With a bachelor's degree in the bag, many young and promising engineers can finally heave a sigh of relief before they begin to take the crucial first steps toward an exciting new career in electrical engineering. However, many EE final-year students and young graduates approach the workforce with a sense of dread based on presumed inadequacy.
If you’re in a similar situation, you might be wondering, “Where should I go from here?”
Is Automation a Threat to Electrical Engineers?
With perceived uncertainty in the global employment landscape as jobs become increasingly automated, many EE graduates are feeling uncertain of their futures after completing their studies at the university.
The fact is that despite the integration of AI and robotics technology in the industrial sector, technical EE skills will continue to be in strong demand for the foreseeable future.
Experiencing Post-Graduation Anxiety?
Holding a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering is especially advantageous as power systems and electronics are critical to almost every facet of the global industry. Sure, some engineers find themselves making career mistakes that postpone their dream jobs, but in most cases, you’ll be able to find the right place for you with a little research.
There are a plethora of employers seeking qualified EEs every year. You only need to know where to look. But then again, personal preferences and individual circumstances come into play. So what are your motivations? Finding an answer to this question might require you to do some introspective thinking, but you’ll figure it out soon enough.
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Career Paths for Electrical Engineers
Generally speaking, an EE career takes you either down the professional (active work) path or the academic path (lecturing).
Whatever route you decide to take will ultimately come down to personal motivations, lifestyle, education level, and individual circumstances.
Career Route: the Professional
Venturing out on the professional path involves job-hunting for exciting EE roles where you can acquire new skills in the field and build a solid career over many years of experience.
However, that's not to say you won't need an advanced degree to improve your career prospects as an EE practitioner. It’s no surprise that many reports confirm that an advanced degree often translates to an increase in wages throughout your career.
If you are young and you have time on your side, it wouldn't hurt to take your educational qualifications up a notch by pursuing a one or two-year master’s program. However, if that route isn’t feasible for you, you can still find an advantageous job in your field.
After acquiring your degree, whatever level it may be, you need to be intentional about job-hunting. You might want to take up some skill-based training online or offline to augment your certificates. Apply specifically for EE roles with long-term career prospects and network as much as you can with professionals in your field to increase your exposure. Getting a referral from a top professional can give you an edge over your competition.
Getting your first job will set you on course to boosting a very critical component of engineering credibility. During this time, you can also apply for professional memberships in respected institutions like the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). You can also work toward becoming a professional engineer (PE) after a few years to increase your pedigree and career prospects.
There are numerous places EEs can work, but not every job is right for your career. For example, I really wouldn't advise a young engineer to start a career in the commercial manufacturing sector. The reason is simple: Many manufacturing processes are highly repeatable, making these jobs easy targets for robots to take over in the next few years.
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Career Route: the Academic
Taking the academic route is all about broadening your knowledge of electrical engineering: it could lead you anywhere from becoming a senior lecturer or research fellow to a full-fledged professor at an educational institution.
The first step is enrolling in a master’s program in the EE field of your choice. It's always a good idea to carry out adequate research on your chosen course before applying. You don't want to specialise in a field that teaches you about technologies that will become obsolete in the next few years. The duration of a master's program is typically around one or two years, depending on the country of study.
After earning your master’s degree in an EE speciality, you can begin to work toward getting your PhD Now, this is where your academic trajectory begins to take serious shape as you distinguish yourself even further as an astute professional.
However, brace yourself. The journey to receiving your doctorate degree in electrical engineering will require you to do in-depth research on the engineering principles you have learnt over the years – culminating into a topic for a dissertation that must be uniquely yours.
The peak of an academic career is becoming a full-fledged professor of electrical engineering. This is the logical next step after bagging a doctorate degree and proves your mettle beyond doubt.
You may choose to lecture at a university or technical college or even become a technical consultant to an organisation. Your paycheck will naturally be larger as well. PayScale reports an $84,041 average annual salary for EE Profs in the U.S., with a peak of around $167,609.
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Starting a career in electrical engineering may seem daunting at the early stages, especially with the usual post-graduation anxiety. With the right amount of research, things will fall into place soon enough.
The important thing is to learn from other people's experiences and take the right steps that will increase your chances of success in this exciting and rewarding field. Good luck!