what does an electrical engineer do?

Engineering has always been at the heart of all technological invention and advancement. But given the fact that engineering includes an extensive range of specialized fields, it is important to understand the differences between the various disciplines when trying to decide on a career.

Electrical engineering is one of the most exciting branches in the field, as it a profession that is both challenging and rewarding.

According to recent the statistics portal Statica, in 2017 there were 55,000 electrical engineers in employment in the United Kingdom.

For job seekers, it is important to have a firm idea of what tasks and responsibilities are involved with this particular engineering discipline.

Our resources can help job applicants understand what is expected of them in a variety of engineering areas, including electrical engineering.

The role of an electrical engineer.

The role of the electrical engineer is quite varied, with a focus on installation, maintenance, and safety checking of electrical control systems and related components. Most industrial sectors use electrical control systems, and larger businesses have in-house electrical engineering jobs available.

These sectors include the construction industry, the transportation industry, manufacturing industries, the telecommunications industry, and the power generation industry itself. There are also scientific and military careers available for suitably qualified electrical engineers.

Electrical engineers have been responsible for some of the most important inventions of our time. You may have heard of these famous electrical engineers: 

Nikola Tesla (electricity and electromagnetism), Thomas Edison (developer of the light bulb and inventor of the record player), Jack Kilby (inventor of the handheld calculator) and Martin Cooper (inventor of the mobile phone).

The day-to-day work of an electrical engineer.

Electrical engineers are involved in all stages of projects that would require their particular expertise, from design and implementation through to testing and maintenance.

It is likely that their day-to-day job will involve working as part of a team with professionals from other disciplines to create products, improve design and performance, or develop solutions to problems.

Frequent tasks may include – but are not limited to – identifying customer requirements and creating specifications; modelling and building prototypes; designing and carrying out tests; analyzing test data; and installing, servicing, and maintaining equipment.

On top of this, general project management tasks – including the handling of budgets and personnel – and the creation of any necessary product documentation may also be required.

The types of projects that electrical engineers work on.

The specific projects that electrical engineers may be involved in vary from industry to industry.

For example, in building and construction projects electrical engineers will typically be involved with the design, installation, and maintenance of ventilation, heating, and lighting systems.

Other projects may focus on design and planning, and some may focus on implementation and testing. There’s even a chance that an electrical engineer will be asked to be involved in maintenance and upgrades.

If research is required, the projects may include a large amount of theory as well as practical skills; for this reason, it is important for an electrical engineer to keep up a good level of knowledge of the latest developments in the industry in order to be able to move up the career ladder.

How to become an electrical engineer.

While an entry-level technician in the field of electrical engineering may only require basic certification and skills, an individual looking for a successful career in this field is very likely to need degree-level qualifications.

Initially, an HND or BTEC degree may be sufficient to gain a foothold in the industry, but for thorough professional accreditation and recognition, it is more likely that a Master’s level degree will be necessary.

Many universities and other educational institutions around the country offer undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in electrical engineering.

In fact, according to data from Elsevier’s Scopus, electrical and electronic engineering is by far the biggest area of engineering in terms of research volume.

An individual who wants to make the field into a professional career, and who has passed the necessary school or college examinations, would do well to consider such a degree course, alongside suitable practical experience working as an electrical engineer.

The consultants at Randstad can help in identifying the most suitable qualifications and employers for any specific field of interest within electrical engineering.

The salary of an electrical engineer.

The salary that comes with a role as an electrical engineer obviously depends on the level of responsibility, skills, and experience that an individual brings to a particular position.

This is another good reason for gaining the best possible electrical engineering qualifications. As a rough guideline, an entry-level electrical engineer may start at a salary of around £18,000 per year or higher, whereas top-level electrical engineers can earn in excess of £50,000 per year. 

Statistics from Payscale show that the average salary for an Electrical Engineer is £30,824 per year.

Career development for an electrical engineer.

A number of factors can play into the career path that is taken by an electrical engineer.

Expertise, education, qualifications, experience, and areas of specialist interest play a large role in determining which openings might be suitable and which companies might employ a specific candidate. Another factor is membership in professional bodies in the area of electrical engineering.

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) are two such professional organisations.

Membership in one of these organisations is likely to boost the chances of success in the career field for an individual engineer. Membership also brings further opportunities for networking and staying abreast of developments in the field.

Browse our engineering jobs

< return to previous page