What Does an Electrical Engineer Do? (And Requirements)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated November 26, 2022

Published September 29, 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 engineering is a broad discipline that focuses on the design and development of electrical equipment. It is electrical engineers that create, develop, test, and oversee the production of electrical equipment. Understanding more about this profession and how to become an electrical engineer can help you determine whether this is the career route for you. In this article, we examine what typical duties electrical engineers have, the requirements for becoming one, and what steps electrical engineers take to find work in this field.

What does an electrical engineer do?

There are several duties for electrical engineers depending on their specializations. Here is a broad overview:

Electrical project planning

Electrical engineers plan specific electrical projects, such as the development of a new smartphone, and large-scale operations, such as city or highway lighting. Planning includes defining how the project appears and performs, what budget is appropriate and where to spend money, and how long the project may take to complete. In order to identify the optimal approach to building their projects, they also do voltage drop calculations and photometric calculations.

Developing electrical items

Electrical engineers are also responsible for the execution of their ideas and the development of electrical goods. They often operate as part of a team, focusing on separate components or systems before combining them to make final products. Electrical engineers can consider their employer's or client's demands, as well as any international, national, or municipal safety and product standards, while performing this task.

Electrical product testing and evaluation

Electrical engineers test and evaluate completed electrical products. They assess whether the projects work as intended, including whether the projects follow the requirements and standards. They may put the project through a series of rigorous tests to see whether it poses any safety concerns to customers and if it is durable enough to please buyers. Electrical engineers may discover areas where they can improve their projects or components throughout the testing process. They can then evaluate the worth of any recommended improvements and, if accepted, execute them before the project goes to market.

Coordinating with personnel

Electrical engineers work on projects as part of a broader team, so they spend a lot of time collaborating with colleagues, both inside and outside their company. They communicate with their coworkers to ensure that their work is valuable to the project. Engineers may also communicate with vendors and suppliers to gain essential components, depending on their level of seniority. They usually contact a project manager to provide status updates and to negotiate budget and timing limitations. They may also need to communicate with a customer to ensure that their team's work fits the criteria of a project.

Providing usage recommendations

Customers can use the projects properly to ensure their own safety and longevity of the devices. By creating usage guidelines, electrical engineers guarantee the users utilize their devices correctly. These guidelines show consumers how to handle, operate, and troubleshoot their electrical equipment. They may also recommend routine maintenance methods and intervals.

Conducting maintenance and repairs

Electrical goods and systems frequently require maintenance in order to extend their lifespans. Electrical experts are to do this maintenance and spot any minor issues before they become significant ones. If there are issues, engineers may conduct repairs or new installations as needed.

Average salary of an electric engineer

The average salary for electrical engineers is $80,165 per year in Canada. Senior electrical engineers make significantly more, up to $97,765 per year, than entry-level engineers because of their experience. Earning an additional degree and getting a professional engineer licence can further boost an electrical engineer's salary.

Electrical engineer requirements

The following are the common requirements for becoming an electrical engineer:

Education

Employers usually require electrical engineers to have a bachelor's degree from an Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology-accredited institution (ABET). Undergraduate programs usually contain both classroom and laboratory components. The following are the most popular majors for electrical engineers:

Electrical engineering

This degree program is an engineering field focused with the research, design, and application of electrical, electronic, and electromagnetism-based equipment, devices, and systems. The students learn the principles of electrical engineering and assist in the development of a strong engineering foundation. Students who finish courses in electronic design, power system design, communication systems, and electromagnetics can expect to improve their critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Related: 8 Engineering Specializations (With Salaries and Duties)

Engineering in electronics

Students who major in electronics engineering may expect to get a solid foundation in the theory and principles of electronics engineering. Computer programming, network analysis, advanced arithmetic, and microprocessor applications are examples of common course subjects. They learn how to design, develop, test, and control the development of electrical equipment.

