5 Steps To Become an Electrical Engineer
By Indeed Editorial Team
Updated October 23, 2022
Published July 26, 2021
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
Electrical engineers can work within a range of industries and have many opportunities for advancement throughout their careers. To become an electrical engineer, you must meet several requirements. Understanding the steps to pursue this career path can help you determine if it is right for you. In this article, we explain what an electrical engineer is, including the role's typical responsibilities and required skills, and provide steps you can take to become one.
What is an electrical engineer?
An electrical engineer designs electrical systems and equipment. The devices they develop can vary in size, from cellphones and household appliances to entire electrical grids or power stations. Though designing these devices is an essential aspect of electrical engineering, engineers have involvement throughout the devices' lives, from conceptualization to routinely maintaining them after development. Engineers are also responsible for evaluating electrical systems, making improvements, and testing prototypes. These professionals often work in laboratory or office settings, though they may find on-site and short-term project opportunities. Electrical engineering projects can include:
Installing the lighting and wiring in buildings
Developing household appliances
Creating telecommunication systems
Electrical engineers exist in almost every industry, so many engineers specialize in different aspects of the profession. For example, they may specialize in consulting, project management, or research and development. They can also choose sub-disciplines within the electrical engineering field, including:
Power systems engineering
Signal processing engineering
Electronics and communication engineering
What does an electrical engineer do?
An electrical engineer's job duties can vary based on their specialization or sub-discipline. However, some of their typical responsibilities include:
Creating designs for electrical products, systems, and components
Performing research related to the feasibility, design, and operations of electrical systems and equipment
Developing production, maintenance, and installation specifications and standards
Supervising the production and installation of electrical equipment
Designing testing methods to confirm the capabilities of electrical systems and components
Collaborating with project managers to prepare project estimates and proposals
Investigating, troubleshooting, and resolving electrical errors
Managing customer concerns and providing recommendations for solutions
Ensuring products and equipment comply with relevant regulations
Directing teams of junior electrical engineers as needed
How to become an electrical engineer
If you want to become an electrical engineer, you can use the following steps as guidance for pursuing this career path:
1. Earn a bachelor's degree
When pursuing a career as an electrical engineer, you first need to get a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering. Other relevant fields of study you may consider are electronics engineering or electronic engineering technology. When looking at your options, choose a program accredited by the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board. Gaining an undergraduate degree provides you with a strong technical foundation for your electrical engineering career. Engineering degree programs typically have coursework related to math, computer science, physics, and basic engineering skills and knowledge. You may also take part in more specialized coursework, including topics like:
Power system design
2. Consider getting an advanced degree
For more advanced positions, some employers prefer candidates with post-graduate degrees. If you are interested in working within the research and development field, these roles may require a doctoral degree. A master's degree typically takes two years of study, and a doctorate program may take an additional three to five years to complete.
You may pursue such programs right after receiving your undergraduate degree or after obtaining professional experience. Some educational institutions also offer part-time master's programs, enabling you to gain professional experience while pursuing your degree. You can research post-graduate degree programs to learn more about their admissions requirements and offerings.
3. Gain relevant experience
As an electrical engineering student, you may seek internship opportunities within the field to gain relevant professional experience. After graduation, you can look for jobs as an engineer-in-training, where you can perform engineering work while under the supervision of a professional engineer. Some provinces require candidates to work as an engineer-in-training before gaining licensure as a Professional Engineer. You can research your province's or territory's engineering regulatory board to learn about the requirements for licensure, though most require at least four years of relevant work experience.
The engineer-in-training designation shows that you have met the educational requirements but do not yet have sufficient work experience to become a Professional Engineer. As an engineer-in-training, you can gain professional experience working in the field and build your necessary electrical engineering skills and knowledge. These opportunities also connect you to electrical engineering professionals, whom you can use as references when applying for licensure or advanced degree programs. These connections may also help lead to full-time jobs in the future.
4. Become a licensed engineer
You must receive licensure as a Professional Engineer to practice as an electrical engineer. To gain licensure, you must meet the specific requirements set by the engineering regulatory board of the territory or province in which you plan to work. As mentioned, these requirements typically include having an engineering degree and several years of professional experience. Depending on your location, the board may require that you can work in either English or French. You typically also need to pass the National Professional Practice Examination. This three-hour exam tests your knowledge of engineering laws, professional standards, and ethical standards.
5. Apply for jobs
Once you receive licensure as a Professional Engineer, you can begin applying for jobs as a full-time electrical engineer. You can often find job opportunities through online job boards or your professional network. You may also research common engineering interview questions to prepare you for conversations with potential employers. Developing responses can help you understand what skills and qualifications you want to highlight and make you feel more confident.
When applying for jobs, read the job descriptions carefully to ensure you tailor your resume, cover letter, and other application materials to each opportunity. Taking this approach can help show your interest in the role and why you are the right fit for the job. When you have the specific skills sought by the employer or experience performing similar activities to those outlined in the job postings, it can prove that you are prepared to handle the job and its typical responsibilities successfully.
What is the average salary for electrical engineers?
The national average salary for an electrical engineer is $74,810 per year. This salary can vary based on candidates' years of experience, employer, and location. Other factors that may influence salary include the candidates' skills, specialization, and the additional degrees or training they attain. You can learn about the job prospects for electrical engineers in various regions by exploring the Government of Canada's Job Bank website.
What skills do electrical engineers need?
Aside from the expertise earned through their technical training, several skills make electrical engineers effective at their work. These skills include:
Problem-solving represents an essential skill for electrical engineers, as their job often requires them to identify and troubleshoot issues with electrical systems or equipment. They may also use this skill when developing new devices to solve a need for their customers or clients. Electrical engineers can use their technical expertise and research skills to gather information and develop potential solutions. As part of problem-solving, these professionals also need to analyze their findings or results to determine whether they provide an optimal solution.
Electrical engineers may work on multiple projects at the same time and have time-sensitive responsibilities to perform. Organizational skills can help these professionals manage their time and tasks effectively. These skills may align with project management duties, enabling these professionals to ensure their team finishes work within deadlines and budgets. For example, an electrical engineer managing a project may set priorities or assign tasks to help their team complete the project efficiently.
Electrical engineers typically work within teams, so these professionals benefit from having strong verbal and written communication skills. These skills enable them to convey messages concisely and accurately. For example, engineers often provide feedback to team members and present their designs or ideas to project stakeholders. Depending on the audience, they may need to communicate or translate complex or technical information to individuals with little or no engineering experience. Electrical engineers also use these skills to create technical documentation about the systems or equipment they develop, such as manuals or proposals.
The role of an electrical engineer often involves designing new products, equipment, and systems and finding ways to improve existing electrical devices. Creative thinking skills enable these professionals to look at a problem from new perspectives to develop more innovative solutions. They may ask themselves or their teams questions to gain additional insights and generate ideas. Once they identify potential solutions, they may experiment with them until they find the answer that best fits their needs. Incorporating these techniques and skills can help electrical engineers feel more comfortable going beyond the usual way of doing things.
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