Electrical and Electronics Engineers

Summary

electrical and electronics engineers image
Electronics engineers design and develop electronic components or systems, while electrical engineers design and develop electrical equipment.
Quick Facts: Electrical and Electronics Engineers
2012 Median Pay $89,630 per year
$43.09 per hour
Entry-Level Education Bachelor’s degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2012 306,100
Job Outlook, 2012-22 4% (Slower than average)
Employment Change, 2012-22 12,600

What Electrical and Electronics Engineers Do

Electrical engineers design, develop, test, and supervise the manufacturing of electrical equipment, such as electric motors, radar and navigation systems, communications systems, and power generation equipment. Electronics engineers design and develop electronic equipment, such as broadcast and communications systems—from portable music players to global positioning systems (GPS).

Work Environment

Electrical and electronics engineers work primarily in research and development industries, engineering services firms, manufacturing, and the federal government. Electrical and electronics engineers generally work indoors in offices. However, they may have to visit sites to observe a problem or a piece of complex equipment.

How to Become an Electrical or Electronics Engineer

Electrical and electronics engineers must have a bachelor’s degree. Employers also value practical experience, so participation in cooperative engineering programs, in which students earn academic credit for structured work experience, is valuable as well.

Pay

The median annual wage for electrical engineers was $87,920 in May 2012. The median annual wage for electronics engineers was $91,820 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of electrical and electronics engineers is projected to grow 4 percent from 2012 to 2022, slower than the average for all occupations. Job growth is expected because of electrical and electronics engineers’ versatility in developing and applying emerging technologies.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of electrical and electronics engineers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about electrical and electronics engineers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Electrical and Electronics Engineers Do About this section

Electrical and electronics engineers
Electronics engineers analyze the requirements and costs of electrical systems.

Electrical engineers design, develop, test, and supervise the manufacturing of electrical equipment, such as electric motors, radar and navigation systems, communications systems, or power generation equipment. Electrical engineers also design the electrical systems of automobiles and aircraft.

Electronics engineers design and develop electronic equipment, such as broadcast and communications systems, from portable music players to global positioning systems (GPS). Many also work in areas closely related to computer hardware.

Duties

Electrical engineers typically do the following:

  • Design new ways to use electrical power to develop or improve products
  • Do detailed calculations to develop manufacturing, construction, and installation standards and specifications
  • Direct manufacturing, installing, and testing of electrical equipment to ensure that products meet specifications and codes
  • Investigate complaints from customers or the public, evaluate problems, and recommend solutions
  • Work with project managers on production efforts to ensure that projects are completed satisfactorily, on time, and within budget

Electronics engineers typically do the following:

  • Design electronic components, software, products, or systems for commercial, industrial, medical, military, or scientific applications
  • Analyze customer needs and determine electrical system requirements, capacity, and cost to develop a system plan
  • Develop maintenance and testing procedures for electronic components and equipment
  • Evaluate systems and recommend design modifications or equipment repair
  • Inspect electronic equipment, instruments, and systems to make sure they meet safety standards and applicable regulations
  • Plan and develop applications and modifications for electronic properties used in parts and systems to improve technical performance

Electronics engineers who work for the federal government research, develop, and evaluate electronic devices used in a variety of areas, such as aviation, computing, transportation, and manufacturing. They work on federal electronic devices and systems, including satellites, flight systems, radar and sonar systems, and communications systems.

The work of electrical engineers and electronics engineers is often similar. Both use engineering and design software and equipment to do engineering tasks. Both types of engineers also must work with other engineers to discuss existing products and possibilities for engineering projects.

Engineers whose work is related exclusively to computer hardware are considered computer hardware engineers.

Work Environment About this section

Electrical and electronics engineers
Electrical and electronic engineers are mostly employed in industries conducting research and development or engineering service firms.

Electrical and electronics engineers held about 306,100 jobs in 2012. The industries that employed the most electrical engineers in 2012 were as follows:

Engineering services20%
Electric power generation, transmission and distribution9
Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and
control instruments manufacturing
9
Semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing8
Machinery manufacturing5

The industries that employed the most electronics engineers in 2012 were as follows:

Telecommunications18%
Federal government, excluding postal service13
Architectural, engineering, and related services12
Semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing9
Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and
control instruments manufacturing
6

Electrical and electronics engineers generally work indoors in offices. However, they may visit sites to observe a problem or a piece of complex equipment.

