Inside Electrical Engineer Careers

Things you need to know, but nobody tells you

Biggest Surprises

"How Much Science And Math Is Actually Involved In My Day To Day Tasks...
I was shocked at how much people work together in this field. The majority of my day is spent drafting and designing with at least 1 more engineer." (Electrical Engineer; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Illinois, male
School: Studied Electrical Engineering at University Of Illinois-Chicago in Illinois; completed Master degree in 2012

"Male-Centric Career Spent Largely In Front Of Computer Screen...
I was surprised at how little voice I have as a female engineer in a consumer electronics company. In almost all of meetings, I am the only woman there. The men often talk over me, interrupt me, or ignore me. I spend about 95% of my time sitting in front of a computer writing code so I find it a very boring and lonely profession. I am looking to exit this profession." (Embedded Firmware/Software Engineer; 2014)

Career: 12 years of experience, currently based in Kentucky, female
School: Studied Electrical And Computer Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania; completed Master degree in 2001

"Engineering Ain't So Boring...
With all the time it took for school I thought the job would take much of my time, but I'm surprised to find extra time in my day to do hobbies. Most people think electrical engineering jobs would be dull and boring, but I am learning how important this field is to our society." (PCB DESIGNER; 2014)

Career: 3 years of experience, currently based in California, male
School: Studied Mechanical Engineering at University Of Phoenix in California; completed Bachelor degree in 2010

"Work Variety...
it is astonishing to know that electrical systems is just one of the many fields that an electrical engineer can do. It can expand into movies, television, and etc" (Electrical Engineering; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Florida, male
School: Studied Electrical Engineer at Valencia in Florida; completed Bachelor degree in 2012

"Competition & Mentorship...
I was somewhat surprised by the constant amount of competition there is in working as an engineering, even within projects. I was also surprised by the lack of mentoring that is available when a new engineering starts work. You have to jump head first into projects with little support. During my college work, it seemed this type of support would be expected, but there is nothing like this available in the work I have performed." (Electrical Engineer; 2014)

Career: 17 years of experience, currently based in Missouri, female
School: Studied Electrical & Mechanical Engineering at New Mexico State University in New Mexico; completed Master degree in 1994

"Competitiveness Of Peers...
What surprised me the most about my profession is how smart all of my peers are. They are if not more ambitious than I have ever been. In addition, what surprised me about my profession is how many opportunities were available once I graduated." (Product Engineer; 2014)

Career: , currently based in California, male
School: Studied Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University in California; completed Master degree in 2012

"Real Work Is Different Than Class Work...
While what you learn in class is valuable, what you do in real life for a corporation is significantly different. Instead of crunching numbers and solving a problem, one has the opportunity to do things such as play with 3D printers and work with people who are involved with insane projects such as mini satellites. You need to expect to be doing things that takes you out of your comfort zone." (Electrical Engineer; 2014)

Career: 3 years of experience, currently based in California, male
School: Studied Electrical Engineering at UCLA in California; completed Bachelor degree in 2010

"Difficult Courses For An Easy Career...
I was surprised that I did not need all the math and physics that I learned at URI on my current job. I'm also surprised at the prerequisites for my current position...I really don't need half of the skills on a day-to-day basis." (Test Engineer; 2013)

Career: 10 years of experience, currently based in North Carolina, male
School: Studied Electrical Engineering at University Of Rhode Island in Rhode Island; completed Bachelor degree in 2004

"First Hand Experience Is Much More Relevant Than Education...
Most of what I do was not learned in college. Most people would be surprised at the amount of material that I have learned after I started working in the field of which I received my degree." (Engineer; 2014)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in New York, male
School: Studied Electrical Engineering at University At Buffalo in New York; completed Bachelor degree in 2011

"Turn A Dead End Job Into A Company Of Your Own...
Feeling as though I had hit a major career roadblock, a decision was made to get back to school on the business end of things rather than continuing my previous Engineering education. This was done with the idea of advancing my career towards management in the large corporation I was working for. As it turned out, I was able to use the things I learned about Business to turn my hobby into my own company and get out of a corporate life (Automotive Industry) that was in the midst of a dramatic economic decline." (Electrical Engineer; 2014)

