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Electrical Engineer Career - Schools, Salary & Outlook

Electrical engineers design, develop, and test all kinds of equipment, from lights and wiring to radar and GPS technology. These engineers work with communications and broadcasting equipment, automobiles and airplanes, power generation, computers, and more. Like other engineering positions, electrical engineers are well-paid and can find plenty of job openings as this field enjoys continued growth in the next several years.

What Is an Electrical Engineer?

Electrical engineers work with all kinds of electrical machinery, including systems that involve power generation and transmission, electronics, signals, controls, and telecommunications. The field of electrical engineering relies on depth of knowledge in electronics and electrical systems and is made up of professionals who design, build, test, troubleshoot, and supervise these kinds of systems.

An electrical engineer may work in industry, the military, medicine and research, or in applications with a commercial focus. Engineers with experience are given increasing amounts of responsibility for projects and systems, with the highest clout and pay given to those with seniority and a track record for innovative and efficient work. Electrical engineers must have strong computer proficiency, problem-solving skills, and the ability to think in a systemic, yet creative, way.

Electrical Engineer Salary: 2009 and 2010 Figures

Salaries in this career vary widely depending on training, specialization, and experience. Entry-level electrical engineers are compensated on a much lower pay scale than specialists and supervisors. Salary.com reports the electrical engineer salary for 2009 on the following pay grades:

  • Electrical engineer II, median annual salary $72,906
  • Electrical engineer III, $85,946
  • Electrical engineer IV, $100,410

The bottom ten percent of entry-level electrical engineers earned less than $59,852, while top earners could make more than $117,487. It's possible to achieve these kinds of positions through continuing education, additional university degrees, or through electrical engineer training online from certain colleges and universities.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov, 2010), the median hourly wage for electrical engineers is $39.96, with a median annual income of $83,110 across all electrical engineering careers. In 2009, 151,660 people worked as electrical engineers in the U.S., and that number is expected to rise by roughly 11 percent through the year 2018.

The top-paying states for electrical engineering careers are Massachusetts, Alaska, California, District of Columbia, and Maine, where electrical engineers earned mean annual wages of between $94,310 and $100,740. For those seeking a job in this field in the next few years, among the top hiring U.S. cities are Binghamton, New York; Palm Bay, Florida; Framingham, Massachusetts; and Hunstville, Alaska.

Electrical Engineer Education and Training

Electrical engineers generally hold at least a four- or a five-year bachelor's degree, though many pursue additional graduate degrees or specialized certifications. Two- to four-year graduate programs in engineering technology are common for those interested in learning practical skills and hands-on applications, as well as theoretical principles.

Electrical engineering training online or through in-class study can be found in a number of different degree programs, though all are more or less equivalent in terms of quality and scope of teaching:

  • Bachelor of science
  • Bachelor of applied science
  • Bachelor of engineering
  • Bachelor of technology

Electrical engineers who wish to find jobs in the highest-paying sectors typically need much more than a bachelor's degree, and can expect to spend six to ten years rising through a variety of lower-level positions before being hired as a senior engineer, supervisor, or specialist.