Electrical engineering, which is often referred to as electrical and electronics engineering, is a field that typically requires completing at least a bachelor’s degree, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Although bachelor degree programs usually take four years to complete, some colleges offer a five-year program that allows the student to earn both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree.
Generally speaking, to become an electrical engineer, you will need an electrical engineering degree. Below are a few featured engineering degrees that you might be interested in. They are currently accepting applications from students in the United States.
Electrical Engineering Degree Curriculum & Courses
Students in electrical engineering programs should have a strong background in mathematics and physics. If high school students know this is their preferred field, it’s beneficial that they take as many of these courses as possible while still in high school.
Electrical engineering programs include a blended curriculum of classroom courses, lab studies and field work. Some engineering schools offer cooperative education, which allows students to gain practical experience while completing the classroom portion of the program. This hands-on training can be invaluable when it’s time to seek employment as an electrical engineer. Some of the courses electrical engineering students can expect are circuits and electronics, electromagnetics, artificial intelligence, control and signal processing, computer systems engineering, analysis of algorithms, and principles of software development.
Electrical engineering students learn how to design, troubleshoot and install electrical and electronic systems; evaluate and correct electrical problems; develop methods to use power efficiently; and develop applications for electronic systems to improve performance.
Electrical engineering programs offer various concentrations or tracks, or electrical engineering can be chosen as a concentration. For instance, a student can earn a degree in engineering with a concentration in electrical engineering. Most students who have an interest in electrical engineering choose electrical engineering with a concentration in their areas of interest. In addition to a generic electrical engineering track, students may choose from the following tracks:
- Energy Systems/Power
- Signal Processing
Although all the concentrations revolve around electrical engineering principles, they are slightly different. The microelectronics track teaches students who to work with small circuits, optical devices and micro systems. The energy systems or power track teaches students about control systems, energy conversion and engineering thermodynamics. Signal processing tracks focus on how to convert signals into information.
Some electrical engineering programs even offer concentrations within the concentrations. The Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of Texas-Dallas, for instance, offers a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering with a major in microelectronics and five different concentrations within the microelectronics major.
Students are often required to complete a capstone project to demonstrate their ability to actually design an electrical project. The University of California in Los Angeles offers several electrical engineering bachelor and master degree programs through its Henry Samueli School of Engineering. It can be noted that UCLA-Samueli was ranked #1 among the top online graduate engineering programs by U.S. News & World Report.
The University of Massachusetts in Amherst offers a five-year B.S/M.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering program through its College of Engineering. With this program, the student can earn both a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering (or a B.S. in Computer Engineering) and a Master of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering.
Steps to Become an Electrical Engineer
Most engineering occupations require licensure of some type, although electrical engineering may have different requirements depending on the state. Licensure is usually required for employment with the local state or federal government agencies. To obtain licensure, the electrical engineer must, according to the BLS, meet the following requirements.
- Complete an ABET-accredited electrical engineering program (view online engineering degree programs here)
- Pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) test
- Have sufficient work experience in this field
- Pass the Professional Engineering (PE) test.
- Read more about becoming an engineer here
The FE exam can be taken as soon as the student graduates from the program. However, the PE exam can only be taken after obtaining at least four years of work in electrical engineering or completion of an equivalent internship. Both exams are computer-based tests; however, the FE exam is a closed-book exam while the PE is open-book. The exams cover areas such as mathematics, probability and statistics, properties of electrical materials, engineering economics, electronics, power, circuit analysis, safety and design limits, digital logic and components, modulation and telecommunications, among others.
Online Electrical Engineering Degree Programs
Many colleges today offer electrical engineering programs through distance learning. These online programs are ideal for the student who either can’t afford to attend college full-time or just wish to continue working while earning a degree. Many of the courses can be taken online. At the end of the program, the student is required to complete some sort of internship to get practical experience. Auburn University’s online engineering graduate program ranked 17th among the country’s top online engineering graduate programs by U.S. News & World Report in 2015.
ABET Accredited Electrical Engineering Programs
Depending on their career goals, students may choose programs that are accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). ABET-accredited programs ensure the student receives an education that meets the requirements set by the engineering industry. Currently, there are more than 300 ABET-accredited electrical engineering programs in the United States.
Electrical Engineering Schools to Consider
Listed below are several top colleges or universities that offer electrical engineering programs. These schools may offer baccalaureate or graduate programs or both.
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, MA
- Stanford University in Stanford, CA
- University of California in Berkeley, CA
- California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, CA
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, IL
- Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, GA
- University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI
- Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA
- Princeton University in Princeton, NJ
- Cornell University in Ithaca, NY
Electrical Engineer Careers
Graduates of electrical engineering programs can have many career options from which to choose, including working as electrical engineers, electronics engineers, computer engineers, program or engineering managers, electricians, aviation engineers or project engineers. Electrical engineers who complete graduate programs may work in research and development or as teachers.
According to Princeton Review, most individuals who become electrical engineers stay with this career for most of their life. Although electrical engineers usually work in engineering service firms, they can also find opportunities in machine manufacturing, electric power generation and transmission, electronic component manufacturing, telecommunications and navigational manufacturing. Based on a May 2013 BLS report, electrical engineers earned an average annual wage of $89,180. Forbes ranked electrical engineering as the 3rd-best master degree for jobs in 2015.