COLLEGE COMPASS -- Occupational Overview

Electrical and Electronics Engineers

Nature of the Work

Electrical and electronics engineers design, develop, test, and supervise the manufacture of electrical and electronic equipment. Electrical equipment includes power generating and transmission equipment used by electric utilities, and electric motors, machinery controls, and lighting and wiring in buildings, automobiles, and aircraft. Electronic equipment includes radar, computer hardware, and communications and video equipment.

The specialties of electrical and electronics engineers include several major 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.

An electrical engineer designs the lighting system for a city traffic circle.

Employment

Electrical and electronics engineers held about 370,000 jobs in 1992, making it the largest branch of engineering. Most jobs were in firms that manufacture electrical and electronic equipment, business machines, professional and scientific equipment, and aircraft and aircraft parts. Computer and data processing services firms, engineering and business consulting firms, public utilities, and government agencies accounted for most of the remaining jobs.

Job Outlook

Employment opportunities for electrical and electronics engineers are expected to be good through the year 2005. Most job openings will result from job growth and the need to replace electrical engineers who transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force. These openings should be sufficient to absorb the number of new graduates and other entrants.

Employment in this engineering specialty is expected to increase about as fast as the average for all occupations. Job growth is expected to be fastest in industrial sectors other than manufacturing. Increased demand by businesses and government for computers and communications equipment is expected to account for much of the projected employment growth. Consumer demand for electrical and electronic goods and increased research and development on computers, robots, and other types of automation should create additional jobs.

Because many electrical engineering jobs are defense related, cutbacks in defense spending could result in layoffs of electrical engineers, especially if a defense-related project or contract is unexpectedly cancelled. Furthermore, engineers who fail to keep up with the rapid changes in technology in most specialties risk technological obsolescence, which makes them more susceptible to layoffs or, at a minimum, likely to be passed over for advancement.


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