Occupational Outlook for Electrical Engineers

electrical-engineering-circuit-board-earth

Students in an electrical engineering (EE) degree program have several career options to look forward to. By choosing to pursue higher levels of education in a traditional or online setting, you are improving your chances of being able to advance your career and your overall salary.

You can use the links below to navigate through this guide, and learn more about any of the top career paths in the EE field.

The career and salary information presented throughout this guide was collected from each occupation’s respective page on The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) website.

Differences Between an Electrical Engineer and an Electronics Engineer

The fundamental education that electrical and electronics engineering students receive is the same up until the graduate level, or even as early as the last year of your bachelor’s degree. Both of these occupations require the same amount of education and have similar career and salary growth potential, which is why we and the BLS list the two occupations together.

While your salary will not be greatly affected by choosing between the two, the tasks that you will be responsible for completing do vary as outlined in the chart below.

Electrical Engineer Electronics Engineer
  • Designs new ways to use electrical power for new and existing projects and products.
  • Calculates and develops manufacturing, construction, and installation standards and specifications.
  • Ensures that products meet required specifications by directing the testing, manufacturing, and/or installation process of electrical equipment.
  • Evaluates and solves problems reported by clients or the public.
  • Successfully completes projects within the time and budget restraints given by working with project managers.
  • Designs, evaluates, modifies, and repairs electronic components, software, products, or systems for various industries and applications.
  • Determines requirements and costs for developing an electrical system plan by analyzing customer needs.
  • Develops maintenance and testing procedures for electronic components and equipment.
  • Makes sure that electronic equipment, instruments, and systems meet safety standards and regulations during inspections.
  • Improves technical performance by modifying electronic properties used in parts and systems.

Even though the BLS combines the career and salary data for electrical and electronics engineers, it is still important for you to know the difference so that you can accurately plan the educational and career path that is right for you.

How Do I Become an Electrical Engineer?

Electrical engineering is a broad field that offers career opportunities as diverse as consumer electronics, robotics, and automotive mechanics. To work in this field, you’ll need, at least, a associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree for some positions. The following schools offer accredited degrees in electrical engineering and related specialties.

SchoolPrograms
DeVry University
DeVry University

Accreditation
  • HLC
  • NCA
Grantham University
Grantham University

Accreditation
  • DEAC
ECPI University
ECPI University

Accreditation
  • SACS
Syracuse University
Syracuse University

Accreditation
  • MSA

Click here to see more online Engineering degrees

Electrical and Electronics Engineering Technician

To become a technician, you will need either an associate of science (AS) in electrical engineering, or an applied associate of science (AAS) in electrical engineering. Technicians assist electrical and electronics engineers in designing, developing, evaluating, testing, repairing, and manufacturing the proceeding and other electrical and electronic equipment and systems:

  • Computers
  • Navigational Equipment
  • Medical Monitoring Devices
  • Communications Equipment

Most EE technicians work in industries like computer and electronic product manufacturing, engineering services, federal government, utilities, or scientific research and development services.

Salary

As with most occupations, education, industry, and location are the most prominent factors that can contribute to your income potential. While an EE technician is only required to have an associate’s degree, many employers prefer to hire those who have also completed additional certification courses. With the proper certification in addition to your degree, your earnings could grow beyond what the BLS reports for the median and average wages of an EE technician.

The median annual wages for electrical and electronics engineering technicians is $61,130, and the chart below provides the median annual salaries earned from the top EE technician industries.

ee-technician-2015-top-industry-wages

If you would like to increase your salary potential even further, you may want to be open to the idea of moving to another state. This is a list from the BLS of the average annual salaries from the top five highest paying states:

  • Alaska – $84,450
  • District of Columbia – $78,910
  • Nevada – $71,260
  • Maryland – $69,440
  • Hawaii – $68,720

EE technician can contribute to the electrical engineering field while continuing to pursue their studies for even greater salary potential.

Electrical and Electronics Engineer

Once you have earned a bachelor’s degree and passed your FE exam, you can begin your career as an electrical engineer. As we mentioned earlier, electrical and electronics engineers have different sets of tasks they are responsible for, and both occupations can make great contributions to a wide array of industries.

