on June 14th, 2022

The textbook definition says that electrical engineering is “the branch of engineering that deals with the practical application of the theory of electricity to the construction of machinery, power supplies, and so on”.

What Do Electrical Engineers Do?

Because electricity is all around us, electrical engineers are employed across a broad range of industries including aerospace, defense, marine, manufacturing, power generation, transmission and distribution, resources, telecommunications, transportation, and utilities.

engineers in orange vests looking at plan
Picture: Unsplash

When starting their electrical career, one may find employment as a solar technician, electrician, electrical installer or repairer.

Electrical engineering technicians are employed to diagnose, tune and test electrical equipment, and to assist engineers.

Electrical engineers usually specialize either in the power engineering – which is dealing with all matters of power generation, transmission and distribution, including power plants, power supply, high voltage, and substation design – or they are employed across various industries and projects in applied electrical engineering, working on anything from electrical appliances or building lighting design to industrial electrical systems and high-end electronics and control systems.

Some of the jobs available to electrical engineers include:

  • Instrumentation engineer
  • Signal processing engineer
  • Renewable systems engineer
  • Because electrical and electronics engineering are closely connected, electrical engineers may be employed as microelectronics engineers, electronic engineers and computer engineers

How Much do Electrical Engineers Earn?

In the US, electrical engineers are earning between $50,000 (entry level) to $150,000 USD per year (Salaryexplorer.com estimate)

With Bachelor's Degree, the average salary of an Electrical Engineer is $73,000 USD per year.

A Master's Degree gets a salary of $111,000 USD per year.

Around the world, electrical engineers are getting consistently higher salaries reflecting their qualifications, education and experience.

Importantly, electrical engineers are employed quickly after their graduation, or even while they are still studying, especially if they have prior experience.

With a lot of large companies being global, having a recognized engineering qualification can open doors to different locations and projects.

How to Become an Electrical Engineer?

There are two major pathways: vocational education, and higher education.

The vocational education pathway may look like this:

  • Graduate from school, as early as Yr10
  • Obtain a trade qualification known as CertIII or CertIV

At this point, you can start working as an electrician or electrical installer and repairer.

  • Acquire further qualifications through a diploma or advanced diploma

You can now work as an electrical technician

  • Become a professional electrical engineer by means of higher education. After completing a 3-years Bachelor of Science (Electrical Engineering) degree with EIT graduates can start working as electrical technologists.
  • A 2 year Master’s degree will complete the path to a Professional Electrical Engineer qualification.

As a fully qualified professional electrical engineer, you are now among the most competent people in the world and capable of solving complex engineering challenges

The higher education pathway typically looks like this:

Graduates can work as electrical engineering technologists

  • Get a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering, or can opt-in for shorter courses like Graduate Certificates to expand knowledge of certain areas and topics (though it may not lead to a desired professional engineer status).

In some cases, applicants with Advanced Diploma qualifications and significant industry experience can progress to Master’s degrees or Graduate Certificates.

It is important to be aware of any regulatory requirements in your country which are set for professional engineers. Graduates may have to register with a regulatory body, go through an individual certification or sit an exam, and achieve CPD (continuous professional development) results to maintain their Professional Engineer status.

What Skills Do You Need to Become an Electrical Engineer?

Different disciplines within engineering might seem like they have a lot of overlap, and they do, but electrical engineers are trained experts in electrical systems with special skills in the systems that power and control machines or are involved in communication within electronics.

While this is a broad definition it does show that anyone who likes to build, know or create systems that use electricity will benefit from a qualification in electrical engineering.

mathematical formulas for electrical engineers
Wikipedia Commons.

To become an electrical engineer, you should also show important skills:

  • Math skills: To understand and design electrical devices maths (including calculus, trigonometry, and algebra) are essential.
  • Very focused: Except for being able to study long hours, analyzing and developing electronic components aren’t easy or quick. Focus is needed to zoom in on small details in studies or work.
  • Team player: Electrical engineers frequently work with other engineers and should be able to communicate complicated design plans. On top of that, these engineers need to face customers and clients and need to be able to use engineering language simply for others.
  • Innovative: It’s the digital age and almost everything uses electronics. Electrical engineers have an endless realm where they can work, design, and innovate.
  • Problem-solving: Engineering is intricate, and it’s some aspects take a while to function as desired.

What Should I Study To Become an Electrical Engineer?

There are different paths to enter the job market with a qualification.

Do you want a degree, and then potentially receive a postgraduate degree like a Master of Engineering later? Do you maybe just want a course to start in a workplace, then move up?

library full of assortment of books and book shelves
Photo by Martin Adams on Unsplash

Certificates To Become an Electrical Engineer

If you are a school leaver or have little experience in electrical engineering Undergraduate Certificates are short qualifications that help introduce students to the field of electrical engineering.

EIT do not offer vocational Certificate III or Certificate IV, because they are based on workplace experience, but we have some higher education options for school graduates.

Undergraduate Certificates in Electrical Engineering

The six-month certificates function as a way for potential students to get used to the academic environment, offer credit if they decide to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering later, and also offer a gateway into working at an engineering firm or practice. They have short time commitments and offer a new skill or expertise.

