How to become an electrical engineer

January 17, 2023 · 5 min read · By ASU Online
Learn about what electrical engineers do, the job outlook for this career path and the online degree that can help prepare you for roles in the field.
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What do electrical engineers do?

The task of an electrical engineer is to imagine, design, test, troubleshoot and oversee the manufacturing of electrical systems.

Whether they're managing a major city's power grid, building robots to make life more efficient or innovating space satellite technology, electrical engineers can be found working in many different sectors, including:

  • Auto industry.
  • Energy systems.
  • Health care.
  • Mobile networking.
  • Renewable energy.
  • Robotics development.
  • Space exploration.
  • Sustainability.
  • Telecommunications.

Humans are deeply dependent on systems of electricity, from the mobile phones we scroll on, the public transportation systems we use and the medical equipment we rely on in emergencies. As a result of rapid technological innovation, the field of electrical engineering is constantly expanding.

 

Electrical engineering jobs

Electrical engineering is a lucrative and highly competitive industry. While many think of electrical engineering as one specific job role, there are a variety of specialty roles available to those who pursue electrical engineering. While some senior roles require a PE to pursue graduate-level education in electrical engineering, most positions are attainable with an undergraduate degree.

There are four engineering fields: electrical, chemical, civil and mechanical engineering, and each of these includes subfields as well. Jobs you’ll find in these fields include:

  • Aerospace engineer

If you're passionate about space technology, you can apply your undergraduate degree in electrical engineering toward a career in aerospace engineering. Entry-level jobs involve working on a multidisciplinary team to produce drawings, plans and reports related to electrical design, and supporting the manufacturing process of related projects. An aerospace engineer position may require interfacing with clients as well. According to the BLS, the median salary for an aerospace engineer was $122,270 in 2021.

  • Computer hardware engineer

Developing, designing, testing and updating computer systems and components are the key responsibilities of a computer hardware engineer. If you’re interested in circuits, work well on a team and are fascinated by the idea of inventing cutting-edge hardware and supervising its manufacturing process, then you might consider a career as a computer hardware engineer. According to the BLS, the median salary for a computer hardware engineer was $128,170 in 2021.

  • Electrical engineer

In this role, you’ll work on a team for a consultancy, energy company, transit authority or multidisciplinary engineering firm and report to a project leader or senior professional engineer. You'll gain valuable field experience designing solutions to respond to real-world problems. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), the median salary for electrical and electronics engineers was $101,780 in 2021.

  • Electronics engineer

GPS devices, satellite systems, portable music players and broadcast and communications systems are all designed, tested and developed by electronics engineers. Requirements for this role include expertise in circuits and their associated systems. Electronics engineers can be found in many different sectors, including transportation, aviation, communications and technology. According to the BLS, the median salary for electrical and electronics engineers was $101,780 in 2021.

  • Wind energy engineer

Wind energy engineers, who design the components, layout, and infrastructure of wind farms, are part of the solar and wind generation sector. Those with electrical engineering backgrounds focus on the electrical components of wind turbines and work to advance renewable energy.

 

How to become an electrical engineer

Working as an electrical engineer in the U.S. typically requires an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from an accredited university or college.

Generally, the first two years of any undergraduate program in electrical engineering will be dedicated to gaining an introduction to the basic theories and technical concepts of engineering and electricity through required coursework. The final two years will provide you with the ability to explore different subfields of engineering with hands-on experience.

Whichever program you consider, be sure to review the faculty profiles, school ranking, flexibility and opportunities for internships or work experience offered.

  • Here are some of the key skills you'll acquire from an electrical engineering bachelor's degree:
  • Advanced math, physics and computer programming knowledge.
  • Creativity in developing original design solutions.
  • Problem-solving skills for troubleshooting problems with designs, as well as implementing solutions.
  • Strong collaborative abilities suited to group work.
  • The ability to use electrical power to design new solutions or improve upon existing solutions.
  • The communication skills needed to explain complex technical theories and models.

Earn your graduate degree sooner with accelerated master’s programs

ASU Online's accelerated master’s programs allow you to earn your graduate degree in as little as one year after completing your undergraduate degree. By completing graduate coursework in your senior year for dual credit, you’ll streamline your educational journey and easily transition from an undergraduate degree to a graduate degree.

Examinations and licensure

An electrical engineering bachelor's degree can help prepare you to pass the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam, a national exam that's compulsory for any individual looking to become an engineer. The computer-based exam is for students close to graduation, as well as recent graduates, in seven different engineering disciplines. Aspiring electrical engineers take the Fundamentals of Engineering Electrical and Computer CBT Exam.

Those who pass become engineers in training. However, to use the title of professional engineer, you'll need four years of work experience in the sector to qualify for a second examination, the Professional Engineer Exam, which is offered by the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE).

Those who pass this competitive exam are referred to as licensed professional engineers (PE). The NSPE notes, "Only PEs can sign and seal engineering drawings; and only PEs can be in charge of a firm in private practice or serve as a fully qualified expert witness."

Every professional engineer is required to apply for licensure from the licensure board of the state in which they operate. Many states ask PEs to log a certain number of continued education hours each year to maintain licensure.

 

Earn your online electrical engineering degree from Arizona State University

ASU Online offers a Bachelor of Science in Engineering in electrical engineering that can prepare you for success within the field.

This program will provide you with an introduction to variety of competencies needed in the field of engineering, including:

  • Digital design fundamentals.
  • Engineering design.
  • Foundation in electromagnetics.
  • Oral and written technical communication skills.
  • Principles for analyzing linear and nonlinear circuits.
  • There are also basic requirements for mathematics, physics and computer programming.

The final two years of coursework allow you to specialize in electrical engineering subfields and take upper-division technical electives on topics such as power system analysis, foundations of machine learning and digital signal processing. A design lab course taken during the final two semesters of the program enables you to collaborate virtually on an original project and get hands-on experience that can be valuable for later job interviews.

Everything you need to know about ASU Online classes and degree programs

We’ve compiled what you need to know about online classes and degree programs at Arizona State University. Read on to learn all about what to expect from the ASU Online learning experience.

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