What does an Electrical Engineer do?

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What is an Electrical Engineer?

An electrical engineer is someone who designs and develops new electrical equipment, solves problems and tests equipment. They work with all kinds of electronic devices, from the smallest pocket devices to large supercomputers.

Electrical engineering deals with electricity, electro-magnetism and electronics. It also covers power, control systems, telecommunications and signal processing. These engineers are usually concerned with large-scale electrical systems such as motor control and power transmission, as well as utilizing electricity to transmit energy. Electrical engineers may work on a diverse range of technologies, from the design of household appliances, lighting and wiring of buildings, telecommunication systems, electrical power stations and satellite communications. They may plan their designs using computer-aided software or they may also sketch ideas by hand.

There are many sub-disciplines of electrical engineering. Some electrical engineers specialize exclusively in one sub-discipline, while others specialize in a combination of sub-disciplines. The most popular sub-disciplines are:

Electronic Engineer
- deals with electronic circuits such as resistors, capacitors, inductors, transistors and diodes

Microelectronics Engineer
- deals with design and micro-fabrication of tiny electronic circuit components

Signal Processing Engineer
- deals with signals, such as analog or digital signals

Power Engineer
- deals with electricity and design of related electrical devices such as transformers, generators, motors and power electronics

Control Engineer
- deals with design of controllers that cause systems to behave in a certain way, using micro-controllers, programmable logic controllers, digital signal processors and electrical circuits

Telecommunications Engineer
- deals with transmission of information via a cable or optical fiber

Instrumentation Engineer
- deals with the design of measuring devices for pressure, flow and temperature. This involves a deep understanding of physics

Computer Engineer
- deals with the design of computers and computer hardware

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What does an Electrical Engineer do?

Electrical engineers work on a variety of projects, such as computers, robots, cell phones, cards, radars, navigation systems, wiring and lighting in buildings and other kinds of electrical systems.

Electrical engineers start out a project by defining what a new electronics should be able to do. They will then design the circuits and parts of the electronics using a computer. They will create a prototype and test the product to improve it. Most products do not work initially or have some bugs that need to be fixed. The electrical engineer needs to figure out the problem and make the product work.

How to become an Electrical Engineer

A university degree in electrical engineering is required for most all electrical engineering jobs. A degree usually lasts four or five years and is designated as a bachelor of technology, bachelor of engineering, bachelor of science or bachelor of applied science.

Electrical engineering students need to have units in physics, math, computers and project management. Aside from regular colleges and universities, there are also electrical engineering degree programs online which allow students to study while working.

Electrical engineering courses are a mix of design and lab work. Students are taught to design and develop different solutions to a variety of real life situations. Typically, a curriculum will include the following:

  • Computers and technology, such as microprocessors and computer hardware
  • Robotics, such as robotic arms and artificial intelligence
  • Power systems, such as generators, power grids and how to make energy more efficient
  • Communication systems, such as radio, TV, telecommunications and other wireless and laser transmissions
  • Integrated circuits and solid state devices, such as electronic games, navigation systems and home appliances

Electrical engineers need to be logical, detail-oriented and need to work well in a team setting. They must also be creative and be able to think outside of the box. They must be able to communicate their ideas to their team. They need to understand engineering in general before specializing in electrical engineering in particular.

Although not required, there are also professional certifications that can help job hunters stand out from their competition. Government and federal contractors require licenses, with different procedures and requirements depending on the state. Applicants must pass an exam to receive their license, as well as have a minimum number of years of job experience. For fresh graduates, there are also pre-licensure certifications.

What is the workplace of an Electrical Engineer like?

Electrical engineers usually work in a lab, an office, a mine or in industrial plants. An electrical engineer usually can pursue a technical career in any industry. They usually supervise computer programmers, electricians, scientists and other engineers. A typical work week is composed of 40 hours although there might be some overtime to meet deadlines.

An electrical engineer also spends a lot of time doing project management, such as meeting with clients, determining budgets and preparing project schedules. Engineering projects usually require written documentation, so strong writing and communication skills are important.

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