“Electrical engineers design, develop, test and supervise the manufacturing of electrical equipment, such as electric motors, radar and navigation systems, communications systems and power generation equipment, states the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Electronics engineers design and develop electronic equipment, such as broadcast and communications systems — from portable music players to global positioning systems (GPS).”
If it’s a practical, real-world device that produces, conducts or uses electricity, in all likelihood, it was designed by an electrical engineer. Additionally, engineers may conduct or write the specifications for destructive or nondestructive testing of the performance, reliability and long-term durability of devices and components.
Today’s electrical engineers design electrical devices and systems using basic components such as conductors, coils, magnets, batteries, switches, resistors, capacitors, inductors, diodes and transistors. Nearly all electrical and electronic devices, from the generators at an electric power plant to the microprocessors in your phone, use these few basic components.
Critical skills needed in electrical engineering include an in-depth understanding of electrical and electronic theory, mathematics and materials. This knowledge allows engineers to design circuits to perform specific functions and meet requirements for safety, reliability and energy efficiency, and to predict how they will behave, before a hardware design is implemented. Sometimes, though, circuits are constructed on “breadboards,” or prototype circuit boards made on computer numeric controlled (CNC) machines for testing before they are put into production.
Electrical engineers are increasingly relying on computer-aided design (CAD) systems to create schematics and lay out circuits. They also use computers to simulate how electrical devices and systems will function. Computer simulations can be used to model a national power grid or a microprocessor; therefore, proficiency with computers is essential for electrical engineers. In addition to speeding up the process of drafting schematics, printed circuit board (PCB) layouts and blueprints for electrical and electronic devices, CAD systems allow for quick and easy modifications of designs and rapid prototyping using CNC machines.