and science, particularly in calculus, physics, and computer science.
- Specialized coursework in electrical engineering: During a bachelor's degree program in electrical engineering, students will take specialized courses in areas such as circuit design, digital systems, and power systems. These courses will provide students with a deeper understanding of the field and the specific skills needed to work as an electrical engineer.
- Continuing education: Electrical engineering is a field that is constantly evolving, so it is important to continue learning and staying up-to-date with the latest developments in the field. This can be achieved through attending workshops, conferences, and seminars, reading relevant publications, and participating in professional organizations.
- Professional engineering license: Depending on the state, a professional engineering license may be required to work as a professional electrical engineer. It requires passing the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam and the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam.
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What certifications are necessary to be an electrical engineer
While certifications are not always required to work as an electrical engineer, they can be beneficial in terms of career advancement and opportunities. Some of the most common certifications for electrical engineers include:
- Professional Engineering (PE) certification: This certification is offered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) and is required to work as a professional engineer in many states. It requires passing the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam and the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam.
- Certified Energy Manager (CEM) certification: This certification is offered by the Association of Energy Engineers (AEE) and is intended for engineers who work in the field of energy management. It requires passing an exam and meeting certain education and experience requirements.
- Project Management Professional (PMP) certification: This certification is offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI) and is intended for professionals who manage projects. It requires passing an exam and meeting certain education and experience requirements.
- Six Sigma Green Belt or Black Belt certification: Six Sigma is a quality management methodology that is often used in the manufacturing and engineering industries. Six Sigma Green Belt and Black Belt certifications are offered by various organizations, including the American Society for Quality (ASQ) and the International Association for Six Sigma Certification (IASSC).
- Certified Control Systems Technician (CCST) certification: This certification is offered by the International Society of Automation (ISA) and is intended for technicians who work in the field of control systems. It requires passing an exam and meeting certain education and experience requirements.
What is an average salary of an electrical engineer
The average salary for an electrical engineer varies depending on factors such as location, level of experience, and specific industry. As per BLS, the median annual salary for electrical engineers in the United States in May 2020 was $98,530. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $68,480, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $141,450. The median salary is a good indicator of the average salary, but it's important to note that there's a wide range of salaries in the field, and the exact salary will depend on many factors.
The industry in which electrical engineers work also plays a role in determining salary. According to BLS, the industries that employ the highest percentage of electrical engineers and pay the highest salaries include;
- Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services: $101,260
- Manufacturing: $98,790
- Federal Government: $98,190
- Architectural, Engineering, and Related Services: $97,250
- State Government: $87,190
The location also plays a role in determining salary, with electrical engineers in some states earning significantly more than in others. According to BLS, the states with the highest average salary for electrical engineers include;
- California: $123,680
- Alaska: $122,210
- Massachusetts: $119,470
- Colorado: $118,130
- District of Columbia: $117,800
What are the related careers available to electrical engineers
Electrical engineers can consider several related careers that use their skills and knowledge in electrical and electronics engineering. Some of the related careers available to electrical engineers involve;
- Computer Hardware Engineer: Designs and develops computer systems and components, such as processors, circuit boards, memory devices, and networking equipment.
- Aerospace Engineer: Develops new technologies in aeronautics and astronautics, such as aircraft and spacecraft, and designs systems and components that are used in these vehicles.
- Mechanical Engineer: Designs and develops mechanical systems, such as engines, machines, and tools, and works on projects related to power generation and transmission, heating and cooling systems, and material handling.
- Software Developer: Designs, develops, and tests software systems and applications, and works on projects related to software engineering, computer programming, and database design.
- Systems Engineer: Analyzes complex systems, such as electrical power systems, telecommunications networks, and transportation systems, and designs solutions that meet the needs of these systems.
- Project Manager: Manages the planning, design, and execution of projects, and ensures that projects are completed on time, within budget, and to the satisfaction of stakeholders.
- Technical Sales Engineer: They sell technical products and services to clients and help them to solve technical problems related to the products they use.
These careers require a similar education and skill set as electrical engineering, and they may offer opportunities for career advancement and a different work environment. Also, some of these careers may require additional education or certifications beyond a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering.
What licenses are required to be an electrical engineer
In the United States, most states require electrical engineers to be licensed as Professional engineers (PE) to work in the field and offer their services to the public. The requirements for obtaining a PE license vary by state, but typically include the following steps:
- Education: A bachelor's degree in electrical engineering or a related field is required. Some states may also require additional coursework in ethics and engineering law.
- Work Experience: Most states require electrical engineers to have several years of experience in the field before they can be licensed. The exact amount of experience required varies by state, but it is usually around 4-8 years.
- Examination: Electrical engineers must pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, which tests their knowledge of engineering fundamentals and principles. After passing the FE exam, engineers can work as engineer-in-training (EIT) while they gain additional experience.
- Professional Practice Exam: After obtaining the required experience, electrical engineers must pass the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam, which tests their knowledge of engineering principles and their ability to apply them in real-world situations.
- Continuing Education: To maintain their PE license, electrical engineers must participate in continuing education and professional development activities, such as attending conferences and workshops, to stay up-to-date with changes in the field.
How much time does it take to be an electrical engineer
The time it takes to become an electrical engineer depends on several factors, including your educational path and the type of job you wish to pursue. Here is a general timeline of what it takes to become an electrical engineer;
- Education: To become an electrical engineer, you will need to obtain a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering or a related field. A bachelor's degree program typically takes 4 years to complete, although some students may take longer if they switch majors or take time off from school.
- Work Experience: After obtaining a bachelor's degree, most electrical engineers work for several years in the field to gain experience and develop their skills. The exact amount of experience required can vary depending on the type of job you want and the requirements of the state where you plan to work.
- Licensure: Depending on the state where you plan to work, you may need to obtain a Professional Engineer (PE) license to practice as an electrical engineer. The process of obtaining a PE license can take several years and typically requires passing two exams, the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam and the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam.
It can take anywhere from 5 to 10 years to become an electrical engineer, depending on your educational path, work experience, and the licensing requirements in your state.
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