Electrical Engineering Degrees: How to Become an Electrical Engineer

Discover the intrigue behind an electrical engineering degree. Find unique insights, actionable advice, and practical tips to navigate this rewarding academic journey.

Electrical Engineering Degree

Ever marveled at the magic of charging your phone? It’s not witchcraft but the fruit of a discipline called Electrical Engineering!

Just like the unseen current that powers our lives, electrical engineering works in the background, creating wonders we often take for granted.

From smart homes to self-driving cars, electrical engineering is where innovation, creativity, and practicality meet. But how do you become part of this exciting, fast-paced field?

First, Let’s answer a fundamental question.

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What is an Electrical Engineering Degree?

An electrical engineering degree is an academic program that is highly specialized and centers on the in-depth study of electricity, electronics, and electromagnetism. It goes beyond just learning theory; it’s about gaining hands-on experience designing and implementing electrical systems that power our world.

But here’s the thing: an electrical engineering degree involves much more than simply comprehending the technical components of the discipline. It’s not a dry, mechanical process of memorizing equations and principles. Instead, it’s a dynamic, engaging exploration of how these principles come to life in the real world.

Now, you might ask, “Why is this degree so significant?” Picture a day without electricity – no smartphones, no internet, no refrigeration, no electric transportation – pretty unimaginable, isn’t it? That’s the profound impact of electrical engineering on our lives.

Opting for a degree in electrical engineering is a pivotal step toward advancing modern science and technology. It allows you to contribute to revolutionary advancements, such as renewable energy solutions and groundbreaking medical equipment.

Electrical Engineering in the Coming Years: What to Expect

You may have heard the saying, “The future is now.” But what can electrical engineering students expect from the future? 

Exciting advancements are on the horizon that could revolutionize the world and impact various industries.

  • Interconnected Universe (IoT): Imagine a world where everything communicates, sharing, and analyzing data on the go. That’s the marvel of the Internet of Things, poised to transform our lives with the advent of 5G technology. Smart cities, intelligent retail spaces, and connected vehicles are on the horizon, presenting an opportunity for electrical engineers to leave their mark. 
  • The Rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI): AI isn’t just about robots; it’s redefining boundaries across the scientific and engineering landscape. As an electrical engineer, harnessing AI could become your secret weapon, helping you craft data interpretation algorithms, enhance legacy programs, and foster innovative strategies in electronics. Plus, you’ll be at the forefront of developing machine learning and AI platforms!
  • Augmented Reality (AR): AR is here to blur the lines between the digital and the physical realm, placing a treasure trove of information at your fingertips. From increasing accuracy to enhancing efficiency, AR is set to revolutionize your workplace, making your tasks more interactive and intuitive.
  • The Dawn of Robotics: Envision robots as your allies, ready to safeguard your well-being and boost productivity. Drones, for instance, could scan potential hazards and inform you ahead of time, ensuring your safety and increasing work efficiency.
  • Graphene Supercapacitors: Graphene supercapacitors, a recent innovation on the block in the electrical engineering world, are all set to shake things up. Their stellar energy storage capabilities and ability to deliver quick bursts of energy are perfect for applications requiring high frequencies.
  • Shrinking to Excellence (Miniaturization): As they say, good things come in small packages. The relentless march towards miniaturization in electrical engineering stands testament to this. Thanks to the leaps in semiconductor technology, you’ll be packing powerhouses of performance into tiny chips, creating increasingly compact electronic devices.

What are the Electrical Engineering Degree Levels?

Getting your degree in electrical engineering is akin to setting foot on an exciting journey filled with various paths and milestones. Each stage of education you attain broadens your expertise and opens up new opportunities.

From foundational certificates to comprehensive doctoral degrees, let’s take a guided tour through the different levels of electrical engineering education.

Certificate in Electrical Engineering

It’s a short-term program, typically taking less than a year, and offers a fundamental grasp of electrical engineering concepts. A certificate can help you upgrade your skills for a specific job requirement or serve as a stepping stone if you’re contemplating a longer commitment to electrical engineering. 