Career: 30 years of experience, currently based in Michigan, male
School: Studied Business at Baker College in Michigan; completed Bachelor degree in 2002

"Schools Teach You Basics, Where You Go From There Is Up To You...
From when I graduated, 13 years ago. I didn't learn the skills that I use today. The skills I learned helped me pass the tests that got me hired, but those skills are virtually worthless in my everyday job. I mainly work on programmable controllers and learned nothing about them in school." (Electrician; 2014)

Career: 17 years of experience, currently based in Indiana, male
School: Studied Electrical Engineering at ITT in Indiana in 2001

"Self Righteous Paper Pusher Judging Me...
The way you looked down upon by some people because I don't have a college degree." (Electronics Technician; 2013)

Career: 24 years of experience, currently based in Georgia, male
School: Studied Electronics at USN Fire Control School in Illinois; completed Certificate degree in 1990

"A Dream Come True...
I was surprised about how most of what I learned in junior/senior year applies to my everyday tasks. Also I was ecstatic when I learned that I would be doing both design and testing of chips." (Electrical Engineer; 2014)

Career: 3 years of experience, currently based in California, male
School: Studied Electrical Engineering at San Diego State University in California; completed Bachelor degree in 2010

"Nuclear Power Plants Control Logic Is Safe And Very Simplistic...
I was pretty surprised on how simple the control logic inside a nuclear power plant is for non-safety. When you think about nuclear power plants its often times seen as being scary, but its actually pretty simplistic. Safety systems have four checks for the same output for redundancies but for an entire power plant there is likely less then 15,000 sheets for non-safety.. Sounds like a lot but I have done labs in college that have close to 500, so it was a big surprise for me especially when the majority of it is Boolean logic." (Tester/Designer; 2014)

Career: 3 years of experience, currently based in Pennsylvania, male
School: Studied Electrical Engineering at University Of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania; completed Bachelor degree in 2010

"Interpersonal Skills For The Modern Engineer...
You cannot underestimate the need for practical real world experience. Even though your college training helped you understand the underpinnings of your chosen career, once you get to a real job you will need to work on traits such as: empathy towards others, patience, group management techniques and group etiquette. These traits will make your life easier and more productive in the workplace." (Computer Engineering; 2013)

Career: 9 years of experience, currently based in California, male
School: Studied Engineering at USCD in California; completed Bachelor degree in 2002

"The Importance Of Effective Collaboration...
I was surprised at how important communication and teamwork is in being a good engineer. In my job, I am always working in a team with other engineers from a variety of disciplines, plus people from completely different professions, and I must continually communicate with people with different levels of knowledge on a daily basis. I must work well with the people I directly work with, and I must communicate well with everyone I speak to in order to ensure maximum efficiency." (Computer Engineer; 2012)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in North Carolina, male
School: Studied Computer Engineering at NC State University in North Carolina; completed Bachelor degree in 2012

"Given Some Freedom In A Busy Work Day...
I was surprised at the amount of work I would have to do on a daily basis. I was also surprised at the amount of free time I would be given in the work week to work on projects that I wanted to do on my own, and not required to do specific work tasks." (Computer Systems Engineer; 2012)

Career: 11 years of experience, currently based in Massachusetts, male
School: Studied Computer Systems Engineering at University Of Massachusetts in Massachusetts; completed Bachelor degree in 2000

"I was surprised that I had to put in so much overtime. I was surprised how little college prepared me." (Electrical Engineer; 2012)

Career: 4 years of experience, currently based in Georgia, male
School: Studied Electrical Engineering at Georgia Tech in Georgia; completed Bachelor degree in 2009

"I was very surprised how much goes into completing a project in engineering. From the planning to the actual design making, everything is a step by step process. The feeling of successfully completing something is surreal." (Electronics Engineer; 2012)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in New Jersey, male
School: Studied Computer Engineering at The College Of New Jersey in New Jersey in 2012

"What surprised me most about this career was the type of work we can do and the job security that comes with it. I had to receive about 2-3 security clearances to work with the company I did and also must go to locations most people will never see or be allowed to in their entire lifetime. Another thing that surprises me is many fields will overlook the degree to allow you into ones you didn't originally major in due to the difficult nature of the degree." (Electrical Engineer; 2012)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in Florida, male
School: Studied Electrical Engineering at Florida Atlantic University in Florida; completed Bachelor degree in 2012

