Electrical engineering is an engineering field focused on electricity and electronics, from microscopic computer components to large power networks. Students who graduate with an electrical engineering majors will have job opportunities in wide-ranging fields, from telecommunications to the computer industry to the automotive industry.
Key Takeaways: Electrical Engineering
- Electrical engineering is focused on electricity, from microscopic computer components to large power networks.
- In college, electrical engineering majors will take a range of classes in mathematics and physics.
- Electrical engineers work in fields including the computer industry, automotive industry, and telecommunications.
- Average salaries for electrical engineers are well above the nation's average income.
Specializations in Electrical Engineering
Any product that uses or produces electricity was most likely designed by an electrical engineer. From large-scale power grids to microscopic computer components, electrical engineers work on a wide range of projects. Below are some of the most popular areas of specialization for electrical engineers.
- Communication: If you've ever used a telephone, watched television, or Skyped a friend, you've used a product that was designed by a communication engineer. Any task that involves the electronic transfer of information from one place to another falls into this electrical engineering specialty.
- Computers: The hardware side of computing—the power supplies, electronic components, sensors, drives, and storage devices—is all within the purview of electrical engineering. Electrical engineers create the devices that are then programmed by computer scientists and software engineers.
- Control: From the cruise control on your car to the electronics that stabilize a spacecraft, control systems play an important role in the 21st century. Control engineers design systems that constantly monitor a product's performance and, through feedback systems, make necessary adjustments to ensure proper functioning.
- Electronics: An electronics engineer is an expert in all kinds of circuits, such as resistors, diodes, capacitors, and transistors. Electronics are central components in everything from wind turbines to vacuum cleaners. Home electronics such as televisions and audio systems are also a major part of this area of specialization.
- Instrumentation: From the fuel gauge on a car to sensors on a satellite, instrumentation is a central component of most electronic devices. Given the development drones and self-driving vehicles, the field of instrumentation has plenty of growth potential in the coming decades.
- Microelectronics: Technological progress depends upon developing ever-smaller devices with increased speed and functionality. Experts in microelectronics are at the forefront of this progress as they work to create electronic components at microscopic scales. Materials science and chemistry are important areas of expertise for this specialty.
- Power Systems: Power engineers work on the large systems for generating, storing, and transmitting the electricity that runs our world. From generators in a dam to fields of solar panels to the transmission lines that cross the country, experts in power tend to work on large-scale projects.
College Coursework for Electrical Engineers
As with most STEM fields, electrical engineers must take foundation courses in math and the natural sciences, especially physics classes such as mechanics and electromagnetism. Some specializations, such as microelectronics, will also require significant coursework in chemistry and materials, whereas a field such as bioelectronics would require a strong grounding in the biological sciences.
All electrical engineering majors, however, are likely to take the following courses:
- Calculus I, II, III and Differential Equations
- Digital Logic Design
- Electromagnetic Fields and Waves
- Signals and Systems
- Electric Circuits
- Embedded Systems
- Probabilistic Methods
- Communication Systems
- Computer Organization
Students who want to excel in an electrical engineering profession may choose to take additional courses related to communication and leadership skills. In addition, many electrical engineering programs have internship or co-op requirements, giving students hands-on experience solving real-world challenges. These research expectations are one reason why engineering fields often have a lower four-year graduation rate than many other majors. Five years is not an unusual time frame for earning a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering.
Realize that an "electrical engineering technology" major is not the same thing as electrical engineering. Electrical engineering technologists often play a support role to electrical engineers, and the coursework is typically less rigorous and theoretical.
Best Schools for Electrical Engineering Majors
Electrical engineering, like mechanical engineering, is an extremely popular branch of engineering, and most schools with engineering programs will offer an electrical engineering major. Many of the schools listed below are also considered some of the nation's best engineering schools in general.
