Electrical engineers research, design, develop, and improve electrical systems. These electrical systems affect our daily lives and can be on a large scale, like electrical generators in a city power plan, or as small as the microchips used in a health and fitness tracker. Having a successful career as an electrical engineer requires you to have at least bachelor’s degree that you can obtain by completing a traditional or online accredited degree program. Many employers prefer to hire those who have also received additional certification.
You can use the links below to learn more about what it takes to become an electrical engineer.
- Electrical Engineering vs Electronics Engineering
- Important Qualities of an Electrical Engineering Student
- How Do I Become an Electrical Engineer?
- What to Expect in an Electrical Engineering Program
- License Exams and Certifications
- Engineering Associations
Electrical Engineering vs Electronics Engineering
Electrical engineering (EE) and electronics engineering are similar in both name and basic required education, but there is some differentiation in terms of career focus. While they may have similar basic educational backgrounds, the degree programs will vary once you reach graduate-level courses. Picking the right degree program from the start will save you money, and the hassle of having to transfer to another degree program.
Some organizations do use the two titles interchangeably. Generally speaking, an electrical engineer focuses more on creating new ways to use electrical power, whereas an electronics engineer will be primarily responsible for designing the electronic components that are used in everyday products. Both careers can be applied to a wide array of industries, and can have plenty of room for personal career growth.
Important Qualities of an Electrical Engineering Student
It’s always wise to make sure that the degree you’re interested will compliment your interests and strengths. Since you’re reading this, chances are that you are fairly certain that you want to become an electrical engineer. To erase any remaining doubts you may have, go ahead and ask yourself these questions:
- Do I want to learn how to apply various mathematics and sciences, like algebra, trigonometry, calculus, and physics, to everyday life?
- Do I like discovering how things work?
- Am I detail-oriented?
- Do I prefer logical and analytical thinking?
- Do I enjoy fixing and solving problems?
If you answered “yes” to these questions, then electrical engineering is probably right for you. Earning a degree can allow you to improve your analytical and problem solving skills, teach you how to apply your favorite academic subjects to your future career, and help you learn how to communicate with others so that your ideas and projects are carried out successfully and efficiently.
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.
What to Expect in an Electrical Engineering Program
There are several degree options that you can pursue, and the right one depends on the time and resources that you have available to commit to your studies, as well as your career goals. As an aspiring electrical engineer, you can choose to earn your degree in a traditional or online setting.
Whether you are ready to enroll in an associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate degree program, you should always make sure that the electrical engineering (EE) program is accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). This ensures that you will receive quality education, and your degree will be valid to future employers and other educational institutions.
Associate Degree Program
While you will need at least a bachelor’s degree to become an electrical engineer, an associate’s degree can allow you to work in the field as a technician while you continue your education. An associates of science (AS) degree program usually takes about two years to complete, and can be applied to a bachelor’s degree program. In addition to obtaining your core credits in mathematics, science, English, and humanities, an AS in EE may also offer these courses:
- Electricity Fundamentals
- Introduction to Engineering
- Circuitry 101
- Digital Electronics
- Analog Electronics
Keep in mind that the names of these courses will not be the same at every college, but they will still cover similar subject matter. An AS degree is designed to teach you the basics of what you will need to know so that you can either work as an electrical technician, continue your education, or both.
You may see that some colleges offer an associate in applied sciences (AAS) in an electrical engineering field. An AAS is a vocational degree and the curriculum will focus less on core classes, and more on the skills you will need to work as a technician. Many AAS programs do not transfer to a four-year institution the same way an AS does.
Most AS degrees will transfer to a bachelor’s degree, and can count as up to two years of your undergraduate studies. On the other hand, only a few courses may be able to be transferred from an AAS vocational degree to a bachelor’s due to the lack of core classes. In essence, an AAS can allow you to start working as an electrical technician sooner, whereas an AS will help you complete your bachelor’s degree and become an electrical engineer quicker.
Bachelor Degree Program
Having a bachelor’s degree is the first step toward becoming an electrical engineer. A typical bachelor’s in EE is designed to take four years to complete, or two years if you have already received an AS in EE. This is because the first two years of a bachelor degree program are structured similarly to that of an AS program. The third and fourth years of your bachelors is generally the time when you learn about more complex principles of electrical engineering.
