Electrical Engineer

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Electrical Engineer


Stop for a moment and think about the electrical gadgets and machines in your home like your DVD player, blender or electric toothbrush. It is easy to take these luxuries for granted yet hard to imagine life without them. Thank heavens for electrical engineers and their amazing creations. Electrical engineers design, construct, operate, evaluate, test and monitor the performance of electrical equipment, components and systems. They generally work with systems that generate, transmit, distribute, store, control and use electromagnetic energy or electrically coded information. Their creations perform so many functions!

When it comes to electrical activity, both the improvement of already existing electronics and the creation of new functions, the electrical engineer controls all aspects of it. They may also be involved in the development and manufacture of a wide variety of electrical and electronic devices, circuits, systems, products and equipment. The duties and responsibilities of electrical engineers and electronics engineers often overlap.

Many electrical engineers specialize in a particular area once they become established, including control systems, telecommunications systems (wired, microwave or fiber optic), process control and instrumentation, biomedical engineering or lasers. There are four main areas of this field that an electronics engineer may choose to follow: communications, signal processing, circuits and electromagnetics.

In recent years, communications or telecommunications instruments such as high-speed Internet modems, cellular phones, personal digital assistants and fiber optics are booming industries and there is room to accommodate many job seekers. Experts say that electromagnetics is possibly the oldest branch of electrical engineering because it involves antennas. Once upon a time, television sets worked via the antenna on the roof of the house. Usually, the higher the antenna, the better and the clearer the night, the better the reception and picture quality.

Electrical engineers meet with manufacturers, lawyers, scientists and clients and constantly check that design plans are safe and will withstand a number of conditional variables. Safety is one of the most important issues that electrical engineers must contend with. They create engineering plans on computers that test and predict possible errors and problems with a mechanism and in this, they generate workable solutions. Although most work takes place on the computer, most electrical engineers travel to factories or plants to see their work in progress.

Electrical engineers use traditional and high-tech tools, such as computer-aided design (CAD) systems to create realistic geometric models of objects which can simulate and analyze the effects and potential problems of designs. CAD models are eliminating the need for hand drawn models. Electrical engineers research and evaluate the most cost-effective solutions to problems while still maintaining recognized standards. They are required to constantly update their skills and knowledge in order to keep up with technological advancements in this quickly changing field.
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  Interests and Skills  
Electrical engineers should have a natural curiosity and affinity for mechanics, mathematics and electronics. Since imprecise calculations could cause major disasters and expensive mistakes, they must be 100 percent accurate in their calculations. Their jobs are extremely technical therefore they should be organized and methodical in their working habits. They must be good problem solvers and be able to come up with innovative and creative solutions to potential problems and design work.

They must also have strong communication skills. Electrical engineers constantly deal with people from both sides of the professional spectrum therefore they must be able to communicate ideas and give orders in a clear, concise fashion.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Conduct research into the feasibility, design, operation and performance of electrical generation and distribution networks, electrical machinery and components and electronic communications, instrumentation and control systems, equipment, and components
  • Prepare material cost and timing estimates, reports and design specifications for electrical and electronic systems and equipment
  • Design electrical and electronic circuits, components, systems and equipment
  • Supervise and inspect the installation, modification, testing and operation of electrical and electronic systems and equipment
  • Develop maintenance and operating standards for electrical and electronic systems and equipment
  • Investigate electrical or electronic failures and troubleshoot existing systems
  • Develop specialized applications and system software
  • Prepare contract documents and evaluate tenders for construction or maintenance
  • Supervise technicians, technologists, programmers, analysts and other engineers.
  • Electrical engineers generally work in an office environment on computers, but may sometimes travel to construction sites or manufacturing facilities to see their creations in the flesh. They must do a considerable amount of reading and research to keep up-to-date with new technological developments. Longer hours may be required to meet design deadlines, which is commonplace. In some circumstances, electrical engineers may be exposed to chemical gasses, or work in severe climate conditions.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Electrical engineers are both private and public sector workers. They are usually employed by government agencies, electrical utilities companies, construction companies, (tele)communications companies, manufacturers of electrical and electronic equipment, consulting firms and by a wide range of manufacturing, processing and transportation industries.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Since electrical engineers have such extensive training and knowledge in electrical products, advancement potentials range from computer applications and microelectronics to the design of extra-high-voltage facilities. They would also be great marketing representatives or sales people for these types of products (who better to sell a product than its designer?). Those with experience may become senior managers or supervisors of junior engineers. Some combine their engineering degrees with other graduate degrees such as business, law or medicine and move towards that speciality area. Finally there are many jobs in high-tech companies looking for electrical engineers.

  Educational Paths  
Individuals wanting to become electrical engineers should take courses in mathematics and physics while in high school. Most university programs will require these subject areas as prerequisites.

Electrical engineers require a bachelor's degree in electrical or electronics engineering or in a related engineering field. Then, they must also become registered as a Professional Engineer (PEng) within an association of professional engineers to secure employment and practice in their field. Some engineers also get master's degrees in their specific area, or in related fields such as business (MBA).

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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