"There is a lot of work involved but I am not working as long as I thought that I would have to. Also, the environment is a lot different and while it is formal, there is some level of comfort in it." (Engineering Intern; 2012)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Illinois, male
School: Studied Computer Engineering at University Of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign in Illinois; completed Bachelor degree in 2012

Best & Worst Things About This Career

Engineer: "The best part of the job is to collaborate on some exciting new idea or project. Sometimes this starts by thinking of some new variation of an old idea, and then discussing it with a knowledgeable person at a blackboard. Sometimes it comes by observing some brand new need that hasn't been identified before, and then seeing what known techniques can satisfy it. My very best day is when someone comes into my office with the beginnings of an idea, and we work it out together. The worst part of the job is dealing with difficult people, having to do budgets and schedules, and having to give out bad reviews." (2011)

Principal Engineer: "The best part of my job is that I am able to learn so much about how electricity is produced and how it is transported from state-state to town-town and house to house. There is so much detail and so much to learn. What I don't like about my job is that my company is so large sometimes it takes so long to get anything achieved. This is because there are so many people and processes that at times what I am trying to accomplish falls by the wayside because someone else has a task to perform but forgets, or is too busy to perform the task. It becomes frustrating, which is something found in larger companies." (2011)

Product Engineer: "The best part of my career is the challenge of learning and mastering new things and the problem solving and troubleshooting associated with test development. My group is given a task with sometimes a short deadline and then we pool our talent together to create the fixtures quickly. There is a great satisfaction in seeing something of your creation being used on a regular basis. However, it isn't always interesting. One of the drawbacks is the endless documentation necessary in order to duplicate the test." (2011)

Electrical Engineer: "The best part of the job is that I get to play with high-tech instruments. I also get to have a look at cellphones before they hit the market. There are some interesting trips for different vendor visits. The worst part of the job is when the parts do not behave as expected. There are parts of the job, too, that are not real exciting: documenting processes that we have developed or doing re-work on very tiny components, etc." (2010)

Hardware Engineer: "The best part of the job is that I am constantly challenged by new and interesting problems. Often the solutions are not obvious or simple, and the problems are usually multi-dimensional, with no single "right" answer. The worst part of the job is trying to make non-engineers understand why certain trade-offs were made." (2010)

Project Manager: "One best part of the job is the ability to put various pieces of a design together to see a final product ship out the door. A second best part is being able to work with good, intelligent people who have varying opinions on subjects. The worst parts include trying to cover multiple jobs at once because the company is short-staffed. Also, the stress levels can get high at times when hard deadlines approach." (2010)

Instrument Development Engineer: "I like my job because I get to invent new things that will have a positive impact on the world. For example, we are designing a hand-held instrument to diagnose HIV in developing countries. I get to try new things and figure out how to make things work and, basically, tinker with high-tech toys. Working for a start-up company, I enjoy a lot of freedom to choose my activities and daily priorities. The down side of a start-up is we have limited funds and so do not always have the same resources I took for granted at other companies. While I enjoy a lot of freedom, we also lack structure that can streamline activities that people might undertake over and over again." (2010)

Engineer: "The best part of a project comes when the first unit starts up and sort of works, and the other best part is when you are confident about its design and performance and can release it into production. The worst parts are when hardly anything works, and you have to dig into everything to find out why not, or when you have a subtle, elusive problem that only comes up once in a while or under specific circumstances. Then you spend long days and nights trying to find out why, pursuing many false leads, and examining everything over and over again. And sometimes the "fix" is difficult, and that's bad news." (2010)

Electrical Engineer And Laboratory Manager: "The best part of the the work is being able to put my long engineering experience to use creating new jobs. The worst is the constant uncertainty over funding for the center." (2010)

Electrical Engineer: "There is no bad part of my job. I have a good mix of responsibilities and all the projects we're involved in are unique and let me see and participate in new technological developments. But the thing I like the best is final delivery of the system to the customer and seeing that it works." (2010)

