An electrical engineer designs, tests and develops products and systems that are powered by electricity. They design many types of items, such as communications systems, appliances, computer hardware and electronic gadgets. Engineers use both science and math to develop solutions to technical problems. As modern technology continues to evolve, the need for electrical engineers will continue to grow.
Electrical engineers develop new products or work on how to improve existing products. They are involved in design, development, testing and production of electrical equipment. Electrical engineers estimate the time and cost needed to complete a project. They operate computer-assisted engineering software, prepare and study technical drawings and perform detailed calculations to figure out standards and specifications necessary to complete a project. They may supervise and train project team members if necessary. They compile data and write reports regarding projects in progress.
Electrical engineers must have a thorough knowledge of technical concepts. They must also have a strong background in computers, math, design and physics. To become an electrical engineer, you need to be detail-oriented and able to think critically about possible solutions to problems. Engineers brainstorm solutions to complex problems and often work in groups with other engineers.
Almost all entry-level electrical engineering jobs require a bachelor's degree in engineering. Engineering programs usually include a concentration of study in engineering along with courses in physical and life sciences and mathematics. General courses are usually also required, such as social sciences. Many electrical engineers have master's or doctoral degrees. Graduate studies are usually required for teaching or research.
New engineers usually work under the supervision of experienced engineers. With time and experience, they are assigned more difficult projects that require less supervision. Eventually they can obtain advancement to supervisory positions, and may oversee other engineers or technicians. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, numerous types of professional certifications are available and may help candidates advance to management positions.
Starting pay for engineers is among the highest of all college graduates, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The median annual salary as of May 2008 was approximately $85,000. Most engineers work in offices, labs or plants, while some work for the federal government. Most work a 40-hour work week, although deadlines may bring extra stress and may require working extra hours. Electrical engineers face competition from companies based in other countries.
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