Electrical Engineers Careers: Employment & Salary Trends for Aspiring Electrical Engineers

Electrical Engineers at a Glance

Electrical engineers are responsible for the design, development, and management of manufacturing and installing electrical equipment, components, and systems. Electrical engineers perform these tasks in the commercial and industrial sectors as well the scientific arena. Electrical engineers also work in the military. Electrical engineers are fluent in technology design, science, systems analysis, troubleshooting, systems evaluation, equipment selection, management of material resources, and programming.

Electrical engineers may specialize in a number of different areas such as design of power plants, rolling mills, or motors and transformers as well as research of new applications or production machinery. Electrical engineers also have a number of titles at their disposal including electrical power engineers, communications engineers or electrical maintenance engineers.

In addition to a variety of specializations and work environments, aspiring electrical engineers will enjoy one of the highest entry-level starting salaries for college graduates. See the “salary trends” section for figures.

Schools to consider:

Employment Trends

Job Outlook: Above-average increase
Annual Openings: 6,806
Percent Growth: 6.3%
Total Jobs Held: 153,000
Projected Employment: 163,000 by 2016
The Best 500 Jobs Overall Ranking: 252

Source: “Best Jobs for the 21st Century,” JIST Publishing 2009. Farr, Michael and Shatkin, Laurence, Ph.D.; “Salary Facts Handbook,” JIST Publishing 2008. Editors @ JIST.

While environmental engineers are expected to show the fastest growth in the industry, electrical engineers will enjoy above-average growth at 6.3%. Overall, engineering is expected to grow 11% by 2016. The number of graduating engineering students is expected to remain in line with the number of job openings between now and 2016.

In addition to the creation of new jobs, other job openings will come from engineers that have retired as well as engineers that have moved up the ladder into management or other areas such as sales. A small number of job openings will come from engineers that have moved on to other careers.

Depending on the specialty, some areas of engineering will grow at a slower rate. In addition, areas that are easily outsourced, such as multi-discipline engineering design, will grow at a slower rate. Fortunately, new technologies allow engineers to produce faster which helps keep profits up. More importantly, new technologies in engineering rarely cancel out jobs.

Salary Trends

In 2009, electrical engineers earned an average salary of $79,240 per year. This figure represents a 4% increase over 2008 ($75,930). Electrical engineers in the 90th percentile can expect to earn around $115,240 per year, while 75th percentile electrical engineers can expect to earn $94,050 per year. Entry-level electrical engineers can expect to earn a starting salary of around $49,120 per year.

Degrees and Training Programs

A bachelor’s degree in engineering is a must for all entry-level electrical engineering positions. The bachelor of engineering or B.E. is available at most colleges and universities. In addition to electrical and electronics, these accredited institutions award degrees in mechanical and civil engineering. ABET, Inc. The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology accredits roughly 1,830 engineering programs at colleges and universities in the U.S.

In addition to a bachelor’s or masters in engineering, aspiring electrical engineers must be licensed. All 50 states and the District of Columbia require a license to practice as a professional engineer (PE). In order to obtain a license, the applicant must successfully complete his engineering degree at an accredited 4-year college or university, complete 4 years of engineering work experience as an “engineer in training” (EIT), and complete the state exam. Relicensing requires mandatory continuing education in most states.

Coursework Required

Aspiring electrical engineers can expect to take a hefty number of physics (physical principles, laws, and applications) courses, as well as mathematics (calculus and statistics), telecommunications (transmission, broadcasting, control), engineering (equipment, tools, mechanical devices), design (techniques, principles, tools), and computers and electronics (processors, chips, electric circuit boards, hardware, software).

Did you know that electrical engineers rarely work alone? Electrical engineers work with architects, scientists, construction workers, contractors, computer scientists, industrial designers, civil engineers, and mechanical engineers.