What does an electrical engineer do? Electrical engineers, also known as EEs, don't just understand and work with electricity; they also know about electro-magnetism, electronics, telecommunications and signal processing. Motor control, power and energy transmission, signal processing and microelectronics are all possible career paths for electrical engineers, in industries as varied as computers, robotics, mobile devices, transportation, construction, and more.
Regardless of his or her career path or industry, the EE is generally tasked with solving an electrical or electronic problem. The first step entails identifying the challenge: the electrical engineer must identify what problem the new electrical device is attempting to solve. Once the solution is identified, the circuitry and other parts can be designed. Finally, a prototype can be created. The prototype identifies open issues, flaws and areas for improvement. The prototype serves as a validation of the original idea. It can also function as a test to determine whether the initial idea will result in a product that can be designed for manufacturability.
Electrical engineers are responsible for working on products and systems from inception to ultimate manufacture and maintenance. They focus on safety, sustainability and budgetary value. These engineers usually have a four-year college degree in electrical (or electronics) engineering, or in physics, mathematics or computing. However, those working as an EE know that in addition to having stellar technical knowledge from a college or university, they must also be up-to-date with their practical industry skills. Lastly, EEs should have excellent communication skills. They often work and communicate with specialists from widely varied areas, including architects and customer support.
Electrical engineers can apply their talents in a variety of areas:
- Communications systems: Engineers hone in on basic television, radio and telephone technology, as well as the more complicated wireless and laser transmission technologies.
- Computers: Digital systems, microprocessors and computer hardware design and manufacturing are highlighted.
- Integrated circuits and solid-state devices: Focus here is on new products for the gaming industry, home appliances and navigation systems.
- Robotics: Concentration is on artificial intelligence, designing robotic arms and other ways to handle dangerous substances.
- Power systems: Attention is on designing power grids and maintaining generators, as well as how to make energy more efficient.
This career can also involve travel and site visits for meetings and to perform inspections. An EE might play a role in inspections to ensure that electrical systems are in compliance with standards, or they may direct ongoing maintenance.
Those who enjoy disassembling and reassembling devices to see how they work — and even improve them — are drawn to this field. While many "techies" are in electrical engineering, it is important to be able to effectively communicate with others. Teams of engineers often work together to design products; therefore, engaging team members and thoroughly explaining concepts, as well as having a thorough knowledge of the relevant technology is critical to success.