Entry Requirements

  • A high school diploma or equivalent

Associate Degree in Electrical Engineering

This two-year degree usually covers the basics of circuits, electronics, and digital systems. While you still won’t qualify as a professional engineer, an associate degree can open doors to entry-level technician roles. 

It’s also a great launching pad if you plan to transfer to a bachelor’s program later. Think of it as your first serious commitment, a promise to your future self to venture deeper into the thrilling world of electrical engineering.

Entry Requirements: 

  • A high school diploma or equivalent
  • Satisfactory GPA 
  • Coursework in math and science

Bachelor's Degree in Electrical Engineering

A Bachelor’s degree is where things start to get serious. This is your passport to becoming a professional engineer. Typically spanning four years, this degree provides a thorough understanding of electrical engineering’s core areas, from electronics and control systems to communications and power systems. 

The bachelor’s degree is where you’ll lay a robust foundation, gaining the knowledge and skills required for a successful career in electrical engineering. 

Entry Requirements: 

  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • SAT or ACT scores
  • Prerequisite courses in math and science

Master's Degree in Electrical Engineering

After completing your bachelor’s degree, pursuing a master’s degree in electrical engineering would greatly benefit you. This is your pathway to specialization. 

Usually completed in two years, a master’s degree allows you to delve deep into a specific area of electrical engineering, be it power systems, signal processing, or nanotechnology. This is where you’re not just learning but also contributing to the field, possibly through a thesis or capstone project. 

With a master’s degree, you’re no longer just an engineer but an expert, ready to lead, innovate, and inspire.

Entry Requirements: 

  • Bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering or a related field
  • GRE scores
  • Letters of recommendation
  • In some cases, professional experience

Doctorate in Electrical Engineering

The final, most challenging, and potentially most rewarding level is the doctorate degree. This is where you transcend from being a student to becoming a scholar. 

As a doctoral student, you’re expected to carry out original research, pushing the boundaries of existing knowledge and contributing something new to electrical engineering. 

Earning this degree will require a time commitment of four to six years. However, upon completion, you will belong to a distinguished group that can influence the future of electrical engineering through research, academics, or top-tier industry positions.

Entry Requirements: 

  • A master’s degree is often required, though some programs accept highly qualified candidates with a bachelor’s degree.
  • A solid academic record
  • GRE scores
  • Letters of recommendation

Disclaimer: The entry requirements for a degree in Electrical Engineering may vary depending on your university and state. However, here we have outlined the general qualifications that are frequently asked for.

What Specialties and Concentrations Can You Find in Electrical Engineering Degree Programs?

Much like a power grid, electrical engineering branches out into various specialties, each illuminating a unique aspect of this vast field. As you delve deeper into your studies, you may discover an area that sparks a particular interest, urging you to specialize and become an expert in that niche.

These concentrations are gateways to exciting arenas of technology where you can carve out a niche for yourself.

Let’s highlight some popular specialties and concentrations in electrical engineering degree programs.

Communications and Signal Processing

This concentration dives into the heart of how information gets transmitted and processed. You’ll explore the technology that keeps us connected in this digital age, from mobile networks to satellite communication.

Pursuing this concentration will equip you to design, analyze, and enhance communication systems. In an increasingly interconnected world, experts in this field are crucial, making this a specialty with a wealth of career opportunities.

Controls

Imagine orchestrating the actions of a robot or ensuring a plane maintains its flight path – that’s the realm of Controls. Here, you’ll study systems and algorithms that manage, control, and automate devices and processes. 

This concentration will empower you to improve efficiencies and reduce errors in industries from manufacturing to aerospace. If you have a knack for precision and problem-solving, this path could be your calling.

Computer Engineering

As the name suggests, computer engineering merges the principles of electrical engineering and computer science. This concentration will allow you to design and develop hardware, software, and integrated systems.

In a world where computers are ubiquitous, from our pockets to Mars rovers, this specialty could open doors to myriad industries, including tech giants, startups, or even your own entrepreneurial venture!

Microsystems and Nanotechnology

Microsystems and Nanotechnology is about designing and manipulating systems at the microscopic level. You could be creating next-gen microprocessors or pioneering medical innovations.

As we continue to push the limits of miniaturization and efficiency, this specialty holds promising career prospects and the thrill of working with cutting-edge technology.

