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What does an Electrical Engineer do?

Electrical engineers are inventors, testers, researchers, and all-around whizzes of electricity. As an electrical engineer, your job could grant you plenty of one-on-one time with any of the following electricity-focused gadgetry:
  • electric motors
  • building-based machinery controls, lighting and wiring
  • radar/navigation systems
  • communications systems
  • power generation, control and transmission devices
Your work might involve working with electricity or electrical systems in buildings, machines, automobiles or aircraft.

Electrical Engineers and Electronics Engineers: There is a difference

Although the two are often used interchangeably, electrical engineers and electronics engineers do different jobs. Electrical engineers work with power generation and supply; they often specialize in one area, such as electrical equipment manufacturing or power systems engineering.

Electronics engineers work on applications of electricity to signal processing or control systems, such as global positioning systems (GPS) and portable music players. They often specialize in a specific area, such as communications, control systems or aviation electronics.

Engineers in the world

Engineers transform their math and science expertise from paper into real-world applications. Of electrical engineers, the most famous include Thomas Edison, who patented 1,093 inventions in his life; Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Computer, Inc; and Nokola Tesla, the eccentric electrical engineer who helped establish the alternating current (AC) electric power system.

Meanwhile, other trained engineers have taken different directions in life, including the following famous public figures:
  • Scott Adams: "Dilbert" creator and cartoonist
  • Rowan Atkinson: British comedian
  • Jimmy Carter: 39th president of the U.S.
  • Leonardo Da Vinci: Florentine artist
  • Alfred Hitchcock: Director and producer of Psycho and other terrifying films
Electrical Engineer job prospects and education

In the event you do not become a famous engineer, cartoonist, artist, or similar, it is good to know your job options. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects job growth to be small (2 percent), but claims that those working in service-providing industries--especially in engineering and design services--should face the best job prospects.

To enter this potentially lucrative career, you will need to complete a college degree in electrical engineering. Most entry-level positions require a bachelor's degree. If you would like to teach at a college, you will need to go to graduate school.

Your electrical engineering undergraduate program should include courses in the following:
  • Circuits and electronics
  • Signals and systems
  • Computer science and programming
  • Biological systems
  • Artificial intelligence
In essence, your program should involve plenty of instruction in math, science, computers and engineering, which will prepare you for your career.

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