Technology in electronic engineering

This degree provides substantial application experience and assists students in developing design, testing, and problem solving expertise. Physics, chemistry, engineering, electronic design, communication technology, power production, and circuit construction are common subjects covered in classes. Some companies, particularly for advanced roles, also demand candidates to hold a master's degree. Many ambitious electrical engineers choose to enroll in combined programs that allow them to get both a bachelor's and a master's degree in electrical engineering in five years. These five-year programs frequently contain cooperative components that allow applicants to get practical experience besides what they study in the classroom.

Training

During their cooperative programs, many aspiring electrical engineers undergo professional training, allowing them to gain practical experience working with local firms. Some electrical engineers gain experience through internships while pursuing a bachelor's or master's degree. Some companies train others on the job to understand their companies' policies, processes, and workflows.

Read more: 5 Steps To Become an Electrical Engineer

Certifications

Although companies do not demand licences for entry-level electrical engineers, many advanced job advertisements require engineers to obtain a professional licence before managing others or providing public services. To keep your licence current, you can complete the appropriate continuing education credits. The engineering boards of each state offer their own unique licences, which usually require you to complete:

  • earn a bachelor's degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program

  • obtain a minimum of four years of relevant job experience

  • pass the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE)

Skills

To be a successful electrical engineer, you may need the following abilities:

Analytical thinking skills

Electrical engineers are continuously assessing the demands of consumers and current goods. This is to design better and more effective equipment and systems. They have excellent analytical thinking abilities to comprehend what consumers want and how to make significant improvements.

Communication skills

Electrical engineers require strong communication skills because they usually work in teams. They communicate ideas and comments to team members in person, over the phone, and through email. The stakeholders expect the engineers to communicate their thoughts, designs, or outcomes.

Innovation

Electrical engineers are innovative, whether they are inventing new goods or producing improved versions of old products. Innovative people have a tendency to approach issues in different ways. Prove your innovation skills through your experiences and achievements.

Math skills

Electrical engineers have excellent math skills in order to execute their work successfully. They use calculus, trigonometry, and other advanced math to design and troubleshoot systems and equipment. Ensure that you practise on these skills to be efficient and accurate.

Organizational skills

Because many electrical engineers work on many projects, they need to be well organized. To operate effectively with teams, they ought to meet deadlines, and perform critical tasks on time. Work to keep improving on these skills to perform well in your job.

How to become an electrical engineer

Follow these five steps to become an electrical engineer:

1. Earn your bachelor's degree

The first step is to obtain a bachelor's degree. For prospective electrical engineers, the most common majors are electrical engineering, electronics engineering, and electronic engineering technology. Choose the one that you prefer and pursue it.

Related: Best Jobs for an Electrical Engineering Degree

2. Consider pursuing a master's degree

Consider getting a master's degree as well, if you want to position yourself as a top candidate and are ready to progress to a high-level post. You might enroll in a five-year program that provides both an undergraduate and a graduate degree in electrical engineering.

3. Enroll in an internship or a cooperative program

Look for chances to join a cooperative program or finish an internship to get valuable practical experience. Most aspiring electrical engineers finish these programs while pursuing their undergraduate degrees. The more experience you get, there more your chances of qualifying for a job.

4. Get some work experience

Seek entry-level electrical engineering employment after fulfilling the educational and practical prerequisites for the job. A professional engineering licence requires at least four years of relevant experience. Do not miss out on any opportunity, especially internships, where you can practice your engineering skills.

Read more: How To Create an Electrician Resume (With Tips and FAQs)

5. Get a professional engineer's licence

If you want to be a manager or have greater autonomy as an engineer, you need to get a professional engineering licence. An employer requires a bachelor's degree, four years of work experience, and passing scores on the Fundamentals of Engineering and Professional Engineering examinations. It is important to get all these required certifications before applying for jobs.

Now that we've examined what electrical engineers do, the requirements for becoming one, and what steps electrical engineers take to find work in this field, you'll be better prepared to decide if this is a career path you want to follow.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organization and a candidate’s experience, academic background and location.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions, or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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