Since the days of Edison and Tesla and electricity’s emergence as a utility, electrical engineers have been at the forefront of some of the greatest technological advances. With the job market changing quickly, however, it’s reasonable to wonder what the career outlook is for professionals who are just joining the field. Will tomorrow’s electrical engineers have sufficient opportunities?
Let’s look at some of the most important findings from recent job market research:
The Number of Electrical Engineering Jobs Will Remain Steady
While some fields are growing fast and others are disappearing thanks to changing technologies, electrical engineering stands somewhere in the middle. According to research by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there was virtually no change in the number of job openings for electrical engineers in 2014 — an estimated decrease of about 100 in a total field of almost 316,000 jobs. No major trends suggest there will be a sharp increase or decrease in job openings over the next decade.
U.S. states with the highest level of employment for the profession include:
- New York
Median Pay for Skilled Electrical Engineers Is Relatively High
The BLS reports median pay for electrical engineers is $95,230, or about $46 per hour. This compares favorably to a large number of professions, including those in the skilled trades. In mid-2015, the highest median pay for electrical engineers was recorded in the physical, engineering, and life sciences — $112,970. This compares to general engineering services, which recorded an annual median wage of $90,710. The top 10% earned more than $146,820.
The Wide Range of Employers Provides Security
An electrical engineer can serve as a general contractor handling a wide variety of systems. However, specializing in particular applications may result in better compensation in the long run. Electrical engineers can be found in research and development, general engineering, telecom, manufacturing, and government. This allows them to adapt quickly in the event that market forces or other circumstances cause them to lose employment.
Skilled electrical engineers also have great potential to start their own business. Such an engineer, equipped with specialized skills in a high-demand industry, could secure opportunities for short- and mid-term projects that may pay far more than the average hourly rate. Of course, would-be entrepreneurs need to contend with the early challenges of securing capital, developing a business structure, and networking to connect with potential clients.
Between 2014 and 2024, large-scale manufacturing concerns that traditionally employed many electrical engineers are expected to decline as a portion of the economy. At the same time, engineering consultancies are expected to continue to expand. The presence of large, U.S.-based multinationals seeking diverse project portfolios means electrical engineers can expect to work on bigger teams with larger projects. Engineers with project management skills should have advancement opportunities.
Electrical Engineering Remains a Strong Bet
Even without explosive growth, electrical engineering will remain one of the most important aspects of technological progress in the coming decade. As engineers diversify and work across disciplines to add new skills to their toolkits, opportunities for professional specialization will emerge. As with many other trades and professions, continuous improvement will be the key to distinguishing one’s talents and achieving greater career stability. Cultivating leadership skills alongside technical ones remains a good investment of time and effort.
At the Russ College of Engineering and Technology, graduates of the online Master of Science in Electrical Engineering program are equipped with the skills to research, design, develop, and test new technologies and industry applications — and to position themselves as leaders.
Pew Research Center, “Are you in the American middle class? Find out with our income calculator”
Computer World, “U.S. predicts zero job growth for electrical engineers”
Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Occupational Employment Statistics: Electrical Engineers”
Bureau of Labor Statistics, ” Occupational Outlook Handbook: Electrical and Electronics Engineers”