Have you got chills? Are they multiplying? Is it because the power you’re supplying is electrifying? Well then, you better shape up if your heart is set on a career in electrical engineering! Hopefully, if you do everything right and apply for a job as an electrical engineer, you’ll be the one that they want, ooh, ooh, oooohhh, honey!
Sorry, we’re going to stop quoting from Grease now! After all, careers in electrical engineering aren’t usually that musical. If you do enter this profession though, you’ll be responsible for designing, developing, testing, producing and maintaining a variety of electrical components, systems and applications, which are used across a range of different commercial, industrial and residential markets.
A significant number of electrical engineers are employed in the construction, energy, manufacturing, telecommunications and transport industries.
Furthermore, electrical engineers are employed by government organisations, private sector enterprises and multi-discipline engineering consultancy firms. Some electrical engineers also work on a freelance basis.
If you break into this line of work, your responsibility will be to design, develop and produce technical solutions in the form of electrical equipment and infrastructure.
Your list of duties will often cover the entire gamut of electrical engineering, from planning, design and development to production, deployment and maintenance. Furthermore, you may be responsible for making improvements to existing electrical products, solutions and services.
As you progress in your career as an electrical engineer, you may begin to take on project management and financial management duties. Moreover, you will be responsible for making sure all the technical solutions that are designed, developed and produced comply with national and international safety and quality standards.
Salary & benefits
Annual salaries for electrical engineers in the early stages of their careers range between £21,000 and £25,000, while senior electrical engineers can earn around £30,000 to £55,000 per annum.
Once you have obtained status as a chartered engineer and begin to work on major electrical infrastructure projects in a managerial capacity, you may begin to earn an even higher salary.
Working hours are determined by the scope of the project that you are working on and project delivery timelines. Consequently, this may mean working extra hours on a frequent basis during the evenings, and over weekends and national holidays.
Domestic travel is common and overseas deployment is also a possibility. You may be working in adverse conditions from time to time, especially when you’re on-site at power plants and construction sites.
To break into this line of work, you will usually need an undergraduate or postgraduate degree in electrical engineering or electronic engineering.
However, you may be eligible to enter this profession if you have studied another relevant subject, such as electromechanical engineering, production engineering, software engineering, mechanical engineering, aeronautical engineering, telecommunications engineering, mechatronics, maths or physics.
The choice between doing an undergraduate or postgraduate degree will depend on whether your final career objective is gaining ‘incorporated’ or ‘chartered’ engineering status.
To become an incorporated engineer, an undergraduate degree and plenty of relevant work experience will suffice, while obtaining a relevant postgraduate degree is essential for becoming a chartered engineer.
Training & progression
Structured graduate development programmes are offered by many employers in this field, usually culminating in the completion of professional qualifications and becoming an ‘incorporated’ or ‘chartered’ engineer.
During this process, you’ll be gaining hands-on experience under the supervision of experienced line managers and senior mentors. Employers may also provide you with financial support during this period to cover in-house and external tutoring sessions.
Career progression is determined by performance, experience levels, specialist expertise and professional qualifications. As you progress within an organisation, you may begin to take a step back from hands-on technical work and focus your efforts on project management, planning, strategy and budget control.
Many electrical engineers with over ten years of experience opt to become self-employed and move into freelance consulting. Many freelance electrical engineers try to attack a niche market and specialise in one or two advanced-technology fields, such as aerospace and aviation electronics, defence systems, communication systems and mobile applications.