Career Background

Electrical Engineer

  Job Tasks
  Work Environment
  How to Prepare for the Job
  Job Outlook

Career Video

Career Tips

"Balancing Your Work Life And Dealing With Conflict...
If you want to be successful balance your work life and life outside work. Deadlines are stressful, but if you sell yourself to the company you will likely burn out. I'm not saying to sit there and not worry about others. Be a team player, but not at the point where you sacrifice outside relationships with friends and family for a job. If you sell yourself to the company often times you become bitter of your job and possibly co-workers that aren't picking up there weight. When this happens you can find yourself in the future burning bridges depending on how you handle certain situations. There will always be some conflict at your job, don't take it personal and remember its a good conflict if it gets the job done." (Tester/Designer; 2014)

"Get Into An Internship As Early As Possible...
Get into an internship as soon as possible. The first or second year would be ideal for this. First hand experience in your desired field in critical to your success." (Engineer; 2014)

"Building A Sturdy Base Can Lead To The Tallest Career...
Electricity is an amazing technology. Putting your feet on the ground and learning how it works is just the beginning. The next step you take will depend on how you want to use your knowledge. The basics that you learn will make a foundation for the career that you want to build." (Electrician; 2014)

"Diversify Your Education As Much As Possible...
If you have any chance at all, diversify your education as much as possible instead of following the curriculum to the letter. To separate yourself from the pack of fellow students, try digging in a little deeper into a completely different subject. Learning a lot more about how business operates as an Engineering student will greatly enhance your chances of getting a job, the quality and content of your projects, or at least soften the blow if your work is rejected. Learning anything at all about economics as a Poly Sci student would greatly enhance all of our lives!" (Electrical Engineer; 2014)

"Be Proactive...
If you want to be a successful electrical engineer, get internships as soon as possible. By doing this, you put yourself ahead of the new graduates." (Electrical Engineer; 2014)

"Improve Your Engineering Education...
Get an advanced degree and be sure to network with your peers. This will allow you to develop the highest quality of skills necessary for your profession." (Product Engineer; 2014)

"Take The Internship Seriously...
Get an internship with a technology company during your junior and senior years of college. Make sure you take the internship seriously because I was offered my first permanent job and signing bonus based on my performance at the internship. Whereas, my office mate slept through his internship, and he was not offered a permanent position." (Embedded Firmware/Software Engineer; 2014)

"Go Beyond The Classroom...
While in school, work on side projects or become involved with events such as competitions. Not only does it show your commitment and interest, you begin to experience what Electrical Engineering is like as a job." (Electrical Engineer; 2014)

"Take It From Me...
Do not be afraid to make mistakes, engineering can be difficult but there are a lot of people in this industry to help with your career." (PCB DESIGNER; 2014)

"It Is Very Easy To Achieve While In School...
Get your EIT finished before you graduate, even though you think you will not need it." (Electrical Engineer; 2014)

"Academic Publications For Engineers...
It is important to keep up with recent academic publications. These will enable you to understand the latest developments in your chosen career. These publications can be an invaluable resource in the workplace, and will keep your training up to date." (Computer Engineering; 2013)

"To Be Success As An Engineer, Ask Questions...
If you want to be a successful engineer, take your time and ask questions. Your fellow engineers should be more than happy to help you if you get stuck on a design." (Electrical Engineer; 2013)

"Getting An Edge After You Graduate...
An engineering career is just not about doing well at the university level in math and physics. There are other aspects/classes such as programming, project management and business principles that will give you an edge after you graduate." (Test Engineer; 2013)

If you want it, go for it. It is not the easiest thing to do, but it can be done with enough focus" (Electrical Engineering; 2013)

"Be Safe Stay Alive...
Don't let some idiot intimidate you into doing something that could harm you or others." (Electronics Technician; 2013)

"Find Mentors...
The best advice is to try to work with excellent people who are willing to guide you and teach you how they approach problems. Do absolutely every kind of task, from the very simplest, in order to get an appreciation for all that it takes to build real systems." (Engineer; 2011)

"Leverage Conferences To Build A Network...
If you want to be an engineer, pay close attention to details. Details are very important. Also, do not be afraid to ask questions. This is how you will learn and it also lets others know that you are really serious about your job and being good at it. Also, try to find a mentor - someone who is older and more experienced and knowledgeable that you can trust to talk with and can help guide you through difficult decisions. Lastly, get involved with conferences in your field. This will help you make contacts with other professionals in your industry which comes in handy when you need technical assistance or even another job." (Principal Engineer; 2011)