A unique Vocational Graduate Certificate - 52859WA Graduate Certificate in Renewable Energy Technologies provides practical knowledge on the renewable energy aspects, and will benefit students with previous industry experience, engineering professionals with vocational or higher education, and those with work experience in engineering, science, or technology field.

Diplomas and Advanced Diplomas to Become an Electrical Engineer

According to the paper Mathematical Modelling for Engineering Diploma Students: Perspectives on Visualisation engineering students are more often exposed to a technology-rich environment in a fast-changing landscape where conceptual knowledge and technical skills need to be integrated. 

Vital skills in engineering applications that demand conceptual understanding are often well addressed within diplomas and Advanced Diplomas. These can be completed in a year, 18 months, 20 months or over two years or three years. Due to the shorter duration, it means engineers can enter the field quicker with up-to-date knowledge and some practical experience.

An added benefit of Diplomas and Advanced Diplomas is that they are often job-specific. This means you are trained to do something extremely well, without having to complete more broad-based or theoretical concepts on top of what you will need to know to function within a professional role. Since these qualifications are also accredited, they usually also count toward a student completing a degree or higher qualification later on.

For electrical engineers EIT offers a 36-month UET50221 Diploma of ESI – Power Systems (Australia and New Zealand students only) which offers skills and the knowledge to work in the electricity supply industry (ESI) as a High Voltage (HV) Substation Project Manager or a Senior Systems Operator or a Power Systems Technical Officer.

The course is focused on developing the latest technologies in electricity supply and power systems for electrical engineers in Australia and New Zealand.

Our two Advanced Diplomas include the 18-month 52883WA Advanced Diploma of Applied Electrical Engineering (Electrical Systems) which equips electrical engineers with skills such as electrical technology fundamentals, rotating machinery and transformers, energy efficiency, earthing and safety regulations, and operation and maintenance of electrical equipment.

For those who want to undertake a 24-month Advanced Diploma, our 52888WA Advanced Diploma of Applied Electrical Engineering (Power Industry) aims to provide engineers with skills and knowledge in the latest and developing technologies in electrical engineering including skills in the latest electrical system and power industry technologies. This practical program avoids too much emphasis on theory. 

Students also use state-of-the-art technologies such as remote and virtual laboratories and simulation software — which ensures you graduate with cutting-edge skills that are valued by employers around the world.

Electrical substation engineers inspect modern high-voltage equipment
Two specialist electrical substation engineers inspect modern high-voltage equipment.

Bachelor's Degrees to Become an Electrical Engineer

For those who want to enter engineering at a professional level, or upskill to a new level a Bachelor's degree is of importance.

Not only does it give graduates academic skills, but it also offers in-depth knowledge of engineering.

With this qualification, you will acquire the essential knowledge which underpins both electrical engineering and other fields of engineering. More importantly, you will have become an electrical engineering technologist.

In Australia increasing Bachelor's degree graduates is also something that is considered important for society at large, and as a result, many students can potentially receive grants or financial aid to help them to complete a degree successfully.

The paper Pathways from VET Awards to Engineering Degrees: a higher education perspective addresses why degrees are important but also what engineers get in return for completing a degree.
In Australia, each engineering discipline (chemical, civil, electrical, mechanical) has more or less the same core content, especially during the first year of an individual degree.
Only in the last years do students specialize further, making it ideal for overall engineering knowledge.
Degree programs contain substantial research and design-based project work during the final year of completion and it is a great entry point to build industry experience.

For electrical engineers, subjects can include:

  • BEE204S Power Generation, Transmission and Distribution: The objective of this unit is to provide students with detailed knowledge of electrical power generation, transmission, and distribution. Information covered in this unit will include energy sources and their application; equipment used in power generation; transmission lines and their parameters; and, distribution networks and their operation. Emphasis will be on maintaining the reliability of the power supply and optimising resource usage.
  • BEE208S Power Electronics and Variable Speed Drives: The objective of this unit is for students to obtain detailed knowledge of the fundamental principles of power electronics; the devices used in power electronics; common circuits, such as converters, inverters, and switched mode power supplies; and, the controls applicable to these circuits. Information covered in this unit will also include variable speed drives for DC and AC motors, their protection, control, and applications in industry.
  • BSC201C Engineering Programming: The objective of presenting this unit is to provide students with basic engineering programming concepts, algorithms, and programming techniques necessary to support subsequent studies in engineering. This unit enables the student to acquire the software literacy essential to working creatively in an engineering environment. Upon completion of the unit, the student would have learned how to utilise structured programming to translate and implement problems in C programming language and use computer programming to solve problems in engineering contexts.
  • BSC102C Electrical Circuit Theory and Analysis:  Information covered in this unit will include: the fundamentals of DC and AC circuits; the measurement of voltage, current, power, resistance; and, other basic electrical concepts. Additionally, the various circuit combinations, mathematical methods for resolving DC and AC circuits, calculations for AC circuits involving the use of complex numbers in Cartesian and polar forms, the use of various circuit theorems, the maximum power transfer theorem, and the basics of resonance and harmonics in complex waveforms, will also be discussed.

