How a master’s degree in electrical engineering positions you to innovate in an ever-growing field

December 26, 2018 · 6 min read · By ASU Online
An electrical engineering master’s degree from ASU Online can help you enter an innovative industry that affects manufacturing, broadcasting and more.

The speed of innovation in the electrical engineering field is accelerating. These advancements call for engineers and technicians who understand the tenets of electronics, photonics, microwave circuits and more, as well as how to use that knowledge to develop and leverage breakthroughs in the sector.

In 2018, Qualcomm, a telecommunications equipment company, announced new chipsets that would expand the use of 60 gigahertz Wi-Fi. The devices also align with the new 802.11ay standard, which increases bandwidth, and are part of the growth of 5G cellular infrastructure. Samsung also released a chip-based innovation this year, announcing it finished process technology development for a 7-nanometer, low power plus node that includes extreme ultraviolet lithography. The company believes this innovation is a step toward further breakthroughs and that the node revolutionized the semiconductor field.

Companies like Qualcomm and Samsung, as well as other telecommunications, energy and manufacturing businesses, need professionals who can continue to produce groundbreaking components. In addition to the technical expertise to craft such devices and systems, these organizations need leaders to manage new projects, monitor ongoing performance and optimize existing infrastructure.

An online Master of Science of Engineering in Electrical Engineering can help those already in the field or related roles expand their technical knowledge of electromagnetic circuits, mixed-signal circuit design and more, as well as their leadership abilities. With such expertise, they can develop and manage the teams that build the industry’s next innovations.

A female electrical engineer leads a meeting.
A female electrical engineer leads a meeting. 

In-demand skills and expertise for electrical engineers

The electrical engineering field is projected to grow in the near future. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the industry will add 21,300 jobs from 2016 to 2026, a 7 percent increase. This rise is expected to occur mostly in work environments that focus on consumer electronics. Electrical engineer job growth will likely occur in engineering services firms. Overall technical innovation has prompted more organizations to seek out this expertise, increasing demand for these professionals and businesses that employ them.

The 2026 projection presents a notable contrast to the previous outlook. The 10-year forecast for 2014 to 2024 was 1 percent growth. Now, third-party firms and in-house electrical engineering roles call for specific skills to drive innovation. Here are a few examples:

Energy and solar power

The BLS cited energy grid updates as one area driving demand for engineers and technicians. This sector requires professionals who can design new distribution systems and oversee infrastructure modernization.

Solar power, in particular, requires innovators. According to PayScale, industrialized countries seek solar energy systems engineers who can plan and build apparatuses and plants that generate this power. These professionals need knowledge of photovoltaic and solar thermal devices, as well as the ability to optimize such technology for changing needs.

Communication technologies

The BLS also pointed to communications systems as a key area of job growth. Qualcomm’s new chipsets provide an example of the type of innovation sought in this sector. The commercialization of 5G cellular also requires a shift in test methodologies for antenna arrays. In an article for IEEE Spectrum, National Instruments noted over-the-air testing is necessary for the 5G transition, prompting telecommunications electronics engineers to refamiliarize themselves with a process that once did not hold favor.

Telecommunications engineers lead such ventures and training for their teams. Once they have installed new chips and antennas to power 5G cellular and other broadcast capabilities, they then focus on ongoing maintenance and performance monitoring.

Project management

Electrical engineer job responsibilities require more than technical knowledge to create revolutionary technology. These professionals must direct larger-scale projects to ensure the designs and implementation align with industry standards and target specifications. When new innovations like Samsung’s 7nm node come to the market, engineers must also evaluate how such devices can increase efficiency and reduce project costs.

These teams often consist of professionals who do not have a background in electrical engineering. To move device development, infrastructure modernization and other ventures from start to completion, electrical engineers must understand how each stakeholder contributes to innovation and be able to communicate details from device specifications to pictograms in a manner understood by those outside of the field.

Nuclear engineers have such responsibilities. They oversee nuclear energy project development and waste disposal. Their designs remain compliant with government and other regulations, as well as meet production goals, and they disseminate these guidelines to their subordinates and collaborators.

These skills and core competencies — critical thinking, problem-solving, antennas, electromagnets and more — can help electrical engineers gain the roles primed for innovation today. A graduate degree can provide this advanced expertise.

How electrical engineering master’s programs promote innovative approaches

An online master’s degree in electrical engineering builds upon students’ education and professional experience, advancing their current level of skills and expertise to prepare them for a higher-level position in a more technical area. As the BLS job outlook data shows, innovation in the field is driving growth for specific roles and associated knowledge. Graduate education gives students the ability to specialize their expertise and gain the qualifications for roles projected to expand.

A course in solar cells, for instance, can aid those seeking to develop breakthroughs as solar energy systems engineers. Students learn how photovoltaic device materials and structure affect efficiency, basic operation and the most prevalent technologies in the industry. By the end of the course, they should be proficient in junction theories and other topics to construct more efficient modules and grid designs.

If students want to help expand and develop 5G cellular and other telecommunications technology, they can consider a specialization that broadens their semiconductor expertise. Such courses can explain topics related to theory, including transport and recombination, as well as process and device simulation.

Some courses in an electrical engineering master’s program curriculum may include group work. Such assignments give students experience collaborating on innovative projects in their fields. They can also use this opportunity to enhance their project management and leadership capabilities, as joint assignments help them consider varying stakeholder perspectives in regard to task scope and timeline.

Online graduate programs allow students to apply the practical skills they gain in these courses while they continue to work. This modality provides the opportunity to innovate as they operate in the field, further contextualizing their advanced knowledge in terms of emerging trends.

Improve your innovative ideas in electrical engineering with ASU Online

The ASU Online Master of Science in engineering in electrical engineering, offered through the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, can provide many benefits for professionals trying to succeed in this field. Of note, the online structure can offer more convenience and flexibility than traditional, on-campus programs, allowing you to learn in a manner that is compatible with your lifestyle and commitments.

Most importantly, the program can help prepare you for a variety of advanced careers because it offers courses in an abundance of subjects, allowing you to structure your education to suit your career goals. As a student, you may also specialize in one of the following areas:

  • Electromagnetics, antennas and microwave circuits.
  • Electronic and mixed-signal circuit design.
  • Electric power and energy systems.
  • Signal processing and communications systems.
  • Solid-state electronics.

If you are interested in entering a rapidly innovative industry, a master’s in electrical engineering from ASU Online can give you the skills and expertise to create and manage impactful projects.

Qualcomm Dramatically Extends Wi-Fi Experiences to the 5G Era with 60GHz 802.11ay Solutions by Qualcomm
Samsung Electronics Starts Production of EUV-based 7nm LPP Process by Samsung
Occupational Outlook Handbook: Electrical and Electronics Engineers by U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Employment outlook for engineering occupations to 2024 by U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Average Solar Energy / Solar Power Engineer Salary by PayScale
Arizona State University School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering – Course prerequisites and topics
ASU Online – Online Master of Science in engineering in electrical engineering


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