Electrical engineers are the driving force behind many vital sectors like information, energy, and power. Because they stand at the forefront of practical technology, it’s become more appealing than ever to learn electrical engineering.
To break into an electrical engineering career, you will need to have a strong foundation in sciences and math. Only then can you move on to expand your technical and practical knowledge.
To help you reach that level faster, we created this guide. First, we’ll give you an overview of the field, walking you through what it means to be an electrical engineer. Then, we’ll discuss what you’ll need to get started on your journey of becoming one, from the courses to other resources at your disposal.
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What Is Electrical Engineering?
Electrical engineering is a diverse field of study that deals with the design of all types of electrical devices and systems. These range from simple handheld electronics to complex communication systems, microelectronics, electric power plants, and electrical grids.
Due to the scope of the field, electrical engineers are in high demand across industries. Many electrical engineers work in the rapidly developing fields of electrophysics, data science, AI, machine learning, robotics, and blockchain. Put another way, learning about electrical engineering puts you in an employable position across a wide range of industries.
What Fields Do Electrical Engineers Work In?
Below are several of the fields in which professional electrical engineers may find work.
- Software engineering. It’s actually not uncommon to hear of electrical engineers who become software engineers. That’s because electrical engineers design and develop software at one point in their learning journey. This makes it easy for them to later make a career in IT.
- Communications. Electrical engineers are essential to the improvement of the communication systems that we use daily. Electrical engineers are generally responsible for designing transmission infrastructure for information networks and even satellites.
- Power engineering. Power engineering involves designing high-voltage infrastructure. This may usually be for utilities and other power-generating facilities, including those that utilize renewable energy.
- Electronics engineering. This subset of electrical engineering entails creating circuitry for electronic digital devices.
- Big data analytics. Electrical engineering and machine learning or big data both share some core topics. There’s signal processing, wireless communications, not to mention the math.
- Robotics engineering. An electrical engineer can use their skills to develop hardware and software for use in virtual and physical bots.
Learn Electrical Engineering
You don’t have to go to an elite engineering school to land a great job in engineering. Simply supplement your formal education path with online training. If you’re highly motivated, it’s possible to get a better grasp of electrical engineering by attending courses online.
How Long Does It Take to Learn Electrical Engineering?
It can take at least four years to learn electrical engineering. You must complete an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering, electronics engineering, or a related engineering field from an accredited university.
After graduating, you can apply to work for a two-year position as an electrical engineer-in-training at an engineering company. Once gaining the necessary experience, you can apply for a Professional Engineering license to advance your career.
How to Learn Electrical Engineering: Step-by-Step
- Hone your math and science skills. Training for a role in electrical engineering begins with studying mathematics and science in high school. Algebra and geometry will prepare you to understand calculus, which is essential to engineering. You should also study chemistry and physics, as all forms of engineering involve applied physics. Once you have obtained your high school diploma, you can apply to university.
- Choose a college program. Once you have been accepted into an electrical engineering program, you can explore your specific areas of interest within the degree. Then, you can apply for summer internship opportunities that you think might fit into your future career.
- Supplement your learning. Stand out among your peers by strengthening your knowledge of the field. Explore tons of electrical engineering courses online and bulk up on certificates. Read books written by industry experts to gain more insight into the field. Continuous learning is always a good first step to thrive in your field and increase your earning potential.
- Get work experience. During your final year of study, look into securing an engineer-in-training role. This will help you immediately start gaining work experience upon graduation.
- Gain certification. Once you have finished your training period, you can study for the Professional Practice Examination (PPE). This will test your knowledge of engineering practices and standards. The requirements for this accreditation vary by state.
The Best Electrical Engineering Courses and Training
When choosing an electrical engineering program or training course, make sure it is in line with your personal aspirations. Location, class structure, and affordability are also key determining factors.
