Career Paths in Electrical Engineering
First things first: what are the potential career paths for electrical/electronic engineers? Alongside the obvious examples (namely jobs in electrical and/or electronics engineering), relevant occupational fields for EEE professionals include systems engineering, telecoms engineering, and instrumentation and control engineering.
Regardless of such options, choosing a career path in any discipline will always come down to individual interests and motivations. For most people, the essential criteria are long-term career satisfaction and adequate remuneration; therefore, securing high-paying roles in promising industries are top of their list after graduating from university. An engineer’s level of experience and professional certifications can go a long way in achieving job satisfaction while maximising earning potential.
With this in mind, the below sections list some of the most rewarding specialities for electrical and/or electronics engineers.
A hardware engineer working on communications equipment. Image Credit: courtesy of Pixabay.
A relatively new and promising path for electrical and/or electronic engineers is hardware engineering. Hardware engineering deals with the design, development, testing, and fabrication of computer systems and related electronic components. Hardware engineers work in organisations that are focused on computer hardware and signals processing.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, median annual wages for hardware engineers in 2018 was $114,600. With sustained growth in chip (and other physical product) manufacturing, RF component manufacturing, and of course the IoT, hardware engineering will continue to expand for several years to come.
Hardware engineers work in a host of industries, and the highest concentration of professionals are in the following areas:
Semiconductor and electronic hardware manufacturing
Computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing
Communications equipment manufacturing
Scientific R&D services
Computer systems design and related services
Some top companies that employ hardware engineers include Apple, IBM, and NVIDIA.
Robotics engineers are some of the best-paid engineers today. Robotics engineering deals with the design and production of robots and automated systems for manufacturing, agriculture, healthcare, transportation, and more. Today, robotics engineering is rapidly expanding alongside other popular technologies, such as AI, machine learning, and the IoT.
According to Glassdoor, the average annual salary for robotics engineers in the U.S. is approximately $84,014. Leading trends in robotics and industrial automation, such as 3D printing, machine-assisted arc welding, and underwater robotics will translate into job opportunities for the engineers who build them.
Robotics engineers can find jobs in a host of industries, and the top companies that employ them include Google, NASA, and—similarly to hardware engineers—NVIDIA.
A U.S. Air Force aircraft, parked beside a building of the United States Antarctic Program. Image Credit: Pixabay.
Aerospace and Defence Systems Engineering
Another disruptive and rewarding field that electrical and/or electronic engineers can work in is aerospace and defence. Engineers working in such industries design, build and test aerial vehicles (such as aircraft, helicopters, and spacecraft). Aerospace/defence system engineers may work alongside mechanical engineers on military-grade vehicles and equipment, moreover.
To again cite the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for aerospace and defence systems engineers in 2018 was $115,220. Electrical/electronic engineers typically do software/hardware development, quality assurance, and the building of communication systems for aircraft and spacecraft management, navigation, and surveillance.
Top employers for aerospace and/or defence systems engineers include SpaceX, Lockheed Martin, and both the U.S. and European militaries.
Electrical Applications Engineering
Applications engineering is a modern subfield of electrical engineering that deals with the design of software programs for engineering technologies. Electrical applications engineers design the software and automation tools used to design and test electrical/electronic systems.
According to PayScale, the current median annual salary for electrical applications engineers in the U.S. is $82,318. A big part of an applications engineer’s job involves interpreting data and drafting technical documentation and performance reports for engineering projects.
Electrical applications engineers work alongside product designers, managers, as well as of course engineers from other disciplines on shared projects. They also provide technical support to other departments for machine functions and automated controls.
Top companies that employ applications engineers include Intel, Tesla, and Siemens.
An electrical substation, including its power transmission equipment. Image Credit: Pixabay.
The electrical engineering subfield of power engineering deals with power generation, transmission, distribution, and utilisation. Power engineers design, install and maintain power management systems—such as busbars, circuit protection devices, SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) systems, and more. In fact, power engineers work in all manner of industries that require electric power to aid their operations.
Power engineering has great prospects with increasing years of experience and qualifications. For example, power engineers with 10+ years’ work experience and professional engineer status could earn nearly double what entry-level engineers make. According to Glassdoor, the average annual salary for power engineers in the U.S. for 2019 is approximately $82,283.
In the U.S., Europe, and elsewhere, EEE jobs continue to be in high demand. To start a career in this field, you need to have already completed a 4-year Bachelor’s degree in Electrical or Electronics Engineering (or otherwise a combined course that involves the two). Relevant work experience gained through paid or unpaid internships and professional certificates can be a huge factor for securing well-paid jobs in several industries.