Electrical engineers work with electrical systems, power grids, motors, navigation systems, radars, aircraft, and automobile electrical systems and communication systems. In the U.S., the steps to becoming a licensed electrical engineer can vary between states. In general, there are four steps involved in obtaining licensure.
Skills electrical engineers need
If you are considering a career in electrical engineering, the first step is to assess your skill sets. Electrical engineers typically are required to have these skills:
- Understanding of electrical engineering concepts, including familiarity with electrical equipment, circuit boards, chips, processors, transmission, switching, and control.
- Interest and knowledge of science, engineering, and technology: Science, math, and technology are the core skills an electrical engineer needs. If you are good at these subjects, a career in electrical engineering is the right choice.
- Knowledge of computers: Electrical engineers need to be familiar with the industry-relevant software and computer design programs
- Problem-solving ability: Engineers are expected to identify problems, evaluate, and develop the right solution.
How much do electrical engineers earn?
On average, the annual salary of electrical engineers is $87,290, while the pay depends on the qualification, years of experience, location, and other factors. Electrical engineers who keep themselves up-to-date on the latest technological trends and developments in the industry have an advantage in terms of pay and career prospects.
Steps to becoming a licensed electrical engineer in the U.S.
The steps involved in obtaining licensure involves
- Completing a four-year electrical engineering degree from an accredited engineering program.
- Passing the Fundamentals of Engineering exam.
- Complete four years of training and progressive engineering experience.
- Pass Professional Engineering exam.
A bachelor’s degree
To pursue a career as an electrical engineer, you need to complete a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution in electrical engineering. In the U.S., the bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering is accredited by the ABET or Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. A bachelor’s degree is a must for entry-level positions in the field, and the coursework in the program includes digital systems design, differential equations, and electrical circuit theory. In addition to theoretical concepts, electrical engineering students also complete field and laboratory work. Some of the key areas of focus in the bachelor’s program include:
- Control systems: This specialty relates to the study of electromagnetic circuits within machines.
- Power systems: If you specialize in power systems, you can take up work related to designing large-scale power systems for commercial, residential, and industrial use. You can also find work as a transmission line engineer, electrical plant or substation electrical design engineer.
Although not mandatory for entry-level positions in the field, electrical engineers who obtain master’s and doctoral degrees have better prospects with respect to career advancement.
Students can complete a Master of Science (M.S.) in Electrical Engineering, M.E (Master of Engineering) or Ph.D. (Doctorate of Philosophy) in electrical engineering.
Some institutes offer a combined bachelor’s and master’s degrees in a five-year program. Electrical engineers with a master’s degree can take up research positions or become instructors at universities or colleges.
Fundamentals of engineering exam
After obtaining the degree, the electrical engineering graduate has to take up the exam on Fundamentals of Engineering offered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying or NCEES.
Upon passing the exam, the engineer works as an engineer-in-training or intern for a duration specified by the state.
Professional Engineering Exam
After gaining the required experience, the engineer writes the Professional Engineering exam offered by NCEES.
Typically, to take the Professional Engineering exam, a minimum of four years of relevant job experience is required. In some states, professional engineers need to undertake continued education as well as training to maintain their licensing.
Not counting the high school diploma, the undergraduate degree takes four years to complete while the graduate degree can take anywhere from one to seven years. After the degree, professional licensure takes a minimum of four years as the individual needs to work for four years in the field before taking the Professional Engineering exam.
Protect yourself against risks
One of the most important things you need to consider when pursuing a career as an electrical engineer is the risks associated with your profession. Even the best of professionals make mistakes, and at times, you may be held liable for the errors and omissions that vendors or third-party contractors make. Negligence claims can be filed against professionals whose alleged or actual careless actions harm the client. Most claims are related to physical harm or significant financial losses suffered by the clients.
Buy Engineer Liability Insurance
If you are employed in a firm as an electrical engineer, your firm’s insurance provider typically will respond to any such claims. Your employer can also insure each employee when the risks associated with the nature of duties are high. Although not common, an individual employee in a firm can also be sued outside of the liability insurance umbrella of the firm. If you work as a freelancer or set up your own electrical engineering consultancy firm, purchasing Engineer Liability Insurance is imperative.
Engineer Liability Insurance is designed to cover the costs of a lawsuit that arises as a result of your professional services. Whether, as an electrical engineer, you make a mistake in your work or accused of an error, delay, or poor quality of work, this insurance covers court fees, lawyers’ fees, settlement, and judgments as required.