While much of the information that the BLS reports is the same for both careers, they do present some data specific to electrical engineers as well as electronics engineers. The following chart illustrates the various median annual wages for electrical and electronics engineers listed both separately and together.

electrical-and-electronics-engineer-2015-median-salaries

The industry you work for as an electrical or electronics engineer can impact your salary potential. Here you’ll see the top five highest paying industries along with their median annual salaries for electrical engineers as reported by the BLS.

  • Research and Development in the Physical, Engineering, and Life Sciences – $112,970
  • Semiconductor and Other Electronic Component Manufacturing – $105,870
  • Navigational, Measuring, Electromedical, and Control Instruments Manufacturing – $92,900
  • Electric Power Generation, Transmission and Distribution – $91,650
  • Engineering Services – $90,710

These are the top five highest paying industries along with their median annual salaries for electronics engineers.

  • Navigational, Measuring, Electromedical, and Control Instruments Manufacturing – $107,940
  • Federal Government (excluding postal service) – $105,960
  • Semiconductor and Other Electronic Component Manufacturing – $101,940
  • Engineering Services – $98,250
  • Telecommunications – $90,520

Take a look at the BLS map below to see if you live in one of the higher paying, dark blue states.

electrical-engineer-2105-top-paying-states-map

Here are the top five highest paying states for EE:

  • California – $115,960
  • Alaska – $115,810
  • District of Columbia – $109,830
  • Massachusetts – $107,820
  • Washington – $104,690

If you want to maximize your possible earnings, try to work in the metropolitan areas of any of those higher-paying states. Keep in mind that even though some cities may pay (on average) more than others, that doesn’t mean that they are hiring as many electrical engineers. Our guide, Great Cities for Recent Electrical Engineering Graduates, lists and explains why certain cities can help you start your career in EE.

Engineering Manager

To become an electrical engineering manager, you will need at least a bachelor’s degree and several years of EE experience. EE managers create detailed plans for new projects and must determine and propose each project’s budget, materials required, staff and training. They must also supervise and assist their staff when needed to ensure that every project stays within the expected budget and time frame without sacrificing the quality of their work. It is important for EE managers to coordinate with other managers or departments to ensure that each aspect of a project is progressing as planned.

All of the salary information for engineering managers is listed on the same pages as architectural managers in the BLS, and their reports show that the median annual wages for architectural and engineering managers is $132,800. The chart below lists the top industries and their median annual earnings for architectural and engineering managers:

architectural-and-engineering-managers-2015-industries-median-salaries

On average, architectural and engineering managers can receive a higher annual salary in these top-paying states:

  • Texas – $166,750
  • California – $165,800
  • Alaska – $160,850
  • Colorado – $160,570
  • Oregon – $157,330

As with many professions, working in a metropolitan area can lead to a greater increase in salary than non-metropolitan areas. The average annual salaries for the top five highest-paying metropolitan areas ranges from $188,160 – $171,360, whereas the average salaries of the top five highest-paying non-metropolitan areas ranges from $174,740 – $174,740.

Engineering Professor

While teaching may not be the first career that comes to your mind, it is absolutely a viable career option for electrical and electronics engineers with enough field experience and the proper education. Engineering professors work at technical and trade schools, junior colleges, business, computer, and management training schools, and colleges, universities, and professional schools.

You typically only need a master’s degree to become a professor at a junior college, technical or trade school, and some only require a bachelor’s degree as long as you have ample experience working as an electrical engineer. Colleges, universities, and professional schools, as well as business, computer, and management training schools, usually require professors to have at least a master’s degree plus professional experience.

According to the BLS these are the average annual salaries for the most popular and highest paying industries for engineering professors:

  • Business Schools and Computer and Management Training – $145,120
  • Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools – $107,110
  • Junior Colleges – $84,540
  • Technical and Trade Schools – $54,430

Engineer professors instruct students in the principles and practical applications of physics, mathematics, drafting, and engineering as it pertains to a career in electrical and/or electronics engineering.

Electrical engineering has a plethora of career possibilities, and there are opportunities for growth with each of them. By investing in your EE education, you are giving yourself more chances to earn a higher salary and contribute to society’s technological advancements. Be sure to explore the rest of our website to find out more information and tips on becoming an electrical engineer.

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