Electrophysics

Electrophysics dives into the fundamental principles of electricity, magnetism, and light. This concentration can lead you to design advanced sensors, create innovative materials, or even work on futuristic quantum computers. It’s a path for the intensely curious, those who are not just content with using technology but eager to understand and innovate it at its core.

Courses & Curriculum in Electrical Engineering Degrees

Embarking on an electrical engineering degree is like stepping into a vast, intricate circuit board of knowledge. Each course represents a unique component, a distinct pathway of learning.

Together, they form a comprehensive curriculum, a complex yet beautifully interconnected network of concepts, skills, and insights.

Do you know what these courses are and how they affect your academic journey? Let’s delve into the details.

Foundational Courses (Mathematics, Physics)

Before launching into the exciting world of circuits and power systems, we have to set the stage with foundational courses. Mathematics and physics are the bedrock upon which electrical engineering is built.

You’ll grapple with calculus, differential equations, and linear algebra and delve into the laws of physics that govern electricity and magnetism. Consider these courses as your warm-up laps, prepping you for the race ahead!

Introduction to Circuits and Signals

In this course, you’ll explore the fascinating world of circuits – those intricate networks that control the flow of electricity. You’ll also be introduced to signals, learning how information is encoded and transmitted in electrical form. It’s like learning the secret language of electrical devices!

Electromagnetics

Up next is a course that feels like stepping into a sci-fi movie: Electromagnetics! You’ll explore the interplay of electric charges and magnetic fields and learn about electromagnetic waves that form the basis of our communication systems. You might not gain superpowers, but you’ll undoubtedly wield the power of knowledge!

Power Systems

Learn about how electrical power is generated, transmitted, and distributed to light up entire cities. This course illuminates the pathways that keep our world running, from renewable energy solutions to smart grids.

Communication Systems

This course unravels the complex networks that keep us connected, from telephones and the internet to satellite communication. It’s like understanding the invisible threads that weave our modern, interconnected world together.

On-campus vs. Online Electrical Engineering Degrees

As you stand on the cusp of your experience in electrical engineering, one of the first decisions you’ll have to make is choosing between an on-campus or online degree program.

Picture it as standing at a trailhead with two inviting paths, each leading to a fascinating journey. While both approaches ultimately guide you to an electrical engineering degree, the experiences and challenges along the way will differ.

To assist you in determining the path to success, let’s explore each option further.

On-campus Programs

Traditional on-campus electrical engineering programs transport you into the heart of a buzzing academic ecosystem. 

Pros:

Interactive Environment: On-campus programs offer live, face-to-face interactions with professors and fellow students, fostering vibrant discussions and collaborations.

Hands-on Learning: Physical labs provide hands-on experiences, crucial for mastering practical aspects of Electrical Engineering.

Campus Facilities: Access to libraries, sports facilities, and various student clubs contribute to a rich, holistic educational experience.

Networking Opportunities: Regular interactions with classmates and professors can lead to meaningful relationships, offering professional networking opportunities for the future.

Cons:

Less Flexibility: Scheduled classes may not always accommodate personal or professional commitments.

Commuting: Travel time and costs can add up, especially if you live far from campus.

Higher Costs: On-campus programs can be more expensive due to additional fees associated with campus facilities.

Online Programs

Meanwhile, online electrical engineering degrees offer you the freedom to learn from virtually anywhere. 

Pros:

Flexibility: Online programs allow you to learn at your own pace and time, accommodating work or family commitments.

Accessibility: You can attend classes from anywhere with an internet connection, eliminating commuting time and costs.

Lower Costs: Online programs often cost less due to the absence of expenses related to physical facilities.

Digital Proficiency: You'll develop strong digital skills, a key asset in today's tech-driven world.

Cons:

Limited Social Interaction: Reduced face-to-face interaction can result in a less vibrant social experience.

Self-Motivation Required: The flexibility of online learning requires discipline and self-motivation to stay on track.

Limited Hands-On Experience: Some practical aspects might be challenging to replicate in a virtual environment.

What to Consider When Choosing an Electrical Engineering Degree?

