Electrical & Electronics Engineers

Nature of the Work [About this section] Index

From computer chips that process millions of instructions every second to radar systems that detect weather patterns days in advance, electrical and electronics engineers are responsible for a wide range of technologies. Electrical and electronics engineers design, develop, test, and supervise the manufacture of electrical and electronic equipment. Some of this equipment includes power generating, controlling, and transmission devices used by electric utilities; electric motors, machinery controls, lighting, and wiring in buildings, automobiles, and aircraft; and in radar and navigation systems, computer and office equipment, and broadcast and communications systems.

Electrical and electronics engineers specialize in different areas such as power generation, transmission, and distribution; communications; computer electronics; and electrical equipment manufacturing—or a subdivision of these areas—industrial robot control systems or aviation electronics, for example. Electrical and electronics engineers design new products, write performance requirements, and develop maintenance schedules. They also test equipment, solve operating problems, and estimate the time and cost of engineering projects. (See the statement on computer systems analysts, engineers, and scientists elsewhere in the Handbook.)

Employment [About this section]  Index

Electrical and electronics engineers held about 357,000 jobs in 1998, making it the largest branch of engineering. Most jobs were in engineering and business consulting firms, government agencies, and manufacturers of electrical and electronic equipment, industrial machinery, and professional and scientific instruments. Communications and utilities firms, manufacturers of aircraft and guided missiles, and computer and data processing services firms accounted for most of the remaining jobs.

California, Texas, New York, and New Jersey—states with many large electronics firms—employ over one-third of all electrical and electronics engineers.

Job Outlook [About this section]  Index

Electrical and electronics engineering graduates should have favorable job opportunities. The number of job openings resulting from employment growth and the need to replace electrical engineers who transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force is expected to be in rough balance with the supply of graduates. Employment of electrical and electronics engineers is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2008.

Projected job growth stems largely from increased demand for electrical and electronic goods, including computers and communications equipment. The need for electronics manufacturers to invest heavily in research and development to remain competitive and have a scientific edge will provide openings for graduates who have learned the latest technologies. Opportunities for electronics engineers in defense-related firms should improve as aircraft and weapons systems are upgraded with improved navigation, control, guidance, and targeting systems. However, job growth is expected to be fastest in services industries—particularly consulting firms that provide electronic engineering expertise.

Continuing education is important for electrical and electronics engineers. Engineers who fail to keep up with the rapid changes in technology risk technological obsolescence, which makes them more susceptible to layoffs or, at a minimum, more likely to be passed over for advancement.

Earnings [About this section]  Index

Median annual earnings of electrical and electronics engineers were $62,660 in 1998. The middle 50 percent earned between $47,080 and $80,160. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $38,470 and the highest 10 percent earned more than $91,490. Median annual earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of electrical and electronics engineers in 1997 were:

Federal government $68,000
Computer and office equipment 67,100
Electronic components and accessories 59,900
Communications equipment 59,400
Engineering and architectural services 58,900

According to a 1999 salary survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, bachelor’s degree candidates in electrical and electronics engineering received starting offers averaging about $45,200 a year; master’s degree candidates, $57,200; and Ph.D. candidates, $70,800.

(See introduction to the section on engineers for information on working conditions, training requirements, and sources of additional information.)

O*NET Codes: 22126A and 22126B About the O*NET codes

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