Electrical Engineering Offers Diverse Career Prospects
Electrical engineers (EEs) design, build and maintain electrical power systems and electronic equipment that are vital to a host of industrial operations. For example, electrical engineers design the electrical power schemes of organisations, troubleshoot power failures, and install fibre optic cables for data transmission.
Electrical engineers apply theoretical principles of mathematics and physics, along with design and lab work to create engineering solutions. They work on both small and large-scale systems, such as miniature components (e.g. integrated circuits) and power distribution plants respectively.
A group of professionals working on laptops around a table. Image Credit: Pexels.
Industries Where Electrical Engineers Work
Given that all manner of both electrical power and electronic devices are needed in nearly every industry, electrical engineers can work almost anywhere.
Accordingly, the next few sections cover are some of the top industries for EEs.
With advances in AI,, sensor technology, and signal processing, industrial automation is expanding rapidly across several industries. For example, automated forklifts help to transport goods within a facility, robotic arms lift heavy engine parts at car assembly plants, and programmable logic controllers control other industrial processes.
Many EEs work in control and instrumentation roles for companies that utilise automated industrial processes. These professionals are responsible for designing and operating equipment for human-assisted labour. Engineers working in this sector require knowledge of various industrial automation technologies to excel in the field, such as:
Programmable logic controllers
Proportional integral derivative controllers
Human-machine interface (aka HMI) devices
Machine logic controls, and
Industrial automation software.
In the manufacturing sector, EEs work alongside product designers and engineers of other disciplines over various phases of a product development lifecycle (aka PDLC). In some cases, they double as project managers that oversee the activities of other employees involved in product development.
Duties of electrical engineers in manufacturing primarily involve product design, development, and testing. Engineers apply their knowledge of circuit theory and project management to achieve commercial production within both budget and time constraints.
Electrical engineers working in manufacturing companies that utilise advanced techniques, such as 3D printing and material extrusion, require specific knowledge of process technologies (including advanced robotics, high-performance computing, computer-aided manufacturing software, and information technologies) to carry out their duties effectively.
Electrical engineers work in many industries that produce consumer electronics, such as Apple’s iPhone and AirPods (both pictured). Image credit: Pexels.
Consumer electronics are electronic equipment intended for individual and/or non-commercial use—the obvious examples being mobile phones, laptops, game consoles, and cameras. Electrical engineers work in the industries that produce these devices.
The duties of EEs in this field include developing proofs of concept for new products, designing circuit schematics, testing prototypes, and sourcing electronic components. Currently, the consumer electronics market has merged with the rapidly-growing computer industry. According to Statista, Europe’s revenue from consumer electronics 2019 is upwards of $68 billion. Naturally, this translates to more demand for electrical engineering expertise.
An example of a successful automotive electrical engineering: an infotainment system and a charging smartphone that are both connected to the owner's vehicle. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
The automotive industry focuses on the development and production of personal and commercial vehicles for transport. EEs working in this sector regularly collaborate with other professionals within multi-disciplinary teams, broad knowledge of automotive technologies. Electrical engineers’ main work responsibilities in this field are to design, test, and troubleshoot vehicles’ electrical controls.
EEs are the creative minds behind some leading trends in the automotive sector: consider both automated driver-assistance systems (ADAS) in modern cars and trucks and electric vehicles (EVs), for instance. ADAS consist of electronic systems that enable built-in safety features to enhance the driving experience (e.g., collision warning, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning systems).Such technology is enabled by advanced sensors, AI and GPS technology. Again, we have electrical engineers to thank for these developments; plus, EV automakers like Tesla, BMW, and Toyota employ such engineers to design the electrical systems for their battery-powered vehicles.
Electrical engineers working in the power sector design, troubleshoot, and maintain electrical systems and equipment for power generation, transmission, and distribution. These EEs work in a wide range of environments, including power distribution stations, refineries, manufacturing plants, and government buildings. At industrial plants, power engineers are responsible for operating and servicing machinery, such as:
Gas or steam turbines
Water treatment systems, and
Heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (aka HVAC) systems.
An electrical engineer working on a heating, ventilating, and air conditioning system. Image Credit: Flickr.
With many different career paths and technical roles matching the expertise of electrical engineers, EEs continue to be in demand across the world. After all, despite some people’s concerns that robots could potentially make much of modern human labour redundant, human-level AI is still a long way off (assuming it’s possible at all). All in all, we can expect electrical engineers of all levels to keep thriving in their respective roles for the foreseeable future.