7 Popular Electrical Engineering Careers

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An electrical engineer tests electrical components.Electrical engineering is primarily concerned with the design and applications of electronics or electromagnetic devices. Given the importance of such devices across all aspects of life, it should come as no surprise that electrical engineering offers rich and rewarding career paths. In fact, individuals with advanced skills in this field can choose from a number of exciting electrical engineering careers.

To be more competitive in the job market and qualify for the most prestigious and rewarding electrical engineering careers, engineers should consider earning an advanced degree to gain the competencies for long-term success.

1. Embedded Systems Engineer

One potential career path for those with an electrical engineering degree is embedded systems engineer. An embedded system is essentially a combination of hardware and software designed to work harmoniously to accomplish specific goals or complete clearly defined tasks. The embedded systems engineer is a specialist who designs, assembles, and troubleshoots these systems, ensuring all the individual components are working together in harmony.

Examples of Embedded Systems

An embedded systems engineer may work with systems that fall into one of four basic categories: Real-time, standalone, networked, or mobile.

  • Real-time systems. A real-time system provides its output in a specific timeframe. Basically, it follows a deadline to complete its specified tasks. Examples include the vehicle systems on cars or subway trains, military systems used for deploying weaponry, or the systems that power radios and mobile phones.
  • Standalone systems. Standalone systems simply refer to systems that do not require any kind of external host to accomplish their tasks. Common examples include personal computers, MP3 players, and video game consoles.
  • Networked systems. A networked system is one that is connected to either a local area network (LAN), a wide area network (WAN), or the internet. Embedded systems provide the basis for the Internet of Things (IoT).
  • Mobile systems. A mobile system is one that’s designed to be very small and portable, such as the systems that power a smartphone or digital camera.

Examples of Embedded Systems Engineering Projects

For additional examples of what an embedded systems engineer might do, consider these projects.

  • Embedded systems specialists may work to develop more efficient or economical household appliances, such as microwave ovens.
  • An embedded systems engineer may design and develop onboard systems that are used in a car to promote safety or situational awareness.
  • Electrical engineers who work on embedded systems may also be tasked with making portable systems (such as those found in mobile phones) smaller, more powerful, or more durable.

Embedded Systems Engineer Salary

According to the compensation website PayScale, professionals in this field can anticipate a median annual salary of around $79,000. Salary may be influenced by experience level, education level, and geographic location, among other factors.

2. Senior Electrical Engineer

Another potential career path for electrical engineering students is to become a senior electrical engineer. These professionals are tasked with designing, developing, testing, troubleshooting, and upgrading electrical components and machinery. Essentially, the senior electrical engineer works with electronic devices at every stage, from inception through installation.

What Does a Senior Electrical Engineer Do?

Those in senior electrical engineering positions may find employment in a wide variety of industries, including any industries that develop electronic equipment. Examples include medical device, automotive, or computer hardware companies.

Senior electrical engineers are often tasked with leading teams of junior engineers, which may involve training apprentices or those who are new to the field. Together, these engineering teams may be commissioned to create a new piece of equipment that solves a problem or achieves a specific goal. In other cases, the senior electrical engineer may evaluate existing equipment and look for ways to improve it.

Additional Duties

Additional responsibilities of the senior electrical engineer may include the following:

  • Developing or modifying electrical design plans
  • Collaborating with clients or other engineers to ensure projects meet specifications
  • Creating, monitoring, and improving engineering processes for peak efficiency
  • Drawing up budgets, schedules, or protocols for teams to follow
  • Performing diagnostics to troubleshoot or optimize equipment
  • Hiring and training new engineers
  • Creating a safe, productive work environment for team members

Senior Electrical Engineer Salary

The senior electrical engineering role is a leadership position, and that’s reflected in the salary range. According to PayScale, a senior electrical engineer may make a median annual salary of approximately $104,400. Again, different factors can impact this pay rate, including years of experience and where the job is located.

3. Electronics Engineer

Still another viable path for electrical engineering students to choose is electronics engineer. Specialists in this field design, inspect, and test electrical components, equipment, systems, and software for a variety of computer systems. They may work in a commercial, industrial, military, or scientific setting.

Electronics Engineer Job Description

The basic responsibility of an electronics engineer is to develop electronic circuits and other components that may be used to solve a particular problem or achieve a certain goal. There are a number of potential applications for electronics engineers to apply their expertise. For example, the circuits and other electronic components they develop may be used in everything from telecommunications equipment to aerospace guidance controls.