- California Institute of Technology (Caltech): Located in Pasadena, California, Caltech typically vies with MIT for the title of #1 engineering school in the U.S. Caltech's electrical engineering program is popular at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, but it's not easy to get into: the overall undergraduate acceptance rate is 8%.
- Carnegie Mellon University: Electrical engineering is the most popular major at Carnegie Mellon, which is located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The university graduates over 150 electrical engineers a year. If you enjoy the arts as much as you enjoy STEM subjects, you might love CMU, as it's well-known for its strong arts programs.
- Cornell University: Located in Ithaca, New York, this member of the Ivy League has a highly-regarded school of engineering. Electrical engineering is one of the school's most popular graduate programs. At the undergraduate level, about 80 students graduate with electrical engineering degrees each year.
- Georgia Tech: This public university in Atlanta, Georgia, offers excellent value for in-state applicants. The robust electrical engineering program graduates about 250 students a year, and campus life is lively thanks to the school's urban location and Division I athletic programs.
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT): MIT often ranks #1 among all schools for electrical engineering, and the school's facilities and faculty are hard to beat. Like Caltech, however, getting that acceptance letter is a challenge. MIT has a 7% acceptance rate, and perfect scores on the math section of the SAT are common among admitted students.
- Stanford University: Located in California's Bay Area, Stanford's 5% acceptance rate vies with Harvard for the most selective in the country. The school's engineering programs are also some of the best in the nation, but the university also has strengths that span the arts, humanities, social sciences, and sciences.
- University of California at Berkeley: UC Berkeley graduates nearly 1,000 engineers each year, and electrical engineering accounts for over one third of those students. The UC system is more expensive than most public universities in the U.S., but Berkeley consistently ranks among the best engineering schools in the country.
- University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign: With over 48,000 students, UIUC is one of the largest schools on this list. Its engineering school is one of the best in the country. In-state tuition is a bargain, and students can also enjoy cheering on the school's NCAA Division I athletic teams.
- University of Michigan: Like UIUC, Michigan has a highly-regarded school of engineering housed within a large public university. It has the added advantage of being situated in one of the country's best college towns. The school graduates over 100 electrical engineers annually.
- University of Texas at Austin: Electrical and mechanical engineering are two of the most popular majors at this school of over 51,000 students. The university's Cockrell School of Engineering consistently receives high rankings.
Always keep in mind that "best" is a subjective term, and remember that the best school for your own personality, learning style, and professional goals may differ from the schools listed above.
Average Salaries for Electrical Engineers
Electrical engineering is one of the highest paying engineering fields. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the median pay for electrical engineers in 2020 was $103,390 per year. PayScale.com breaks down the numbers further to note that early career employees have a median salary of $71,800, while mid-career electrical engineers earn a median pay of $121,400. On average, these salaries are a bit higher than those earned by mechanical engineers and civil engineers.
What is electrical engineering in your own words? ›
Electrical engineers design, develop, test and manage the manufacturing of electrical equipment, from electric motors and navigation systems to power generation equipment and the electrical components of vehicles and personal devices.What is electrical engineering quizlet? ›
Electrical Engineering. The design and construction of electrical and electronic components and devices.What is electrical engineering summary? ›
Electrical engineers design, develop, test, and supervise the manufacture of electrical equipment, such as electric motors, radar and navigation systems, communications systems, or power generation equipment. Electrical engineers also design the electrical systems of automobiles and aircraft.What is an engineer short answer? ›
An engineer is a person who uses scientific knowledge to design, construct, and maintain engines and machines or structures such as roads, railways, and bridges.What is a fact about electrical engineering? ›
Electrical engineers work on many kinds of products. They might work on cars, robots, cell phone systems, the lighting and wiring in buildings, and radar and navigation systems, for example. Engineers work in offices, labs, or industrial plants. Many work a normal 40-hour week.What is the main subject of electrical engineering? ›
The Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering program concentrates on developing skills in electrical power generation, transmission and distribution, electrical wiring and equipment design, as well as lighting systems of residential, commercial and industrial establishments.Why Electrical Engineering is important? ›
Future technologies: electrical engineering is at the forefront of developing new technologies for a number of industries including those of transport, healthcare, construction and robotics.What is the true definition of engineering? ›
Engineering is the creative application of science, mathematical methods, and empirical evidence to the innovation, design, construction, and maintenance of structures, machines, materials, devices, systems, processes, and organizations.What are the 3 major fields of Electrical Engineering? ›
Electrical engineering is a professional engineering discipline that generally deals with the study and application of electricity, electronics, and electromagnetism.What is the main point of engineering? ›
Engineering is the application of science and mathematics to solve problems. Engineers figure out how things work and find practical uses for scientific discoveries.