Just like a skilled engineer would carefully examine every component before designing a circuit, you need to analyze various factors before picking the electrical engineering program that’s right for you.

From understanding your goals to scrutinizing each program’s offerings, this process can feel like solving a complex engineering problem.

But don’t fret! Here are some key factors to consider and actionable steps you can take to find your ideal electrical engineering program.

1. Accreditation

First and foremost, make sure the program is accredited by a recognized accrediting body, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) in the United States. This certification ensures that the program meets specific academic standards and is recognized by employers and other institutions.

2. Curriculum

Evaluate the curriculum carefully. Does it cover the foundational aspects of Electrical Engineering? Does it offer courses in areas you’re interested in? An ideal curriculum should provide a comprehensive understanding of Electrical Engineering principles while allowing some flexibility for specialization.

3. Faculty

Take a closer look at the faculty. What are their qualifications? Do they have relevant industry experience? Faculty with substantial experience can offer real-world insights, enriching your learning experience.

4. Hands-On Learning Opportunities

Particularly in a field like Electrical Engineering, practical experience is crucial. Does the program offer opportunities for lab work, internships, or cooperative education experiences? Hands-on experiences will help you connect theoretical knowledge to practical applications.

5. Career Services

Consider the career services the school offers. A strong career services department can provide valuable resources, such as internship opportunities, career counseling, and job placement services.

6. Cost and Financial Aid

Understand the total cost of the degree, including tuition, fees, and living expenses. Does the school offer scholarships, grants, or other financial aid forms? Remember, investing in education is like investing in a powerful circuit that could light up your future career!

7. Alumni Success

Finally, investigate the success of alumni. Have graduates of the program gone on to successful careers in your desired field? Alumni success can be a strong indicator of program quality.

In conclusion, selecting an electrical engineering degree program involves careful scrutiny of multiple factors. Remember, it’s not about finding the “best” program out there—it’s about finding the best program for you.

What Can You Do with an Electrical Engineering Degree?

Let’s bust a myth here: Electrical engineering isn’t just about tinkering with wires and fixing appliances. 

Does that surprise you? You’re not alone.

This common misconception often clouds the true essence of electrical engineering. 

In fact, this dynamic field is a universe of opportunities where you’ll be at the helm of designing and constructing intricate systems that keep the world running, enabling seamless information and power transmission.

Career Outlook

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, opportunities in electrical engineering are expected to grow slower than the average for all occupations over the next decade. 

Although employment growth is limited, there will still be around 20,100 job openings for electrical and electronics engineers each year. The demand for these professionals is expected to increase due to the growing use of emerging technologies.

Salary Potential

The financial prospects of an electrical engineering degree are as high as the voltage in a power line. 

As per the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for electrical engineers was $101,780 in May 2021. In fact, the highest 10 percent earned more than $162,930.

Top Jobs you can get with an Electrical Engineering Degree:

Electrical Engineer

An electrical engineer designs, develops and tests electrical equipment, including navigation systems, electric motors, and power generation equipment. They work in various industries and often collaborate with project managers on production efforts.

Average Salary - Job Positions

Average Salary

$101,780 per year

College Degree Type Needed For Job Position

Degree Level

Bachelor's

Electronics Engineer

An electronics engineer specializes in designing and developing electronic equipment, such as broadcast and communications systems. They work on a wide range of technologies, from GPS devices to portable music players.

Average Salary - Job Positions

Average Salary

$101,780 per year

College Degree Type Needed For Job Position

Degree Level

Bachelor's

Computer Hardware Engineer

As a computer hardware engineer, your role would involve designing, developing, and testing various computer systems and components. This includes processors, circuit boards, memory devices, and networks. They ensure hardware integration with the latest software technology.

Average Salary - Job Positions

Average Salary

$128,170 per year

College Degree Type Needed For Job Position

Degree Level

Bachelor's

Sales Engineer

A sales engineer sells complex scientific and technological products or services to businesses. It’s important for them to fully understand the parts and functions of the products, as well as the scientific processes behind how they work.