In-Person Electrical Engineering Programs
In-person electrical engineering programs are a great option because they give you access to state-of-the-art labs, classrooms, and specialized research facilities. They also allow you to directly connect with your educators and peers. Below, we have listed the top electrical engineering programs in the US.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Program: Course 6-1: Electrical Science and Engineering
- Duration: Refer to MIT’s departmental website.
- Prerequisites: You must have completed the General Institute Requirements, the Communication Requirement, and the departmental requirements.
- Cost: Refer to MIT’s departmental website.
This program is offered by MIT, which is ranked as the top university in the country for aspiring electrical engineers. It’s also received accreditation from the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET thus ensuring that the program is up to par with industry standards.
The course explores circuits and electronics, signal processing, and computation structures. You also have the option to select three of six specialization classes, including:
- Signals, Systems, and Interference
- Nanoelectronics and Computing Systems
- Electromagnetic Waves and Applications
- Electromagnetic Fields, Forces, and Motion
- Cellular Neurophysiology and Computing
- Introduction to Machine Learning
University of California – Berkeley
- Program: Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences (EECS) Bachelor of Science
- Duration: Four years
- Prerequisites: Refer to the school’s Application for Admission page.
- Cost: Refer to the school’s Application for Admission page.
As the name implies, this program offers a combined instruction of computer science and electrical engineering fundamentals. This allows graduates of the program to pursue careers in both fields. UC-Berkeley offers a menu of options for aspiring electrical engineers.
- Five-year Bachelor/Master program. Students have the option to begin their graduate study during their undergraduate years thus accelerating the time to earn both degrees.
- EECS Minor Program. Non-EECS majors may pursue a minor in electrical engineering and computer science.
- Joint Majors. Students can opt to combine their electrical engineering and computer science studies with one of two other engineering programs. One is the materials science and engineering program and the other is the nuclear engineering program.
The University of Texas at Austin
- Program: Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering
- Duration: Four years
- Prerequisites: Students must have a laptop. Refer to the Undergraduate Admissions web page.
- Cost: Refer to the school’s Undergraduate Admissions web page.
Over the course of the program, students will undergo a two-year basic training in electrical and computer engineering. After this, they go on to choose two specialization areas. Students must also complete 14 hours of Free Electives coursework with three hours delegated to either advanced math or basic science course.
Online Electrical Engineering Courses
Many accredited schools offer online electrical engineering courses. Some can be applied as part of a broader electrical engineering degree program. Others are available to beginners who are interested in getting to know more about electrical engineering. Below are some of the best online course offerings.
- Testing, Commissioning, and Maintenance of Electrical Systems
- Electrical Engineering Fundamentals for Non-Electrical Engineers
- Fundamentals of Electrical Distribution Systems
- Machine Learning for Power Engineers
- Essential Concepts of Automation and Control Systems
- Duration: 3 to 35 hours
- Prerequisites: Varies
- Cost: Varies
Epic Training offers dozens of electrical engineering courses, that cover a wide variety of topics. The technical training courses explore system design and maintenance, power generation and distribution, alternative energy, and more. The courses cost anywhere from $200 to $2,000, depending on the length of the course.
- Course: Crash Course Electronics and PCB Design
- Duration: 105 hours of on-demand video
- Prerequisites: You need to be knowledgeable in high school math. You must have access to breadboards, power supplies, and a computer that can run CAD and design tools.
- Cost: $99.99 (subject to change)
This course is intended for electrical engineering students who want to get familiar with the subject before heading off to university. It contains more than 100 hours of video lectures that cover a wide spectrum of electronics.
You will learn how to create printed circuit boards from scratch, along with analyzing circuits, AC and DC currents, and RC and RL circuits. By the end of the course, you’ll have a solid base of knowledge in electrical engineering.
- Course: Master of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering
- Length: 1 to 4 years
- Prerequisites: Undergraduate degree in electrical engineering
- Price: $22,500 (financial aid available)
This EdX course offered in partnership with Purdue University covers electrical and computer engineering in depth. In the fully-online program, you can choose among seven courses, including microelectronics and nanotechnology, power and energy systems, computer engineering, and automatic control.