Listed here are additional duties an electronics engineer may assume.

  • Determining budgetary parameters as well as material and equipment for a new project
  • Drafting detailed drawings and specifications for new equipment development or installation
  • Analyzing the cost, capacity, or system requirements of a new project to determine its feasibility
  • Inspecting electronics equipment to ensure safety and compliance with pertinent codes or regulations
  • Evaluating electronics equipment for its effectiveness in reaching a set goal or achieving a desired level of efficiency

Work in Government Agencies

While electronics engineers may work in research labs or for commercial enterprises, the field is also associated with government work. Those in electronics engineering may find work with the Department of Defense or Department of Homeland Security developing satellites, radar and sonar systems, flight systems, and more.

Electronics Engineer Salary

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), professionals in this field can expect a median annual salary of $101,250. This is another field in which the pay rate can fluctuate according to several factors. Experienced engineers and those with advanced degrees typically command higher salaries. Salary can also fluctuate according to geographic location.

4. Aerospace Engineer

The field of aerospace engineering provides exciting options for electrical engineering majors. Aerospace engineers can enter the aeronautics industry, designing aircraft for commercial flights or military use. Alternatively, an aerospace engineer can pursue astronautics, helping design new types of spacecraft.

The Work of an Aerospace Engineer

An aerospace engineer’s primary job is designing, developing, testing, and upgrading vehicles that can be operated as safely as possible. Depending on the project, this may involve compliance with industry-specific standards (e.g., safety parameters that serve as guardrails to the airline industry) as well as other government regulations.

In addition to designing and developing aircraft and spacecraft, an aerospace engineer may also find work developing satellites or projectile missiles.

Job responsibilities of aerospace engineers may also include the following.

  • Creating and administering tests and simulations so craft meet safety standards
  • Assessing proposals for new projects to ensure they are technically feasible
  • Evaluating design plans to make certain they meet safety standards, customer needs, and efficiency targets
  • Developing or integrating advanced robotic systems, such as “automatic pilot” functions used in aircraft
  • Inspecting damaged or malfunctioning equipment to diagnose the underlying problem, and to advance possible solutions

Aerospace Engineering Salary

Data from the BLS notes that an aerospace engineer makes a median annual salary of around $116,500. Engineers with more experience typically command higher salaries. Those with greater experience and education may assume team leadership responsibilities, managing other engineers on a project.

5. Naval Engineer

For electrical engineers who have an interest in watercraft, naval engineering provides a unique opportunity. This field, also known as naval architecture or marine engineering, draws on disciplines such as electrical, mechanical, and software engineering, all with the intention of developing safe and seaworthy vessels. Specifically, a naval engineer may draft proposals and create plans for ship hulls and structures, as well as various types of systems and equipment that are used in the interior of the ship.

Naval Engineer Duties

The naval engineer may be responsible for any of a ship’s internal systems, including the propulsion system, electrical systems, refrigeration systems, and the systems used for steering the vessel. Additionally, the responsibilities of a naval engineer may extend to the outer structure of the ship, where they design its form and structure for stability. Safety engineering is also a critical part of the job. Those who design ships must ensure that each vessel complies with all industry-specific standards and government safety regulations.

A naval engineer may also assume these additional responsibilities.

  • Preparing detailed drawings and plans for watercraft
  • Conducting environmental tests, assessing a ship’s impact on sea and air quality
  • Testing marine equipment for efficiency and safety
  • Inspecting equipment that has malfunctioned or failed, and advancing potential solutions
  • Coordinating with regulatory bodies to ensure repairs are made safely
  • Preparing cost estimates and construction projects for new vessels
  • Designing all aspects of a ship’s interior, from elevators and ladder wells to passenger space and cargo compartments

One important note: A naval engineer is not the same as a ship engineer. The latter refers to someone who works on board a marine vessel, operating its equipment while the vehicle is at sea.

Naval Engineering Salary

As for the expected salary of a naval engineer, BLS data shows a median of $92,400. Engineers with more experience may earn more competitive salary ranges.

6. Automotive Engineer

Electrical engineers who are passionate about automotive technology may consider a position with a vehicle manufacturer, where they can apply their expertise to the development of new engines, vehicle systems, and other automotive technology.

