Step by step guide to becoming an electrical engineer

Electrical engineers use physics, electronics and electromagnetism to design devices that are powered by or produce electricity. Electrical engineers work on anything from small pocket devices to large aircraft electrical systems. Engineers test prototypes and evaluate and improve systems. Nearly every industry has a place for an electrical engineer, including government, transportation, communications, technology and utilities.

Most electrical engineers work in an office or lab setting, but on-site projects and short-term assignments are common.

What does an electrical engineer do?

Electrical engineers are more than just system designers and developers. Engineers are involved in projects from conceptualization to maintenance. Engineers handle practicalities by conducting feasibility studies and cost analyses. Because of their multifaceted duties, electrical engineers sometimes specialize in project management, research and development or consultancy. Because of the wide range of industries using electrical engineers, many engineers specialize in sub-discipline of electrical engineering. Common sub-disciplines include:

  • Power
  • Control
  • Electronics
  • Microelectronics
  • Signal processing
  • Communication
  • Instrumentation
  • Computers

Depending on background and expertise, engineering projects can include projects such as developing telecommunication systems, lighting and wiring buildings or designing household appliances. To progress in this rapidly changing field, engineers must remain abreast of current trends.

Most electrical engineers must have a bachelor’s degree or even a master’s degree in electrical engineering from a university accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Additional certification or specialization can help electrical engineers progress further in specialized career fields.

What kind of skills are required?

Electrical engineers must have a knack for math and science, the ability to analyze systems to understand how they work, the ability to determine how changes affect how system function and knowledge of electrical systems and circuitry.

Because electrical engineers often work with team members without an engineering background, engineers must be able to present complex ideas and relay instructions to others. It is imperative that electrical engineers have effective project management, multitasking and time management skills. Electrical engineers must be able to apply academic knowledge to new tasks and to keep up with rapid changes in technology.

The steps to becoming an electrical engineer

  1. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree or higher
  2. Take fundamentals of engineering exams
  3. Land an entry-level job and gain experience
  4. Take professional engineer exam