"Treat Your Education Like A Full Time Job...
If you are given the opportunity to work as an intern during your college career, then jump on it. Unfortunately there is a disconnect associated with the theoretical science you learn at school and the practical application of it. There is a reason why potential employers want to see experience. Also, take advantage of your college career. Treat your education like a nine to five job and you will be surprised at how much you can learn and how much will stay with you. Be willing to learn new techniques at your job. There are two types of employees: those who learn more and push themselves constantly and stand out in a crowd, and there are those who just disappear into the background and just exist. You can be either one, but for obvious reasons only one type of the employees mentioned above will have any longevity at a company." (Product Engineer; 2011)

"Do A Co-Op If You Can...
You should take all the math and physical science classes in school that you can. It is best to broaden your scope when you are young. You will end up specializing in something after you start working at a job. It is a good idea to join a co-op program in school if it is offered. It will delay your graduation by one year and this sounds like a lot when you are young. But what is one year when you think about working for the next 30 or 40 years? You will be convinced that you chose the right field after a couple of co-op job assignments. It would be a good time to change fields if you find it impossible to get excited about your co-op assignments." (Electrical Engineer; 2010)

"Have A Love For Problem Solving...
What you learn in college is how to learn. Engineering moves so fast that you must keep learning all the time. Don't just take engineering courses. You also need to be able to communicate and understand the business implications of the engineering choices you make. If you don't love solving problems and figuring out how and why things work, you may want to look elsewhere." (Hardware Engineer; 2010)

"Internships Can Help You Get A Job...
1. Get a degree in some sort of engineering. While the job itself isn't an engineering position, there is constant interaction with engineers and other technical items. 2. Get a college internship. You can learn valuable skills and get some experience that will put you ahead of other candidates and allow you to hit the ground running when you graduate. 3. Have an open mind and be flexible. People have many different ideas and some are good and some are bad. Don' t always pick the first one or the one from the highest-ranking employee (unless it's the most appropriate, of course)." (Project Manager; 2010)

"Learn How Things Work...
1. If it interests you, learn how things work regardless of the field or discipline. Be inquisitive. 2. A background in physics will help you understand what can be done and how to do it by helping you understand the basic laws of nature. I recommend a broad education that covers physical sciences and engineering. 3. Learning engineering tools such as 3D computer aided design packages, programming languages, and finite element analysis packages will help you stand out as a job applicant 4. Don't be afraid to roll your sleeves up and get your hands dirty (figuratively or literally) by tinkering in a laboratory and building prototypes. Simulations and calculations are all about predicting real-world performance. You must eventually validate your design concepts by making real world embodiments. I know a lot of good development engineers who like to "make mistakes fast," which basically means to try things out and figure out quickly what works and what doesn't." (Instrument Development Engineer; 2010)

"Newer May Not Be Better...
1. Learn basic principles of math, physics, thermal dynamics and other disciplines. You will always need them and call on them, and they won't ever go stale. 2. Keep abreast of the latest tools, techniques and developments, but don't assume newer is better; often older, proven techniques are the way to go and reduce areas of risk. Limiting areas of risk to one or just a few spots is a good idea. 3. Don't assume. Check and re-check everything. Often a problem is due to an unconscious assumption you made, or looking at something and mis-seeing what is in front of you." (Engineer; 2010)

"Take Course That Expose The Why...
Try to get as much basic science and math as possible within the sometimes restrictive confines of the engineering curriculum. Try to avoid narrow and possibly restrictive classes that may provide current knowledge but are lacking in the real why and how come of engineering. Take all the really hard courses. Try things that may be a stretch. Learn to learn on your own, since you'll have to to stay current throughout your career." (Electrical Engineer And Laboratory Manager; 2010)

"Take Lab Seriously...
Do not be afraid to get a "hands-on" position which lets you learn wiring, soldering, circuit board construction etc. Get a good grounding in the use of software applications and computer code because everything these days is controlled by computers and programmable logic controllers (PLC). Make good use of your lab assignments in school. Be safety conscious when working around machinery and electricity. There are very important safety rules everybody needs to follow to ensure safe and productive work." (Electrical Engineer; 2010)