Electrical engineers can find work in a wide array of fields. They may design elements of the power grid or the printed circuit boards that power our electronics. They design and install telecommunications systems, and they’re designing the computer hardware that artificial intelligence and robots rely on. The profession involves the design, construction, test and monitoring of diverse systems. It pays well, but it is challenging. But before you make the move, do you have what it takes to actually make it as an electrical engineer?
Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
You can’t rely on gut instinct to layout a circuit board or power grid. You must approach system designs with an analytical approach. This is an area where you have to analyse every aspect from the temperature profile of the electronics to the power flow. You’re also challenged to find solutions to various problems.
Mere creativity doesn’t cut it because failures take the form of equipment that literally burns up, not an artwork people didn’t buy. Conversely, if you can solve problems in the standard design or manufacturing process, companies pay you proportionally for the value of your solutions. Expect to be challenged on your assumptions and required to back up any claims you make with hard data.
Basic Circuit Knowledge
It doesn’t matter if you want to build advanced robots or smartwatches. You’re going to be required to have a basic knowledge of circuits. This is essential to being able to read schematics and build accurate models.
The next step is learning how to use the software used to design circuits and electrical systems. If you want to get serious, consider an upgrade from Eagle software to Altium, one of the premium printed circuit board design tools available. This gets you well on the way to the computer literacy most employers expect of electrical engineers.
The Right Education
Knowing the difference between direct current and alternating current and what the various symbols on circuit drawings mean is only the start. Electrical engineering is a discipline where you’ll use physics and calculus on a regular basis. You may be able to work as an electronics technician or electrical engineering tech with an associate’s degree augmented with supervised training, whereas an electrician would undergo an apprenticeship after a short time in the classroom.
Electrical engineers need at least a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. Practical experience is a plus with employers, whether you worked on the robotics team in college or spent a summer interning for a consumer electronics manufacturer. However, you should expect to be constantly learning in this field because the technology and the process for developing it are always changing. For example, programming skills are now useful for electrical engineers, especially if you work with robotics or automated systems.
Good communication skills are essential to this profession. You have to communicate in person and via technology with team members who may be located in facilities around the world. You have to be able to explain issues with stakeholders and get useful feedback from customers. The ability to create user documentation is invaluable. You get points for being able to advocate desired design changes or solutions to technical problems. In other cases, it is seeing past the obvious problem that someone is complaining about, getting to the root cause of the matter, and then presenting a solution that they can understand.
Electrical engineering is one of the highest-paying professions, and it allows you to work in a variety of fields. However, you must have the right mindset and skills to join it.