Average Salary - Job Positions

Average Salary

$103,710 per year

College Degree Type Needed For Job Position

Degree Level

Bachelor's

Electrical and Electronics Engineering Technicians

These professionals assist engineers in designing and developing computers, communications equipment, medical monitoring devices, and navigational equipment. They often work in product evaluation and testing, where their tasks involve setting up equipment for tests and measurements.

Average Salary - Job Positions

Average Salary

$63,640 per year

College Degree Type Needed For Job Position

Degree Level

Associate's

Electro-mechanical Technicians

An electro-mechanical technician operates, tests, and maintains unmanned, automated, robotic, or electro-mechanical equipment. They often work closely with electrical and mechanical engineers.

Average Salary - Job Positions

Average Salary

$60,360 per year

College Degree Type Needed For Job Position

Degree Level

Associate's

Electrical and Electronics Installers and Repairers

Installers and repairers work on installing, repairing, and maintaining complex electrical systems for businesses and residences. This can range from transportation equipment to commercial equipment.

Average Salary - Job Positions

Average Salary

$61,760 per year

College Degree Type Needed For Job Position

Degree Level

High School

*Please be advised that the average salary provided by BLS may deviate significantly from state to state and occupation, depending on various factors.

Comparing Electrical Engineering with Other Engineering Disciplines

When contemplating a career in engineering, one must take into account not only the expected compensation and academic qualifications but also conduct a comprehensive analysis of the employment opportunities across various engineering fields.

This thorough scrutiny will assist in making an informed decision and pave the way for a successful career in the engineering industry.

Job Prospects

Electrical engineering offers many job opportunities in different industries like energy, telecommunications, computing, and automotive. Job prospects depend on the area of specialization.

In comparison, fields like civil or mechanical engineering might have fewer sectors to explore but can offer more opportunities within their specific industries.

For instance, civil engineering is indispensable in construction and infrastructure projects, while mechanical engineering is integral to manufacturing and automotive industries.

Salary

Electrical engineers typically enjoy competitive salaries, often comparable to or exceeding those in other engineering disciplines. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for electrical engineers was $101,780 in May 2021. However, salaries vary widely depending on the industry, location, and experience level.

In comparison, mechanical engineers had a median annual wage of $95,300, while civil engineers earned a median yearly salary of $88,050 in the same period.

It’s important to note that while these figures provide a general overview, individual salaries can vary significantly based on many factors.

Educational Requirements

To get an entry-level job in electrical engineering, you usually need a bachelor’s degree. This degree takes four years and covers many topics, like circuit design and signal processing.

Mechanical and civil engineering also require a bachelor’s degree, but they have different coursework focusing on their specific areas.

Popular Colleges with Electrical Engineering Degree Programs

The stage is all set for your grand debut in electrical engineering, but where should the curtain rise? A prestigious institution can be the perfect backdrop, amplifying your academic achievements.

Here’s a lineup of some of the most recognized US colleges for electrical engineering degree programs.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

An institute that needs no introduction: MIT, located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, holds the top position in electrical engineering programs. MIT, renowned for being at the forefront of pioneering research and inventive instruction methods, fosters a stimulating educational environment that triggers creativity and feeds students’ quest for knowledge.

Stanford University

Lying within the innovative nucleus of Silicon Valley, Stanford University pulsates as a core center for technological breakthroughs. Its electrical engineering program promotes interdisciplinary collaboration, encouraging students to explore and excel in various facets of the field.

University of California, Berkeley

UC Berkeley stands out for its focus on research in electrical engineering. The institution offers students myriad opportunities for hands-on experiences, enriching their theoretical knowledge with practical insights.

California Institute of Technology (Caltech)

Caltech tailors its electrical engineering curriculum to instill a profound grasp of the field in students while honing their critical thinking and problem-solving prowess. Its small class sizes ensure individualized attention and a strong sense of community.

Georgia Institute of Technology

Georgia Tech offers a robust electrical engineering program that integrates theory, practical skills, and soft skills. Positioning innovation and entrepreneurship at the heart of its ethos, Georgia Tech cultivates a learning atmosphere that molds students into potential trailblazers in the field.

