Electrical engineers create all types of electrical equipment and systems. These professionals design our electronics, build our electrical systems, and give power to our communities. With an electrical engineering degree, you can work on the latest developments and technologies in the aerospace, automotive, telecommunications, and utilities industries.
Depending on the level, electrical engineering degree curriculums include classes in circuitry, instrumentation, and electromagnetism. Electrical engineering degree programs often provide specialization opportunities. You can focus your training in one of the many subfields, including power generation, microelectronics, biomedical engineering.
Here, we examine the types of training and skills available in the different electrical engineering degrees and what you can expect from them.
What skills do electrical engineering programs teach students?
Every program and degree level provides a different set of skills. The following lists highlight just some of the interpersonal, theoretical, and technical skills available at various levels.
Undergraduate learners may learn skills in:
Graduate learners may learn skills in:
Math and physics
Organization and leadership
Advanced math and physics
Instrumentation and measurements
What kinds of electrical engineering degrees are there?
The type of electrical engineering degree you receive can have a large impact on your career. Each level offers something unique, with its own benefits and postgraduate opportunities. Here, we break down each level and explore the training and career options they have to offer.
Certificate program in electrical engineering
Certificate programs in electrical engineering tend to offer specialized or graduate-level training. Students with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering might use certificates to develop a concentration in electric power or automotive systems. Most certificate programs offer graduate-level training, providing advanced training for career development purposes or preparation for a master's program.
Certificate programs often run between 3-12 months. Depending on the certificate-holder's previous education and experience, these programs can lead to various electrical engineering jobs, such as power systems engineer, design engineer, and instrumentation and electrical reliability engineer roles.
Associate degree in electrical engineering
An electrical engineering degree at the associate level provides learners with general education, science, math, and engineering foundations. These programs typically take two years to complete, and students may take courses in AC/DC circuits, computer programming, computer-aided design, and digital electronics.
Associate-level students acquire an understanding of engineering principles and electrical systems. They develop their critical thinking and problem-solving skills as well. The training prepares graduates for entry-level positions, such as an electronic engineering technologist and electro-mechanical technician.
Bachelor's degree in electrical engineering
A bachelor's electrical engineering degree equips students to design and build various electrical systems and devices. The programs usually take students 3-4 years to complete, including general education, physics, and mathematics courses. Learners also study engineering topics in electrical circuits, electronic fabrication, controller systems, and computer programming.
Many bachelor's programs offer specialization options, such as power systems, robotics, and signal processing. Graduates can qualify for many engineering positions, including electrical engineer, electronics engineer, and energy engineer roles. They can also continue their training with a master's degree or postgraduate certificate.
Bachelor of science in electrical engineering vs. bachelor of engineering (BEng)
A BS in engineering can differ from a BEng in various ways. In general, BS programs combine general training and theoretical engineering lessons, whereas BEng programs feature more focused and practical training. While both degrees can run between 3-4 years, BEng programs can run longer than BS programs.
As a result of the difference in training, these degrees can lead to different career paths. For example, BEng degrees lead graduates directly into the workforce, whereas BS degrees can lead to further education.
Master's degree in electrical engineering
An electrical engineering degree at the master's level builds on undergraduate training and has students tackle advanced research topics in the field. These programs usually run for 1-2 years and cover courses in engineering design and project management. Programs may also include a practical project and internship or an extensive research project and thesis.
Master's students typically choose a specialization in which they focus their studies and their research in an area, such as biomedical engineering, energy systems, communications, and systems control. Graduates can access most electrical engineering careers, including electrical engineering manager and biomedical engineer positions.
Master of science in electrical engineering vs. master of engineering
M.Eng. and MS in electrical engineering degrees may differ in length, focus, and postgraduate opportunities. For example, MS programs offer more theoretical training, while M.Eng. programs focus on practical applications. MS programs may also run longer as a result of the heavy research component.
M.Eng. graduates typically enter the workforce directly, while MS graduates have the option of pursuing doctoral programs.
Doctoral degree in electrical engineering
A doctoral degree in electrical engineering is the terminal degree in this discipline. The programs can take between 3-7 years to complete. Learners undertake extensive research in a topic of their choice, such as computer hardware, power and energy systems, and nanotechnology.
Doctoral students aim to develop new innovations and contribute to the discourse in their subdiscipline with the help of their dissertations. Graduates can pursue most engineering careers in their field, including management and senior-level positions. They can also start careers in postsecondary teaching and research and development.
Accreditation for electrical engineering programs
When choosing an electrical engineering program, you should look for both regional and programmatic accreditation. Accreditation is critical for financial aid and employment opportunities.
Students may find an electrical engineering degree challenging, particularly in the early stages. Learners without a math and physics background can find these components of the program the most difficult to grasp. Once they build a solid foundation in these disciplines, however, they should be able to find success overall.
Electrical engineering programs can also feature a demanding workload. The training includes extensive projects, but the practical and visual components of classes can make this subject easier for learners to grasp. In general, students need to be self-motivated and possess problem-solving and creative thinking skills to thrive in these programs.
Electrical engineering features diverse training and career opportunities. Use this guide to help you choose the best degree for your specific study and career interests.
This article was reviewed by Monali Mirel Chuatico
In 2019, Monali Mirel Chuatico graduated with her bachelor's in computer science, which gave her the foundation that she needed to excel in roles such as a data engineer, front-end developer, UX designer, and computer science instructor.
Monali is currently a data engineer at Mission Lane. As a data analytics captain at a nonprofit called COOP Careers, Monali helps new grads and young professionals overcome underemployment by teaching them data analytics tools and mentoring them on their professional development journey.
Monali is passionate about implementing creative solutions, building community, advocating for mental health, empowering women, and educating youth. Monali's goal is to gain more experience in her field, expand her skill set, and do meaningful work that will positively impact the world.
Monali Mirel Chuatico is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education freelance review network.