What do electrical engineers do?

Learn more about what electrical engineers do, and find out the employment requirements the field has for professionals.
Written by Doug Wintemute, Contributor on

Many prospective students wonder, "What do electrical engineers do?" These professionals design, improve, and manufacture electrical equipment and applications. 

Growth in technological innovations and the sophistication of consumer electronics should drive demand for electrical engineers in the future. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the addition of more than 20,000 new electrical and electronics engineers between 2020 and 2030. Here, we explore this promising field in detail, highlighting the field's requirements and lifestyle.

Electrical engineer lifestyle and duties

Electrical engineers can take on many tasks in a day depending on their specific position. 

For example, their duties may include: 

  • Designing and developing electrical systems, devices, and products
  • Calculating manufacturing and installation specifications and requirements 
  • Creating technical drawings for construction, installation, and operation
  • Identifying and fixing power system problems
  • Fielding public or organizational complaints 

As an electrical engineer, you may work with manufacturers, programmers, government, and research and development professionals.

Electrical engineering jobs exist in many industries, including power generation, manufacturing, research and development, and telecommunications.

Electrical engineers may work in many environments depending on their role and projects. According to the BLS, most engineers work full-time in an office setting, sometimes including home offices for remote workers. 

Projects may require on-site visits to meet with clients, oversee manufacturing, or solve problems. You may encounter stressful situations when facing obstacles or deadlines. 

Prospective engineers may need to update their skills and education throughout their careers to stay competitive.

Salary expectations as an electrical engineer

The median annual electrical engineering salary was $103,390 in May 2020. The top 10% of earners in the profession made more than $159,520, while the lowest 10% earned less than $64,870. 

Salary expectations depend on the industry, too. Research and development positions paid median annual wages of $116,050, semiconductor manufacturing paid $107,680, and electric power generation paid $102,510. 

What does it take to become an electrical engineer?

To enter this profession, you need at least a bachelor of electrical engineering degree. Candidates can boost their resumes by completing internships or programs that offer practical experience. 

Graduates typically begin as entry-level, associate, or junior engineers. They can usually move to senior-level and management positions with several years of work experience or advanced training, such as an online master's in electrical engineering

These positions' improved salaries and opportunities can make them highly competitive. 

Electrical engineers can also pursue professional licensure with the National Society of Professional Engineers. This credential allows engineers to provide additional services. It requires a minimum of four years of experience, passing scores on two exams, and earning state licensure.

What skills do I need as an electrical engineer?

Electrical engineers possess a rich and diverse skill set. Their specialized training provides them with technical abilities while also sharpening their most valuable people skills.  

In addition to strong communication, math, and concentration skills, they need the ability to design circuits and systems, work with technical drawings, and design software. 

Below, you'll find the primary hard and soft skills used in the field. Your specific training and career may call for a different set. 

Hard skills

  • Circuitry design knowledge
  • Creating and reading electrical schematics
  • Building and testing electronic equipment 
  • Working with linear systems
  • Handling equipment and measurements 

People skills

  • Communication
  • Concentration
  • Leadership and initiative
  • Organizational
  • Detail-oriented and process-driven

Is electrical engineering right for me?

A career in electrical engineering has plenty of perks. Professionals in this field enjoy the opportunity to create new technologies, the ability to improve lives, and the chance to earn competitive salaries. 

Use this guide to learn more about the field and determine if it provides what you need to be happy and satisfied in your professional life. 

Unless otherwise noted, salary and career growth data are drawn from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of March 23, 2022.

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