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What Does an Electrical Engineer Do?

September 25, 2020
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Electrical engineers are problem solvers, using their knowledge of circuitry and electronics, as well as their passion, to create and build systems and solution and to make everyday life a little more efficient. Electrical engineers don't just understand and work with electricity. They also know about electromagnetism, electronics, telecommunications, and signal processing.

Electrical engineers solve electrical or electronic problems. The first step entails identifying the challenge or identifying 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.

Motor control, power and energy transmission, signal processing, and microelectronics are all possible career paths for electrical engineers. Possible industry choices vary as well, including everything from computers, robotics, and mobile devices to transportation, construction, and more.

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Skills of Successful Electrical Engineers

Electrical engineers usually have a four-year college degree in electrical (or electronics) engineering or in physics, mathematics, or computing and have passed their licensure exams. However, those working as an electrical engineer 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.

Electrical engineers should have excellent communication skills. They often work and communicate with specialists from a wide variety of 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 ways to handle dangerous substances.
  • Power systems: Attention is on designing power grids and maintaining generators, as well as making energy more efficient.
A career in electrical engineering can also involve travel and site visits for meetings and performing inspections. An electrical engineer 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 electrical devices to see how they work—and even improve them—are often drawn to this field. While many "techies" are involved in electrical engineering, it is important to be able to effectively communicate with others as well. 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 in this important field.

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