As high school students and college freshman consider career options in the still uncertain economy, many consider a degree in electrical engineering to be a safe bet. Electricity and technology are here to stay and there will be an ongoing need for those who understand how to apply engineering principles to them. Before embarking a journey to get a degree in electrical engineering, however, there are some factors you should consider.
Electrical engineering is a math-intensive field, both in terms of education and professional work. You will need a solid background not only in algebra and trigonometry, but also in calculus and differential equations. If you struggle with mathematics or do not enjoy it, electrical engineering may prove a difficult and unpleasant degree field and profession for you. You will also need to study physics, another math-dependent field.
In addition to the more theoretical math and physics, your coursework will also include a practical study of electrical components and ongoing lab requirements. You’ll be required to apply your theoretical knowledge to practical problems and build projects, large and small, that solve practical problems in areas such as signal processing and microprocessor performance. If you enjoy the rigors of mathematics and the hands-on aspects of lab work, though, an electrical engineering degree may be a good choice for you.
Wide Career Options
In terms of career choices, electrical engineering offers a surprisingly wide number of choices, depending on which field you choose to concentrate on. Electrical engineers work in manufacturing, aviation, communication, and at power utility companies. Their duties range from component and product design to communication system design and systems testing. In some cases, electrical engineers are responsible for developing the installation standards that govern how products can or cannot be used in real world application.
Experience and Licensure
It should be noted that graduation from an electrical engineering degree program does not allow you to jump directly into the career field. Prior to seeking work, you must first pass the Fundamentals of Engineering exam, which tests a broad cross-section of engineering knowledge ranging from mathematics to control systems, computer networks and ethics. Once you pass the exam, you may enter the profession as an engineer-in-training. After you have worked in the field for four years, you will be allowed to take the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam that, if passed, qualifies you for licensure as an engineer.
High Salary and High Competition
The average starting pay for electrical engineers is approximately $62,000 a year, which makes it one of the better paying career fields to enter. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, is projecting a lower than average growth rate of 5% in the electrical engineering field through 2022. Given the slow projected growth, new entrants in the field can expect fierce competition for jobs.
Electrical engineering offers a lucrative, but competitive, field. If you have a passion for math, physics, and electronics, then a degree in electrical engineering offers a way to turn that passion into a career. However, if you find math and science exceptionally demanding and difficult, an electrical engineering degree probably isn’t the right choice for you.