Work Schedules

Electrical and electronics engineers typically work a standard, full-time schedule, although overtime work is sometimes required to meet deadlines.

How to Become an Electrical or Electronics Engineer About this section

Electrical and electronics engineers
Becoming an electrical or electronics engineer involves study of math and engineering.

Electrical and electronics engineers must have a bachelor’s degree. Employers also value practical experience, so participation in cooperative engineering programs, in which students earn academic credit for structured work experience, is valuable as well. Having a Professional Engineer (PE) license may improve an engineer’s chances of finding employment.

Education

High school students interested in studying electrical or electronics engineering benefit from taking courses in physics and mathematics, including algebra, trigonometry, and calculus. Courses in drafting are also helpful, because electrical and electronics engineers are often required to prepare technical drawings.

Entry-level jobs in electrical or electronics engineering generally require a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering, electronics engineering, or electrical engineering technology. Programs include classroom, laboratory, and field studies. Courses include digital systems design, differential equations, and electrical circuit theory. Programs in electrical engineering should be accredited by ABET.

Some colleges and universities offer cooperative programs in which students gain practical experience while completing their education. Cooperative programs combine classroom study with practical work.

At some universities, students can enroll in a 5-year program that leads to both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree. A graduate degree allows an engineer to work as an instructor at some universities, or in research and development.

Important Qualities

Concentration. Electrical and electronics engineers design and develop complex electrical systems and electronic components and products. They must be able to keep track of multiple design elements and technical characteristics when performing these tasks.

Initiative. Electrical and electronics engineers must be able to apply their academic knowledge to new tasks in every project they undertake. In addition, they must engage in continuing education to keep up with changes in technology.

Interpersonal skills. Electrical and electronics engineers must be able to work with others during the manufacturing process to ensure that their plans are implemented correctly. This collaboration includes monitoring technicians and devising remedies to problems as they arise.

Math skills. Electrical and electronics engineers must be able to use the principles of calculus and other advanced topics in math in order to analyze, design, and troubleshoot equipment.

Speaking skills. Electrical and electronics engineers work closely with other engineers and technicians. They must be able to explain their designs and reasoning clearly and to relay instructions during product development and production. They may also need to explain complex issues to customers who have little or no technical expertise.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Licensure for electrical and electronics engineers is not as common as it is for other engineering occupations; however, it is encouraged for those working in companies that have contracts with federal, state, and local government. Engineers who become licensed are designated Professional Engineers (PEs). Licensure generally requires the following:

  • A degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program
  • A passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam
  • Relevant work experience
  • A passing score on the Professional Engineering (PE) exam

The initial Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam can be taken right after graduation from a college or university. Engineers who pass this exam commonly are called engineers in training (EITs) or engineer interns (EIs). After getting work experience, EITs can take the second exam, called the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam.

Several states require engineers to take continuing education courses to keep their license. Most states recognize licensure from other states if the licensing state’s requirements meet or exceed their own licensure requirements.

Advancement

Electrical and electronic engineers may advance to supervisory positions that require leading a team of engineers and technicians. Some may move to management positions, working as engineering or program managers. Preparation for managerial positions usually requires working under the guidance of a more experienced engineer. For more information, see the profile on architectural and engineering managers.

For sales work, an engineering background enables engineers to discuss a product's technical aspects and assist in product planning and use. For more information, see the profile on sales engineers.

Pay About this section

Electrical and Electronics Engineers

Median annual wages, May 2012

Electronics engineers, except computer

$91,820

Electrical and electronics engineers

$89,630

Electrical engineers

$87,920

Total, all occupations

$34,750

 

The median annual wage for electrical engineers was $87,920 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $56,490, and the top 10 percent earned more than $136,690.

The median annual wage for electronics engineers was $91,820 in May 2012. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $58,470, and the top 10 percent earned more than $141,190.

In May 2012, the median annual wages for electrical engineers in the top five industries employing these engineers were as follows:

Semiconductor and other electronic
component manufacturing
$94,990
Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and
control instruments manufacturing
91,810
Engineering services87,640
Electric power generation, transmission and distribution85,350
Machinery manufacturing79,480

In May 2012, the median annual wages for electronics engineers in the top five industries employing these engineers were as follows:

Federal government, excluding postal service$103,270
Semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing96,140
Architectural, engineering, and related services96,110
Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and
control instruments manufacturing
90,440
Telecommunications83,020

Electrical and electronics engineers typically work a standard, full-time schedule, although overtime work is sometimes required to meet deadlines.

