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What Careers Can You Pursue With an Electrical Engineering Degree?

Good at math? Love physics? Did you ever take apart an electronic appliance and put it back together again, just to see how it works? Have you ever built your own gaming rig? You might just have the makings of an electrical engineer.

Between the reusable rockets, self driving cars, and the ever expanding IoT, there’s never been a better time to become an electrical engineer. In this post we’ll dive into the different career paths you can unlock with an EE degree.

Core Skill Set

Electrical engineering is a versatile degree. Because electronics have penetrated virtually every aspect of our lives, narrowing down a career path requires a firm understanding of the core skill set of an electrical engineer:

  • Applied Sciences: Solid understanding of physics, electronics, and electromagnetism and their applications.

  • Power Electronics: Firm grasp of the conversion of electrical power from one form to another via inverters, converters, rectifiers, and cycloconverters. Able to handle AC/DC signals and transmission.

  • SoCs, Microcontrollers, and Processors: Experienced in the world of embedded systems,  IoT devices, Arduino and Raspberry PI.

  • Circuit Design: PCBs, signal analysis, debugging, assembly and testing of integrated circuits and their components. PCB design software such as Sigrity and Allegro.

  • CAD Design: Basic hardware design using CAD software such as AutoCad or SolidWorks.

  • Measurement: Experienced using digital multimeters, oscilloscopes, DAQs, and other equipment to measure, analyze and troubleshoot electrical systems.

  • Instrumentation and Control Systems: Ability to apply control theory, which is the art of distilling real-world systems into a series of inputs and outputs, to solve engineering problems (e.g. automating a production plant by instrumenting it with a closed loop system of controllers, sensors, etc.).

  • Programming: Able to use programming languages such as C, C++, and Java.

  • Data Processing and Analysis: Able to process and analyze data using Excel, Matlab, and Python.

  • Technical Writing: A large part of the actual engineering job is technical documentation. Even better if you can write research grants.

Beyond these technical skills, soft skills such as leadership, communication, and the ability to work well with others all factor into the job. The trick to choosing a career path lies in the various strengths in these core skills.

Pick an Industry

So you want to be an electrical engineer? Which industry did you want to serve? As we mentioned earlier, electrical engineers can be found in nearly every working industry. So it helps if you’re passionate about a particular field. Here’s a quick list of some of the more popular ones out there:

  • Aerospace

  • Automotive

  • Biomedical

  • Chemicals

  • Computers

  • Communications

  • Construction

  • Defense

  • Electronics

  • Energy

  • IoT

  • Physics

  • Security

  • Semiconductor

  • Transportation

  • Utilities

The earlier you settle on an industry, the better off you’ll be. You can take classes and land internships that will give you the supplementary skills and experiences you’ll need to target a specific industry. This will make you more competitive once you’ve graduated.

Choose a Career Path

By the time you’ve graduated with a B.S. in EE, chances are you’ll be more proficient in some skills than others. Depending on your preferences, you may choose to go down one of these common career paths:

  • Electrical Engineer: The most obvious career path for one with an EE degree, the electrical engineer is generally responsible for the design, development and testing of electronic products, components, and devices.

  • Project Engineer: If you have strong soft skills such as leadership and communication, you may be suited to overseeing projects and delegating tasks. Project engineers are responsible for managing personnel, budgets, and schedules to meet technical deliverables. Depending on the structure of a company, a senior electrical engineer may double as a project engineer or project manager.

  • Design Engineer: If you love CAD and PCB design, this is the career path for you. The design engineer is the one who actually drafts the wiring diagrams and engineering drawings that document the product. Design engineers are actively involved in turning engineering requirements into product designs.

  • Test Engineer: Products need to be tested, often in the field. The test engineer will test a product to its engineering requirements. This can involve everything from subjecting a product to extreme temperatures, humidity, and dynamic environments to running electrical tests on the assembly line.

  • Instrumentation & Controls Engineer: The instrumentation and controls engineer takes process variables such as pressure, temperature, humidity, flow, and speed, etc. and uses them with control schemes to automate a production process.

In reality, there can be a lot of overlap between the different job titles in this list. The actual roles of job titles can vary from company to company. That’s why it’s important to read the job description to get an idea of which of the core EE skills a role is looking for.

This list barely scratched the surface of the different careers an EE major can pursue. From process engineering to software engineering to more niche roles such as mechatronics engineering, there’s a lot you can do with an EE degree.