How to Become an Electrical Engineer


Career Path Guide

Those who become electrical engineers are individuals that have a keen academic interest in electrical systems and components. They tend to enjoy the idea of specifying, designing, implementing and testing products and systems for a living.


To get into this field, you'll have to be able to explain design ideas clearly to non-experts. You will also need a high level of stress tolerance, as this is required to cope with new demands and solve new problems. You also have to be able to visualize complex processes, and you must be very precise in your work, particularly when performing calculations.


Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as an electrical engineer. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Education Needed to Become an Electrical Engineer

The minimum educational requirement for working in this field is a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering.


Jobs with more advanced levels of responsibility typically require further education. For example, most specialized electrical engineers have at least a master's degree. Also, most electrical engineers that work in research have doctoral (Ph.D.) degrees.


Those that wish to pursue a career as an electrical engineer and are enrolled in a bachelor of science program can choose to specialize in electrical engineering at the post-graduate level. 


If you're in high school and are considering in becoming an electrical engineer, it's advised that you take courses in physics and mathematics, including algebra, trigonometry, and calculus. Courses in drafting are also helpful for this profession, as they'd help you get used to preparing and working with technical drawings.





General Job Description

Electrical engineers are engineering professionals that are responsible for designing, developing, testing, evaluating and overseeing the safe operation of electrical components and systems.



Fields of Work for an Electrical Engineer

Electrical engineers work in a variety of areas, including:


• Transport networks, including rail electrification and signaling

• Power generation, transmission and distribution

• Renewable energy sources, such as solar paneling, hydroelectric, and wind turbines

• Commercial Manufacturing

• Residential, commercial or industrial construction

• Building services, such as lighting, heating, ventilation and lift systems

• Nanotechnology, such as nanoscale sensor development

• Communications, including the compression, transmission, routing and reception of numerical, audio, video or digital data information



Areas of Specialization

Within each field of work, there exists an opportunity to specialize in a certain set of functions, including:


• Maintaining and trouble shooting existing systems

• Conducting electrical engineering research

• Specifying, designing, implementing and testing products and systems

• Designing and simulating electronic product prototypes

• Designing manufacturing processes

• Developing test and quality control procedures

• Ensuring that products meet quality specifications and safety standards



Typical Job Duties

Although electrical engineers work in a variety of different industries, and they may specialize in a certain set of functions, they are generally responsible for performing the following duties:


• Review design proposals

• Make recommendations regarding the specification, design, development, testing or application of products and systems

• Prepare drawings and specifications for project construction

• Design electronic product prototypes

• Implement, develop and test products and systems

• Design manufacturing processes relating to products

• Develop testing and quality control procedures in order to satisfy safety standards and quality specifications





Licensing Requirements

Canada: Most Canadian provinces require you to be a registered member of their engineering association if you want to practice as a Professional Engineer (PE). However, if working under the direct supervision of a Professional Engineer you do not have to be registered, although in that case you are not able to call yourself a Professional Engineer or use the work “Engineer” in your job title.


United States: In the United States electrical engineers are not typically required by law to be registered as Professional Engineers, however it is recommended for those working in companies that have contracts with the government at all levels.


Please contact your provincial or state engineering association for more details on how to become a Professional Engineer.



Who Employs Electrical Engineers?

Electrical engineers are hired on a part-time, full-time or contractual basis by organizations involved in designing, developing, testing, evaluating and overseeing the safe operation of electrical components and systems. Such organizations include:


• Engineering consulting firms

• Electrical utility companies

• Construction companies

• Government agencies

• Manufacturers of electrical equipment

• Resource extraction and processing companies

• Transportation companies

• Communication companies

• Health authorities

• Universities and colleges

• Public and private research institutions



Average Salary Level

The salary level of electrical engineers varies based on the requirements of the job, the qualifications of the individual, and other factors.


Salary - Canada: According to the 2018 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working in the Electrical and Electronics Engineers occupational group earn an average of $98,528 per year. The mean wage for this group is $48.35 per hour. Unfortunately, no similar statistics were available from reliable sources for other Canadian provinces or territories at the time of writing (June 28, 2019).


Salary - United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage of Electrical Engineers is $84,540. The lowest 10% of salaries in this group are below $54,030, and the top 10% are above $128,610 per year.



Current Job Postings

Our job board below has electrical engineer postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.




Work Environment

Hours of Work: Electrical engineers typically work a conventional weekday schedule, although like other professions they may work extended hours, including evenings and weekends, in order to meet deadlines.


Work Setting: Electrical engineers may work in a variety of settings, depending on the requirements of their job. For example, they may be based in an office, factory, production plant, workshop, power station or research facility.


Work Environment: From time to time electrical engineers may experience a great deal of stress, particularly when trying to meet a fast-approaching deadline or a difficult design requirement. In rare circumstances, they may be exposed to various hazards, including chemical gasses or work in severe weather conditions. 



Similar Occupational Profiles in Our Database

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to 'electrical engineer', as they involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


Circuit Designer


Electronics Engineer

Hydro Engineer

Nuclear Engineer




Please consult the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career in this field.


Occupations in Alberta:Electrical Engineer.” (March 31, 2018). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved November 12, 2019.

Architecture & Engineering: “Electrical and Electronics Engineers.” (September 4, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved November 12, 2019.

Explore Careers:Electrical Engineer.” (n.d.). National Careers Service website. Retrieved November 12, 2019.



Scholarships for Becoming an Electrical Engineer

The 'Relevant Fields of Study' section below shows fields of study relevant to becoming an electrical engineer. You can search for scholarships matched to those fields of study on our All Scholarships by Major page.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Relevant Fields of Study

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point for working in this profession. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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