Featured Colleges

FAQ about Electrical Engineering Degree Programs

An electrical engineering degree program equips you with a diverse set of skills that are vital to the field. Technical skills form the foundation: you’ll master electrical circuit theory, understand digital and analog systems, and explore computer programming. You’ll learn to use specialized software and equipment for designing and testing electronic systems.

Beyond technical prowess, you’ll develop strong problem-solving skills, with a knack for critical thinking to dissect complex engineering issues.

Attention to detail is another key takeaway – a crucial skill in a discipline where minor discrepancies can lead to significant outcomes.

Furthermore, the program helps to hone your project management skills, ensuring you’re prepared to take on large-scale assignments in your future career.

The field of electrical engineering is ripe with research opportunities. These can range from undergraduate research projects and internships to thesis research at the graduate level.
Universities often have partnerships with tech companies that provide students with real-world research experiences.

Topics could include anything from robotics, power systems, nanotechnology, and signal processing, to wireless communication, renewable energy, and much more.

Yes, a degree in electrical engineering is typically required to work in this field. This degree assures employers you possess the necessary knowledge, skills, and competence to perform effectively.

Some entry-level roles might accept candidates with degrees in related fields, but an electrical engineering degree is usually a must for higher-level positions and specialties.

Certainly! Acquiring certifications can help you demonstrate your expertise and commitment to professional growth. The most notable certification is the Professional Engineer (PE) license, which is recognized nationally. 

Additionally, many other certifications focus on specific areas, such as the Certified Energy Manager (CEM).

Becoming a licensed Professional Engineer (P.E.) is a rewarding but somewhat intricate process. It involves a sequence of essential steps that you’ll need to follow.

  1. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree: First, it is necessary to obtain a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering or a closely related field from a program accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).
  2. Pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Exam: After graduating, you’ll need to sit for the FE exam, designed to test your understanding of fundamental engineering concepts.
  3. Get Real-World Experience: Upon passing the FE exam, you become an Engineer in Training (EIT). Now, it’s time to gather practical work experience. Generally, you’ll need to accumulate at least four years under the supervision of a licensed PE.
  4. Pass the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) Exam: With your work experience, you can now sit for the PE exam in your engineering discipline, in this case, electrical engineering.
  5. Apply for Licensure: Finally, after passing the PE exam, you can apply for your state’s engineering license. Requirements may vary slightly from state to state, so make sure you check with your state licensing board.

On the pro side, electrical engineering is a diverse and dynamic field with opportunities across industries – from technology and telecommunications to energy and aerospace. It often offers competitive salaries and the chance to work on impactful, cutting-edge projects. Plus, the demand for Electrical Engineers is steady, providing career stability.

On the flip side, it can be a challenging field, demanding a strong aptitude in mathematics and physics. The work can sometimes be high-pressure, especially when dealing with critical systems or tight project deadlines. It also requires continuous learning due to the rapid pace of technological advancement.

While both majors share a strong foundation in electrical engineering, ECEN has a greater emphasis on computer systems, software, and digital electronics.

In contrast, ELEN focuses more broadly on concepts related to electricity and electronics, including power systems, electromagnetism, and control systems.

The choice between the two would depend on your interest and career aspirations.

Summary

  • An Electrical Engineering degree is a rigorous and challenging program that prepares students to design, develop, and improve electrical systems.
  • Numerous specialties such as Communications and Signal Processing, Controls, Computer Engineering, Microsystems, Nanotechnology, and Electrophysics cater to different interests within the Electrical Engineering degree programs.
  • A curriculum encompassing foundational courses, circuits and signals, electromagnetics, power systems, and communication systems equips students with a solid knowledge base.
  • Choosing between on-campus and online Electrical Engineering degrees depends on personal learning style, flexibility, and access to resources.
  • Career prospects for Electrical Engineering degree holders are bright, with various job roles available across different industries.
  • Prestigious colleges such as MIT, Stanford, UC Berkeley, Caltech, and Georgia Tech offer renowned Electrical Engineering programs.

Are you ready to spark your future with an electrical engineering degree? Remember, choosing the right college is the first step towards powering your career.

Feeling fascinated by other fields of study too? Dive into our comprehensive guide on science and engineering degrees to expand your horizons and explore more opportunities!

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