Not surprisingly, engineering looks to be a wise career choice in this age of technology and electronics. In fact, the United States Department of Commerce's Economics and Statistics Administration projects STEM occupations (science, technology, engineering and math) to grow by 17 percent by 2018, which is huge growth compared to their non-STEM counterparts. While specific job growth for electrical engineering is expected at a lower rate of four percent as per the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the agency expects the strongest growth to be in the research and development sector. In addition, electrical engineers will also experience employment growth in closely related fields such as computer systems design.
For electrical engineering, there's no way around a college degree. The BLS lists at least a four-year degree as the minimum requirement to obtain entry-level employment in the field. In the previous millennium, universities mainly catered to full-time students and offered classes at inconvenient times for working professionals, but today's offerings are varied. They include online, in-person, and hybrid degree options for many fields of study, including electrical engineering. Choose from undergraduate, master's and even doctoral degrees to get on the path to a bright future.
Online Electrical Engineering Degree Programs
If you are interested in a career in this rapidly growing field, be sure to get at least a four-year degree under your belt. The most common degrees in this field are:
- Electrical engineering
- Electronics engineering
- Electrical engineering technology
Many universities now offer electrical engineering programs that are either entirely or partially online. The BLS reminds students to ensure that the program they chose be accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), a non-profit organization that accredits more than 3,500 educational programs in applied science, computing, engineering and engineering technology throughout the United States and around the world.
Some universities offer combined bachelor and master's degrees, which can typically be obtained in five years of full-time study. Individual graduation times will vary depending on amount of classes taken and other factors. For those students who cannot get to a physical campus because of work and family obligations, many leading universities offer online electrical engineering programs that result in undergraduate and even master's degrees. These degrees -- often offered by leading universities that have added an online component -- are relatively widely available for four-year undergraduate degrees, and some universities even offer entirely online or hybrid master's degrees in electrical engineering.
Career Outlook for Electrical Engineering Graduates
An electrical engineering degree allows graduates to advance in their careers. In terms of earnings, the national mean annual wage reported by the BLS as of May 2014, is $95,780, while the top 10% of earners made up to $143,200.
According to BLS data, the states with the highest employment rates for electrical engineers in the nation are California, Texas and New York. In terms of earnings, electrical engineers earn the most in the following states in 2014:
- California - annual mean wage of $114,730
- Alaska - annual mean wage of $111,540
- Massachusetts - annual mean wage of $103,660
The area known as Silicon Valley (San Jose/Sunnyvale/Santa Clara, CA) boasts the highest employment level for electrical engineers, followed by Boston/Cambridge/Quincy in Massachusetts and the greater Los Angeles area. The industries that employ most electrical engineers are engineering services companies, electrical power generation firms, and the semiconductor and manufacturing industry.
Choosing the Right School
There are many different universities for every taste, budget and personality. Ideally, prospective students should visit the campus they are considering an on-campus degree, take a tour, talk to current students and alumni, professors and administrators to determine if the university is a good fit. It is also a good idea to read the campus newspaper and spend time at the student union to get a feel for the school. If choosing an online program, it is important to ask the right questions.
- Are there employment opportunities upon graduation?
- Is there online interaction through sophisticated online learning platforms with professors and students?
- Do you get one-on-one time with instructors?
Many top-tier electrical engineering programs can be competitive, while others might have more accessible admission standards. Individual universities will be able to give details about their particular admissions requirements for electrical engineering degrees.
Lastly, the goal of any degree -- in addition to learning, of course -- is to land a job upon graduation. The appropriate department at the university is usually able to provide employment rates for recent graduates. Whenever possible, future students should contact recent graduates throughout the alumni association to get their take on their degrees, and they might even become good business contacts for the future. As with every profession, networking building is a key success factor for electrical engineers, and it all starts in college.
About ABET, http://www.abet.org/about-abet/
Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/electrical-and-electronics-engineers.htm#tab-6
Electrical Engineering (BSE), Arizona State University,2015, http://asuonline.asu.edu/online-degree-programs/undergraduate/bachelor-science-engineering-electrical-engineering
Electrical Engineers, Occupational Employment and Wages, Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes172071.htm#nat
STEM: Good Jobs Now and For the Future, Economics & Statistics Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, http://www.esa.doc.gov/reports/stem-good-jobs-now-and-future