EE bachelor degree programs will focus heavily on physics, mathematics, drafting, and computer programming, and these 20 tips for engineering students can help you with your studies. You can also expect to come across the following courses in an EE bachelor’s program:
- Engineering Design and Quality Control
- Electricity and Magnetism Physics
- Signals and Systems
- Advanced Circuit Analysis
Most colleges and universities will offer a bachelors of science (BS) in EE, while others will have a bachelors of science in engineering (BSE) program that may allow you to choose a concentration in EE. As long as the BSE degree program will allow you to focus on EE, there is virtually no difference between the two types of degrees. What matters most is that the degree program you choose is ABET accredited, and that it prepares you for the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam that you will take once you have completed your undergraduate studies.
Master and Doctorate Degree Programs
In addition to working in any of these great cities for electrical engineering, obtaining a master’s and/or doctorate degree can help you advance your career. A graduate degree can give you the opportunity to pursue leadership roles or be at the forefront of the academic world. There are several options that you have to choose from in regards to electrical engineering master’s and doctorate degrees. Like the choice between a BS and a BSE for a bachelor’s degree, the master’s of science (MS) and master’s of science in engineering (MSE) degree programs are similar as long as they focus on electrical engineering and are ABET accredited.
Some colleges and universities that offer a MS or MSE degree program will also give students the option to complete the program with or without a thesis. There is no right or wrong choice between a master’s with or without a required thesis, it all depends on your career goals. To help you decide, here are the pros and cons of enrolling in each type of program:
|Master’s Degree Program Without Required Thesis||Master’s Degree Program With Required Thesis|
Master’s and PhD programs give you the opportunity to narrow your focus within EE. Advanced knowledge of a specific element of electrical engineering can further your career. With years of practical experience and a master’s or PhD, you will be qualified for high-end leadership roles and you may also be able to teach at a collegiate level. The following list is a sample of the multitude of courses and concentrations available at this level of study:
- Nanotechnology and Microelectronics
- Quantum Information Processing
- Communication Systems
While you can become an electrical engineer with a bachelor’s degree, it’s never too early to start thinking about a doctorate degree. Many colleges and universities have programs that allow you to go into a doctorate program with and without a master’s degree. If you have a master’s degree, the PhD program can take between three and five years to complete. Without a master’s degree, doctorate programs can take between five and seven years to complete. The length of time it takes to earn a PhD depends on both you and the educational institution.
License Exams and Certifications
Once you have obtained a bachelor’s degree, you must begin the process of becoming a licensed electrical engineer. Obtaining a valid license allows your clients and employers to know that you are well-versed in EE and are able to accurately apply what you have learned. After you have received your engineering licenses, you may be expected to take continuing education courses after several years in the field in order to keep your license.
You will need to take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, which is designed for those who have recently graduated. Passing the FE exam will allow you to work in entry-level electrical engineer positions, or as an electrical engineer in training (EEIT) or an engineer intern (EI).
After you have gained a minimum of four years of post-college experience in the field as an EI, you can take the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam. Once you have passed this exam, you will be fully licensed and qualified to work in managerial, leadership, and teaching positions. It is important that you check for any additional steps that your state may have for obtaining licensure at both the FE and PE exam levels.
There are a couple of reasons why you may want enroll in an ABET accredited certification or continuing education program. First, certification programs are great options for those who want to learn more about a specific sub-field of electrical engineering without pursuing a master’s or doctorate degree. Even if you already have a graduate degree, these programs allow you to learn even more about another EE subject. Second, many states require that you continue your education and obtain various certifications in order to maintain your licensure.
You can continue your education and be certified in any of the following EE subjects:
- Power Systems Engineering
- Nano Technology Systems
- Energy Efficiency
That list is a sample of the EE subjects that you can learn more about through certification programs. Research colleges and universities with EE graduate programs, since they will also likely have certification programs.
It is never too early to start networking with professional electrical engineers, or to take advantage of electrical engineering resources that can help you with your education and career. These engineering associations can help you learn more about what it takes to become an engineer, whether you are a high school student or a working engineer looking to advance your career.
- Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology
- American Society for Engineering Education
- National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying
- National Society of Professional Engineers
- Technology Student Association
As an electrical engineering student, you can have the opportunity to learn about a wide variety of subjects and can contribute to society’s technological advancements throughout your career in unimaginable ways. Explore the rest of our website to discover more about electrical engineering.