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What does an electrical engineer do?  

A global positioning system that can pinpoint a car's location. Giant generators that can power entire cities. Electrical and electronic engineers work on high-tech projects like these.

They work in many areas—aircraft and automobiles; broadcasting and communications systems; lighting and wiring in buildings; machinery controls; power generating and transmitting; and radar and navigation systems. They design new products. They test equipment and solve problems. They also estimate project costs.

Most work in offices, labs, or industrial plants. Others may work at construction sites. Some travel a lot.

Many work a normal 40-hour week. At times, deadlines may require longer work hours.

The work of many of these engineers is related to computers. However, engineers who work only on computer hardware are called computer hardware engineers.

How do you get ready to become an electrical engineer?  

A bachelor's in engineering is needed for almost all entry-level engineering jobs. College grads with a degree in a science or mathematics may get some jobs.

Getting into engineering school requires a strong report card in math and science, and courses in English, social studies, and computers.

In a typical college, the first 2 years are for studying math, science, engineering basics, the arts, and social sciences. In the last 2 years, most courses are in engineering, mostly in a single branch.

Engineers should be creative, curious, analytical, and detail-oriented. They should be able to work as part of a team. People skills are important. This is because engineers often work with people in a wide range of fields.

How much does an electrical engineer get paid?  

The middle 50 percent of electrical engineers earned between $54,550 and $84,670 in 2002. The lowest-paid 10 percent earned less than $44,780. The highest-paid 10 percent earned more than $100,980.

The middle 50 percent of electronics engineers, except computer, earned between $55,930 and $85,980. The lowest-paid 10 percent earned less than $46,310. The highest-paid 10 percent earned more than $103,860.

How many jobs are there?  

There were about 292,000 electrical and electronics engineers in 2002. Many worked in professional, scientific, and technical services firms. Others worked in government agencies or for manufacturers of computer and electronic products and machinery. Wholesale trade, communications, and utilities firms accounted for most of the remaining jobs.

What about the future?  

Employment of electrical and electronics engineers is expected to grow more slowly than the average for all occupations through 2012. More electrical and electronic goods will be sold in the U.S. But foreign competition will limit job growth. The use of foreign engineering services will also limit job growth. Job growth should be fastest in the services industries. An example is a consulting firm that provides electronic engineering services.

Electrical and electronics engineering graduates should have good job prospects. The number of job openings is expected to be about the same as the number of graduates.

Continuing education is important. Engineers who do not keep up with new technology might not be promoted. They could even be laid off.

Are there other jobs like this?  

  • Aerospace engineers
  • Civil engineers
  • Computer hardware engineers
  • Industrial engineers
  • Mechanical engineers

Source: Occupational Outlook Handbook -- U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics

Where can you find more information?  

More information about electrical and electronics engineers can be found in the Careers Database.

Questions or Comments?
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