Free Electrical Engineering Courses
Below are some free online electrical engineering courses you might want to check out if paying out of pocket isn’t an option for you.
- Course: Circuits and Electronics 1: Basic Circuit Analysis
- Duration: 5 weeks
- Prerequisites: You must have a background in high school algebra, physics, and basic calculus.
- Cost: Free (Pay $169 for a verified certificate of completion)
This is a self-paced introductory course taught by EdX CEO and MIT Professor Anant Agarwal, among others. You’ll learn different methods used to design and analyze circuits. Pair that with weekly coursework, including online labs and optional tutorials.
- Course: Introduction to Haptics
- Duration: 5 weeks
- Prerequisites: While not necessary, you will need to acquire a Hapkit to be able to do most of the online labs.
- Cost: Free (Pay $129 for a verified certificate of completion)
Offered by EdX, this course teaches you how to build, program, and control haptic devices that allows user to interact with a virtual environment. The course equips you with a combination of robotics engineering, electrical engineering, computer science, and bioengineering skills.
Electrical Engineering Books
The following electrical engineering books provide a deeper dive into the field and will take you beyond the standard “Electrical Engineering 101.”
Practical Electronics for Inventors Fourth Edition, Paul Scherz and Simon Monk
Written by a pair of experienced engineers, Practical Electronics for Inventors lays out the essentials of electrical engineering through step-by-step instructions, schematics, and illustrations. In this book, you will discover how to design and build circuits, use microcontrollers, and get up to date on the latest software tools.
Fundamentals of Electrical Engineering I, Don Johnson
This technical textbook details the creation, manipulation, transmission, and reception of information by electronic means. Chapters cover signals and systems, signal processing, frequency domain, and information communication.
Electrical Engineering: Principles and Applications, Allan Hambley
This top-recommended electrical engineering book helps students learn the fundamentals of the field through thorough explanations. The goal is to present concepts in a generalized way to show how the principles of electrical engineering apply to their field of study.
Electrical Engineering Certifications
Upon earning a degree in electrical engineering, you can get certified by your state’s licensing board by taking the Fundamentals of Engineering exam. Look through the several test levels offered by the National Society of Professional Engineers.
They include Engineering Intern, Engineer-In-Training, and Professional Engineer exams. After you have completed these exams, you can apply for an engineering license in your state.
Online Electrical Engineering Resources
Engineering societies and professional regulatory bodies are great sources of information. Below are a few electrical engineering resources that you might want to review while in college or before sitting for a certification exam.
This website offers training and development opportunities for all kinds of engineers. You can gain accreditations from the society or become a member to gain notoriety and network with other members worldwide.
This website focuses on engineering ethics and best practices. It’s a good resource if you want to keep up to date on the newest trends and standards in the industry.
Should You Study Electrical Engineering?
If you have a knack for calculus and physics or find joy in tinkering with circuits, you should consider a career in electrical engineering. Familiarize yourself with the field by taking some online courses or reading books before heading off to a university. Take your pick from the resources listed above.
Electrical Engineering FAQ
Yes, although the degree of difficulty will still depend on your strengths. Electrical engineering covers a combination of calculus, physics, and programming. Practical experience is also highly valued in the field. Because of this, electrical engineering is widely considered the most difficult engineering field.
Yes. If you want to gain a competitive edge, bulk up on practical experience through internships and related programs. You can also pursue a graduate degree later in your career. Doing so will allow you to teach at universities or partake in research and development.
In 2019, electrical engineers earned $98,530 on average, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Electrical engineers working in research and development earned the highest with an average annual salary of $113,050.
Opportunities in electrical engineering are expected to grow by 5 percent by 2029. That’s equivalent to the addition of around 9,000 jobs in the job market.
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