What is taught in basic Electrical Engineering? ›
Basic Laws: Ohm's law, Kirchhoff's voltage and current laws, Nodes-Branches and loops, Series elements and Voltage Division, Parallel elements and Current Division, Star-Delta transformation, Independent sources and Dependent sources, source transformation.Why do you choose engineering best answer? ›
Intellectual Development. An engineering education will “exercise” your brain, developing your ability to think logically and solve problems. These skills will be valuable throughout your life – and not only when you are solving engineering problems.What is the most important thing in electrical engineering? ›
Circuits are one of the most important elements of an electrical system, so electrical engineers need to have a complete understanding of how circuits function, how to design a system that uses circuits effectively and how circuits operate in the real world within the types of equipment or systems they design.What are the basics of electrical? ›
The three primary forces in electricity are voltage, current flow and impedance (resistance). They are the fundamental forces that control every electrical circuit everywhere. Voltage is the force that pushes the current through electrical circuits.What is a fact about engineering? ›
Engineers are not just for building bridges. In fact, engineers build everything, from homes to hospitals to military vehicles to spacecraft, as well as such things as irrigation systems, traffic lights and food processing plants (i.e., chocolate factories).What is an interesting fact about engineering? ›
The founder of engineering dates back to ancient Egypt. The first civil engineer is Imhotep. He is believed to have planned and played a key role in the development of the Pyramid of Djoser (a Step Pyramid) at Saqqara in Egypt around 2630-2611 BC.How do you explain electrical engineering to a child? ›
Electrical engineering is the specific name for the job where people make things with electricity. These engineers create, fix, invent, and work with all things electric. They spend years learning the science and math that make sense of electric power so that they can continue to create and improve things.What is electrical energy simple words? ›
We can define electrical energy as the energy generated by the movement of electrons from one point to another. The movement of charged particles along/through a medium (say wire) constitute current or electricity.How do you write a personal statement for electrical engineering? ›
I will be a hard-working, determined student, with a strong will to succeed in obtaining a prestigious degree which will be a great foundation to start a career in industry as an engineer. I very much look forward to the challenge of university and to a future varied and exciting career in engineering.Why electrical engineering is important? ›
Future technologies: electrical engineering is at the forefront of developing new technologies for a number of industries including those of transport, healthcare, construction and robotics.
What is the best definition of electrical? ›
connected with the science or use of electricity.How does electrical work? ›
Electricity is made of electrons.
This helps conduct electricity by giving the flow of electrons a targeted direction, allowing them to move uniformly while simultaneously creating a positive charge known as an electrical current.
An ability to design and conduct experiments, as well as to analyze and interpret data. An ability to design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs within realistic constraints such as economic, environmental, social, political, ethical, health and safety, manufacturability, and sustainability.What is the passion of an electrical engineer? ›
Working as an electrical engineer is a rewarding choice for people passionate about technology, mathematics, and science, as it lets them use these disciplines in innovative ways. They will find competitive salaries and work in a variety of industries also make electrical engineering work appealing.What is a good opening sentence for a personal statement? ›
For as long as I can remember… I am applying for this course because… I have always been interested in… Throughout my life I have always enjoyed…