Have you ever noticed just how much we rely on electricity to help us manage our everyday lives? The wall-to-wall array of LCD TVs, laptop computers, smartphones, digital cameras, and other consumer gadgets on today's big-box store shelves makes it pretty clear that electronic devices are an important part of the ways we work and play.
Electronics run everything behind the scenes, too -- in power plants, on military bases, throughout the broadband grid, and under the hood of just about every motor vehicle and home appliance, to name just a few instances -- and electronics engineers are hard at work to ensure that those hidden systems stay on the cutting edge of technology and work as efficiently as possible.
Effective engineering requires a thorough education in the principles that make such technology possible, and campus-based or online degrees in electronics engineering are the most direct route to the necessary skills and understanding. If you're thinking about becoming a certified gadget wizard yourself, here's a quick primer on electronics engineering degrees and the jobs they can lead to.
What to Know About Online Degrees in Electronics Engineering
At many institutions, students interested in pursuing electronics engineering degrees can get started as early as their first year of coursework. Most degree plans in the subject contain introductory classes in circuitry and electronic components that are suitable for incoming freshmen, and serve as prerequisites for upper division courses that occur in the later years of your degree plan.
Here are a few of the areas that you can expect to study in an electronics engineering degree program:
- Electric circuits
- Semiconductor components
- Electromagnetic fields and waves
- Programmable logic controllers
- Signal processing
- Digital design
- Computer programming
- Project management
Most associate degrees in electronics engineering are designed to qualify students for electrical engineering technician jobs, which tend to have a more basic set of responsibilities but still allow you to use your skills in a professional setting. These degree plans typically consist of around two years of full-time study, and may come with the option to take some or all of your courses online.
Going on to earn a bachelor's degree in electronics engineering can open up a new tier of occupations, most notably those that allow you to begin your full-fledged electronics engineering career at the entry level. Full-time bachelor's degrees take around four years to complete, although finishing an associate degree program first can often cut that time in half.
Job Outlook for Electronics Engineering Graduates
The U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics projects job growth of three percent among architecture and engineering occupations between 2014 and 2024. Despite a slightly slower employment increase than some other fields may be facing, occupations in this category are expected to add more than 67,000 new jobs to the workforce during this projection period.
The BLS also publishes employment and salary data on individual careers in engineering, and the range of numbers can be pretty wide. Here's a table that shows a few careers in which the skills of electronics engineering degree graduates can be useful, along with the associated BLS numbers:
|Occupation Title||National Mean Annual Salary
|Projected Job Growth
|Total U.S. Employment
|Engineering manager||$138,720||2 percent||182,100||Bachelor's degree|
|Computer hardware engineer||$110,650||3 percent||77,700||Bachelor's degree|
|Electronics engineer||$99,660||-1 percent||135,500||Bachelor's degree|
|Electronics engineering technician||$60,330||-2 percent||139,400||Bachelor's degree|
Each state also reports its own employment figures and salary averages for electronics engineers, and the differences are pretty large in some places. Washington, D.C., for example, reported the highest mean annual wage in the country for electronics engineers in 2014, but only 670 people in the area were employed in the industry. Here are a few other regions that put up numbers near the top in either average salary of electronics engineers or total jobs in the field:
|State||Mean Annual Salary
Choosing the Right School
Once you're sure that a campus-based or online electronics engineering degree is for you, the next important step is choosing the right school. When it comes to the value of your degree in academia and the workforce, there's one word that stands above the rest: accreditation.
In case you haven't heard the term, accreditation is a certification of the credibility of a school, department, or degree. Most agencies that determine institutional accreditation are regional or program-specific bodies recognized by the U.S. Council for Higher Education Accreditation, although some may be faith-based or focus on vocational training programs.
Your chosen school should make its accreditation status plainly accessible on their website, and a quick call to a registrar should be able to clear things up if you can't find the information online. Electronics engineering degrees can lead to a range of great careers, but it's important to make sure the degree you're working toward will give you the education you need to find success after graduation.
- Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed March 27, 2016: Architecture and Engineering Occupations, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Architecture-and-Engineering/home.htm; Electrical and Electronics Engineers, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/electrical-and-electronics-engineers.htm; Electrical and Electronics Engineering Technicians, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/electrical-and-electronics-engineering-technicians.htm; Computer Hardware Engineers, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/computer-hardware-engineers.htm; Architectural and Engineering Managers, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/architectural-and-engineering-managers.htm;
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed March 27, 2015: May 2014 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm; Electronics Engineers, Except Computer, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes172072.htm;
- Council for Higher Education Accreditation, http://www.chea.org/