Automotive Engineer Job Description

Many automotive engineers work for car or truck manufacturers, where they design and develop new vehicles that are safe, reliable, efficient, and comfortable. Alternatively, an automotive engineer may work with a parts manufacturer, where they develop specific components that can be used in vehicle production and repair.

The job description of an automotive engineering professional may extend beyond the initial design phase. For example, engineers are often heavily involved in testing new vehicles, making certain they perform as intended and meet all pertinent safety requirements and emissions standards. When vehicles fail to meet these standards, the engineer may be involved in troubleshooting and modification.

Trends in Automotive Engineering

The automotive engineering field is constantly advancing. Vehicle manufacturers are driven to make each year’s models sleeker, more powerful, and more fuel-efficient than previous iterations. As such, one of the core responsibilities of the automotive engineer is to stay abreast of industry trends. For example, the field of automotive engineering is currently focused on the following strategic accountabilities:

  • Sustainability and minimizing environmental impact
  • Developing new ways to employ recycled materials in new automotive designs
  • Lowering the mass and weight of vehicles to boost fuel efficiency
  • Finding new, non-steel materials to make vehicle bodies, including composite materials
  • Incorporating natural fibers in vehicle interiors, minimizing reliance on plastic
  • Developing autonomous in-vehicle experiences, including connectivity with health and wellness devices

For those interested in automotive engineering careers, keeping up with these and other trends is essential for success.

Automotive Engineering Salary

According to PayScale, the median salary for an automotive engineering professional is around $77,000. As with other engineering roles, possessing an advanced degree or more experience may lead to a higher pay level.

7. Semiconductor Engineer

Yet another popular career path for electrical engineering students to consider is to focus on semiconductors.

The term “semiconductor” refers to any substance that has a conductivity level somewhere between that of conductors (typically a type of metal) and nonconductors or insulators (for example, ceramic material). Semiconductors can be crucial in the engineering world because external factors, such as temperature, may provide them some fluidity in their conductivity level. By using different types of semiconductors, engineers can manipulate different kinds of electrical signals.

What Does a Semiconductor Engineer Do?

Semiconductor engineers use computers to research, design, build, and test semiconductor systems. This usually involves working with silicon — the main component in semiconductor systems — as well as other materials, including chemical solvents and gases. The role of the semiconductor engineer may also involve working with microdevices, requiring meticulous and precise work performed with a microscope.

Semiconductor engineers are needed to develop new systems, including in the aerospace and automotive manufacturing sectors as well as in architectural engineering. Semiconductors can play an important role in the manufacture of many different electronic devices, including most any device that uses diodes, transistors, or integrated circuits. Devices that implement semiconductors tend to be compact, powerful, and cost-effective, making semiconductor engineers crucial members of any design and manufacturing process.

Semiconductor Engineering Salary

According to PayScale, the median annual salary for a semiconductor engineer is about $87,900. This number may fluctuate depending on geographic location, experience in the field, and level of education.

Pursue an Electrical Engineering Career

For those who are inclined toward engineering and are passionate about working with electrical systems, there are plenty of career paths to choose from. For each of the careers listed here, it can be advantageous to first pursue an advanced degree in the field.

Consider Ohio University’s online master’s in electrical engineering degree program, where you can gain the technical and critical thinking skills to solve complex problems and offer value to employers. Hone your abilities in research, design, development, and testing to become a well-rounded electrical engineer ready to take on any challenge.

Learn more about Ohio University’s MSEE program today and take the first step toward an exciting career.

Recommended Readings

Digital Circuits Overview for Electrical Engineers: What You Need to Know
Embedded Systems Engineer: Job Outlook & Salary Information
12 Easy Ways to Save Energy at Home and the Office

Sources:

Britannica, Semiconductor
Career Explorer, “What Does an Electrical Engineer Do?”
Houston Chronicle, “The Difference Between an Automotive Engineer and an Auto Mechanic”
Houston Chronicle, “Qualifications for an Electronics Engineer”
Interesting Engineering, “Top 3 Industries for Highest Electrical Engineer Salary”
MatMatch, “The Biggest Design Trends for the Automotive Industry 2020”
PayScale, Average Embedded Systems Engineer Salary
PayScale, Average Automotive Engineer Salary
PayScale, Average Semiconductor Engineer Salary
PayScale, Average Senior Electrical Engineer Salary
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Aerospace Engineers
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Electrical and Electronics Engineers
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Marine Engineers and Naval Architects