Job Outlook About this section

Electrical and Electronics Engineers

Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Total, all occupations

11%

Electrical engineers

5%

Electrical and electronics engineers

4%

Electronics engineers, except computer

3%

 

Employment of electrical and electronics engineers is projected to grow 4 percent from 2012 to 2022, slower than the average for all occupations. Job growth is expected because of electrical and electronics engineers’ versatility in developing and applying emerging technologies. On the other hand, employment growth could be tempered by slow growth or decline in most manufacturing sectors in which electrical and electronics engineers are employed.

Job growth for electrical and electronics engineers will largely occur in engineering services firms, because more companies are expected to cut costs by contracting engineering services rather than directly employing engineers. These engineers will also experience job growth in computer systems design, as these industries continue to implement more powerful portable computing devices.

The rapid pace of technological innovation and development will likely drive demand for electrical and electronics engineers in research and development, an area in which engineering expertise will be needed to develop distribution systems related to new technologies.

Employment projections data for electrical and electronics engineers, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Electrical and electronics engineers

17-2070 306,100 318,700 4 12,600 [XLS]

Electrical engineers

17-2071 166,100 174,000 5 7,900 [XLS]

Electronics engineers, except computer

17-2072 140,000 144,800 3 4,800 [XLS]

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of electrical and electronics engineers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2012 MEDIAN PAY Help
Aerospace engineers

Aerospace Engineers

Aerospace engineers design aircraft, spacecraft, satellites, and missiles. In addition, they test prototypes to make sure that they function according to design.

Bachelor’s degree $103,720
Architectural and engineering managers

Architectural and Engineering Managers

Architectural and engineering managers plan, coordinate, and direct activities in architectural and engineering companies.

Bachelor’s degree $124,870
Biomedical engineers

Biomedical Engineers

Biomedical engineers analyze and design solutions to problems in biology and medicine, with the goal of improving the quality and effectiveness of patient care.

Bachelor’s degree $86,960
Computer hardware engineers

Computer Hardware Engineers

Computer hardware engineers research, design, develop, and test computer systems and components such as processors, circuit boards, memory devices, networks, and routers. By creating new directions in computer hardware, these engineers create rapid advances in computer technology.

Bachelor’s degree $100,920
Electrical and electronic engineering technicians

Electrical and Electronics Engineering Technicians

Electrical and electronics engineering technicians help engineers design and develop computers, communications equipment, medical monitoring devices, navigational equipment, and other electrical and electronic equipment. They often work in product evaluation and testing, using measuring and diagnostic devices to adjust, test, and repair equipment.

Associate’s degree $57,850
Electrical and electronics installers and repairers

Electrical and Electronics Installers and Repairers

Electrical and electronics installers and repairers install, repair, or replace a variety of electrical equipment in telecommunications, transportation, utilities, and other industries.

Postsecondary non-degree award $51,220
Electricians

Electricians

Electricians install and maintain electrical power, communications, lighting, and control systems in homes, businesses, and factories.

High school diploma or equivalent $49,840
Electro-mechanical technicians

Electro-mechanical Technicians

Electro-mechanical technicians combine knowledge of mechanical technology with knowledge of electrical and electronic circuits. They install, troubleshoot, repair, and upgrade electronic and computer-controlled mechanical systems, such as robotic assembly machines.

Associate’s degree $51,820
Sales engineers

Sales Engineers

Sales engineers sell complex scientific and technological products or services to businesses. They must have extensive knowledge of the products’ parts and functions and must understand the scientific processes that make these products work.

Bachelor’s degree $91,830

Contacts for More Information About this section

For information about general engineering education and career resources, visit

American Society for Engineering Education

Technology Student Association

For more information about licensure as an electrical or electronics engineer, visit

National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying

National Society of Professional Engineers

For information about accredited engineering programs, visit

ABET

O*NET

Electronics Engineers, Except Computer

Radio Frequency Identification Device Specialists

Electrical Engineers

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Electrical and Electronics Engineers,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/electrical-and-electronics-engineers.htm (visited July 22, 2014).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014