Why the World Needs Electrical Engineers

The article Consumer Behavior: Why Engineers Need to Read About It states it simply, it encourages consumer behavior to be more aligned with sustainability and understanding.

Current changes in energy and power systems, including the distributed production of renewables, an increasing need for flexibility of operations, and energy storage and transmission, affect consumers in one way or another.

As a result, electrical engineers have the opportunity to really know if their work is hitting the right notes in the world.

Changes often require the active participation and support of consumers, who may become prosumers.

Since we’re in the era of increasing technological sophistication the adoption cycles of new technologies have increased, and as a result, electrical engineers are aiding the adoption of these devices among business and consumer cultures.

These changes in technology adoption occur during a very specific time in the world. Global challenges such as climate change, hunger, poverty, and cybersecurity require astute electrical engineers according to Innovation as Part of Electrical Engineers Education. 

This relationship is also why sustainability has become so important for electrical engineers in the world. The paper Energy Efficiency Services Sector: Workforce Size and Expectations for Growth mentions that engineering talent is difficult to find in the world of green power and sustainable energy, and as a result engineers with a background in this form of energy generation are highly sought.

They are also key players in establishing a green economy. Another article Power Engineering Education: A Description of Current Academic Developments in India offers a lot of insight into why electrical engineers are important in this economy. They are part of the charge to increase awareness about the latest consumables and new engineers graduating from institutions constitute human resources with specialized skills and knowledge.

They are expected to share the national goals of growth through contributions to the economy and societal development. Engineers have technical skills, along with the scope for research and innovation is driving new ways to generate power.

Types of Electrical Engineers

The application of electricity and electromagnetism is electrical engineering in a nutshell, but its use in wider society is more complex. Electrical engineering has an assortment of branches to specialize in, and work at different levels.

Some of the essential knowledge electrical engineers will gain while studying include:

  • Design of household appliances
  • Lighting
  • Building wiring
  • Telecommunication systems
  • Robotics
  • Power generation
  • Power transmission
  • Power distribution
  • Power utilization
  • Sustainable energy
  • Microelectronics

At EIT when completing a Bachelor of Science (Electrical Engineering) we believe that graduates can enter the job market at an Engineering Technologist level in roles focused on the following:

  • Electrical system planning, design, and development
  • Power supply, distribution, and transmission
  • Electrical commissioning and power production management
  • Renewable energy
  • Electrical instrumentation and control
  • Electronics research, design, and testing
  • Operations, maintenance, field services, and technical support
  • Electrical project management and business development
  • Radio and television broadcasting
  • Mining
  • Advanced Automation and Robotic Systems.
  • Space Defense Systems

These are extremely exciting prospects.

Are There Many Jobs for Electrical Engineers?

There sure are. Electrical Engineers are highly employable, and without work experience, a qualified engineer can still be a viable and desirable candidate for employers.

Electrical engineer working on the electrical circuit
An electrical engineer performing an insulation procedure

The paper Electrical Engineers’ Career Paths – A Narrative Study on Higher Engineering Education says that research among American engineers on how engineering profiles were built.

What came to light was that high importance was given to technical competence, communication, profound thinking, solution orientation, professionalism, and client orientation attributes among engineers.

The paper then sampled engineers who graduated from a specific university and established that Electrical Engineers had careers that were lively.

All of the engineers entered the realm of professional work no later than completing a Master's thesis, and then built careers where they worked at a number of companies and were employed in a variety of roles.

They all mentioned that subjects at university played a role in their work and the accelerated their positions by:

1) begin as a technical expert,

2) continue as a senior expert, then

3) as a lower manager, and after that proceed in management tasks.

The paper notes that expertise and professional competencies only came when employees were able to accrue knowledge and experience.

That’s why engineers that start working and then building knowledge through qualifications are equally valued as those who choose to complete basic academic fulfillments first.

Out of the students that were part of the study their perceptions of professional competencies and expertise were related to their actual work, but they were inter-related to what they had studied as well.

Full List of EIT Electrical Engineering Courses

References:

ELECTRICAL ENGINEERS' CAREER PATHS – A NARRATIVE STUDY ON HIGHER ENGINEERING EDUCATION. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/268326165_ELECTRICAL_ENGINEERS%27_CAREER_PATHS_-_A_NARRATIVE_STUDY_ON_HIGHER_ENGINEERING_EDUCATION [accessed Jun 02 2022].

Mathematical Modelling for Engineering Diploma Students: Perspectives on Visualisation. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/320899808_Mathematical_Modelling_for_Engineering_Diploma_Students_Perspectives_on_Visualisation [accessed Jun 06 2022].

Mil’shtein, S., & Tello, S. (2019). Innovation as Part of Electrical Engineers Education. Current Journal of Applied Science and Technology, 1–7. https://doi.org/10.9734/CJAST/2019/V33I130044

Nagamani, C., Kirthiga, M. V., & Thomas, M. S. (2018). Power Engineering Education: A Description of Current Academic Developments in India. IEEE Power and Energy Magazine, 16(5), 42–52. https://doi.org/10.1109/MPE.2018.2843899

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