How to Become a Distribution Planning Engineer


Career Path Guide

Although there are other paths to take, the most common way to become a distribution planning engineer is to follow these essential steps:


1. Make sure you have the right personal traits for this work

2. Pursue a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering

3. Get work experience as a student via internship and co-op opportunities

4. Get an entry-level job in distribution planning after graduation

5. Earn the Professional Engineer designation

6. Advance into senior-level roles, management roles, or consultancy as you gain experience


Below we've expanded on these points, to give you a complete idea of what you'll need to begin a career as a distribution planning engineer in the United States or Canada. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as what you’ll be doing, what you could earn, and job postings in your area!



What Education Will I Need?

To work as a distribution and planning engineer, you typically need a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering or a related field. Some employers might require a master’s or doctoral degree, particularly for research or teaching positions. 


A degree program in electrical engineering will help prepare you for both the technical and the theoretical aspects of work in this field. Such a program will also have internship or co-op work placements built into its curriculum, so you will graduate with practical experience under your belt.





What Courses Should I Take in High School?

Excelling at math (calculus, algebra, geometry), physics, environmental studies and electronics/electrical studies will serve as excellent preparation for this career while you’re a high school student. Be sure to do well in these areas if you have the opportunity to take any of these courses. 


Excelling at coursework and gaining experience in these areas will help prepare you for the work involved in this career at an early age, and will help you qualify for electrical engineering degree programs.



What Licensure/Certification Will I Need?

You will need to be licensed as a Professional Engineer (“PE” - United States; “P.Eng.” - Canada) in order to exercise direct control of a public project and to supervise other engineers and engineering technicians. 


You will also need to have the PE/P.Eng. designation in order to sell your own engineering services publicly.


Most entry-level distribution planning engineer jobs won’t require you to have the Professional Engineer designation. In such cases, you would work under the supervision of a licensed engineer.



How to Become Licensed

Licensing requirements typically involve completion of an engineering degree, completion of a set number of supervised working hours, and passing an exam. However, these requirements can vary, so please contact your provincial/territorial/state engineering association for full details on becoming licensed.



More on the Career Itself: What is a Distribution Planning Engineer? 

A distribution planning engineer is responsible for planning and designing an electrical distribution system, to ensure system reliability and acceptable service standards within a defined service territory.


Basically, they’re responsible for designing complex electrical systems that can safely transport electrical currents over long distances from power plants to customers.



What Do They Do?

When figuring out the most effective, efficient, and safest way to distribute energy, these engineers must perform complex calculations in order to determine, within a given distribution area, the type and arrangement of circuits needed, as well as the size, type, and quantity of equipment such as transformers, circuit breakers, switches, and lightning arresters. 


It’s also their responsibility to decide in both rural and urban locations where underground cable and aboveground electrical poles go, including their spacing and depth or height.



What Are Their Tasks?

Although their tasks and duties can vary, distribution planning engineers are typically responsible for the following:


• Identify the most appropriate sequence of events for a specific job

• Develop and present work schedules to department managers and other relevant personnel

• Ensure work is being completed according to scheduling and budgetary restrictions

• Use specialized planning software

• Liaise with the client and other team members throughout a project, and make adjustments to tasks as necessary

• Provide support regarding the development of specific procedures and systems

• Monitoring and reviewing the loading and capacity requirements of the distribution system

• Developing and issuing capacity ratings for transmission and distribution circuits and transformers

• Developing long range plans for distribution capacity expansion and reliability projects

• Conducting electrical system analysis studies as required to improve system efficiency, system reliability and quality of service to customers

• Supporting power quality investigations as needed

• Providing technical support during emergency response situations





Should I Become a Distribution Planning Engineer? 

If you have the following personal traits you'll not only be well suited for the work invovled in this profession, you’ll be a standout:


• You have a natural aptitude in science and mathematics

• You have a keen interest in electrical systems

• You’re interested in seeing a project through from conception to completion and troubleshooting

• You’re committed to staying up to date with relevant technological innovations

• You're willing to work overtime when required, and possibly travel for work

• You can work effectively with a small team for the duration of a project

• You approach your work with confidence, and can install that confidence in clients

• You have a client-centered approach to projects 

• You’re interested in a well-paying career that makes use of your technical capabilities

• You’re mindful of how the total costs to perform services affects company/client decisions

• You’re willing to learn to live by your employers’ values and codes of conduct



What is the Salary of a Distribution Planning Engineer?

Distribution Planning Engineers belong to the Electronics and Electrical Engineers occupational group. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans working in this occupational group earn a median salary of $95,230 per year. The amount they earn can vary based on numerous factors, including level of education, experience, region in which they work, and many others. 



More About Salary Levels

The salary you could earn as a distribution planning engineer can vary based on many factors, including:


• Your level of education, experience and certification

• The level of responsibility involved in your job

• The size and type of your employer

• The region in which you work

• The industry in which you work

• If you receive any medical, dental, vision, profit sharing, and/or retirement benefits

• Many other factors


Salary in Canada: According to the 2018 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, the overall average salary of Albertans working in the “Electrical Engineers” occupational group is $98,528 per year. Unfortunately, no similar statistics were available from reliable sources for other Canadian provinces or territories at the time of writing (June 17, 2019).


Salary in the United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall median salary level of Americans working in the “Electrical and Electronics Engineers" occupational group is $95,230 per year.



Who Employs Them?

Distribution planning engineers are employed with companies that generate and distribute electrical power. Many jobs also exist with consulting firms that provide engineering services to electrical utilities, municipalities, and large industrial clients. 



Current Job Opportunities

Our job board below has distribution planning engineer postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, when available:



What Career Advancement Opportunities Are There?

If you’re willing to constantly learn and improve your craft and expand your knowledge, then you'll see plenty of career advancement opportunities.


With a proven track record of success (and possibly additional education and certification) you could move into project management roles, work in research or become a self-employed engineering consultant.



What are Careers Similar to This One?

Listed below are careers in our database that are in the same field, or involve many of the same skills, competencies and/or responsibilities as “distribution planning engineer”:


• Circuit Designer

• Design Engineer

• Electrical Engineer

• Electrical Systems Engineer

• Electrician 

• Industrial Engineer

• Information Systems Designer

• Water Resources Engineer



What Scholarships Are There for Aspiring Distribution Engineers? 

The “Majors in Our Database Relevant for this Career” section below lists fields of study that are relevant to becoming a distribution planning engineer. You can search for relevant scholarships by finding those majors on our  “Electrical Engineering Scholarships” and “Industrial Engineering Scholarships” pages.


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!




Please consult the following resources to learn more about what it takes to get into this line of work:


• Occupational Profile: “Electrical Engineer.” (n.d.). Alberta Government - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved February 17, 2017.

• Occupational Outlook Handbook: “Electrical and Electronics Engineers.” (n.d.). United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved February 17, 2017.

• Job Profiles: “Electrical Engineers.” (December 6, 2016). National Careers Service. Retrieved February 17, 2017.

• Undergraduate Admissions: “Electrical Engineering at Waterloo.” (n.d.. University of Waterloo. Retrieved February 17, 2017.


Please Note: Much of the information used for this career guide was sourced from actual “Distribution Planning Engineer” job postings, which due to their brief online nature, are not listed here as references. 



Majors in Our Database Relevant for this Career

We have career guides for over 60 university majors in our database. Below we've outlined those that are most relevant to this profession. Click on the links to see what else you can do with these majors!


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