What is Electrical Engineering ?

Electrical engineering is one of the newer branches of engineering, and dates back to the late 19th century. It is the branch of engineering that deals with the technology of electricity. Electrical engineers work on a wide range of components, devices and systems, from tiny microchips to huge power station generators.

Early experiments with electricity included primitive batteries and static charges. However, the actual design, construction and manufacturing of useful devices and systems began with the implementation of Michael Faraday's Law of Induction, which essentially states that the voltage in a circuit is proportional to the rate of change in the magnetic field through the circuit. This law applies to the basic principles of the electric generator, the electric motor and the transformer. The advent of the modern age is marked by the introduction of electricity to homes, businesses and industry, all of which were made possible by electrical engineers. 

Some of the most prominent pioneers in electrical engineering include Thomas Edison (electric light bulb), George Westinghouse (alternating current), Nikola Tesla (induction motor), Guglielmo Marconi (radio) and Philo T. Farnsworth (television). These innovators turned ideas and concepts about electricity into practical devices and systems that ushered in the modern age. 

Since its early beginnings, the field of electrical engineering has grown and branched out into a number of specialized categories, including power generation and transmission systems, motors, batteries and control systems. Electrical engineering also includes electronics, which has itself branched into an even greater number of subcategories, such as radio frequency (RF) systems, telecommunications, remote sensing, signal processing, digital circuits, instrumentation, audio, video and optoelectronics. 

The field of electronics was born with the invention of the thermionic valve diode vacuum tube in 1904 by John Ambrose Fleming. The vacuum tube basically acts as a current amplifier by outputting a multiple of its input current. It was the foundation of all electronics, including radios, television and radar, until the mid-20th century. It was largely supplanted by the transistor, which was developed in 1947 at AT&T's Bell Laboratories by William Shockley, John Bardeen and Walter Brattain, for which they received the 1956 Nobel Prize in physics.

Electrical engineering scope

Electrical engineering has now been subdivided into a wide range of subfields including electronics, digital computers, power engineering, telecommunications, control systems, radio-frequency engineering, signal processing, instrumentation, and microelectronics. Many of these sub-disciplines overlap and also overlap with other engineering branches, spanning a huge number of specializations such as hardware engineering, power electronics, electromagnetics & waves, microwave engineering, nanotechnology, electrochemistry, renewable energies, mechatronics, electrical materials science, and many more.

The most common industries to apply are:

  • Oil and Gas Extraction:

Electrical Engineers would help develop and maintain equipment. They primarily focus on designing electrical supply systems and equipment specifications needed at planets, drilling rigs, offshore platforms, and pipeline monitoring stations.

  • Computer System Designs:

The Electrical Engineer would be designing new computer hardware and peripherals.

  • Aerospace Manufacturing Navigation:

Design aircraft electrical systems. The Electrical Engineer would do research, develop, evaluate electronic devices using aviation, including satellites, flight systems, and communications systems.

  • Semiconductor and Associated Parts Manufacturing.

Building a computer requires a number of parts many of which are very small and must be manufactured to very precise specifications. A variety of products use semiconductors including music players, global positioning systems, computers and automobiles. The job of the Electrical Engineer would be to make parts smaller while making them faster, more powerful and more dependable. 

  • Consumer electronics

Also known as home electronics, consumer electronics are electronic devices that are used in homes. Consumer electronics are some of the most commonly used forms of electronic devices. They include televisions, laptops, washing machines, refrigerators, computers and tablets. Electrical engineers play a large role in designing, improving and advancing these products. 

  • Telecommunications 

The exchange of information via electronic processes is referred to as telecommunications. Electronic engineers are needed to design and continuously improve phones, mobile devices, satellites, broadcasting equipment and other communication tools. 

  • Construction industry

You might be surprised that electrical engineers are also needed in the construction industry. The responsibilities of electrical engineers in construction sites include designing, testing, installing as well as maintaining the electrical systems in the building. 

  • Government institutions like defence, traffic control departments, transportation, etc

Electrical engineers are also needed in many government institutions such as defence, traffic control departments, transportation and many more. In fact, many of the systems we enjoy and sometimes take for granted are put in place by electrical engineers. Wherever you find electrical systems and electrical devices, an electrical engineer would have played a role in its development.


What jobs can you do with an electrical engineering degree?

Graduates with electrical engineering degrees can choose from careers in a wide range of engineering industries. Here’s what you could do in each.

Electrical engineering graduates can find jobs in most engineering sectors. These include the:


Who should study electrical engineering?

The engineering profession may not be for everyone as some people just have more natural affinity towards it. Consider the following if you’re trying to decide if electrical engineering is the career for you. 

You have a love of technology

Electrical engineers will learn how to create and build hardware for websites and applications to run on. You will be working with computers, phones as well as tablets and will need to know at least the basics of technologically advanced products. 

Even though you may not be building technologically advanced products per se, an electrical engineering course will allow you to explore the wonders of modern technology. 

You are always looking for ways to make things function better

You will definitely love studying electrical and electronic engineering if you’re constantly looking for ways to make things work efficiently. This is because fixing and improving this will be part of your job. You will get to push the boundaries of technology with creative innovations. 

You’re somehow just able to fix electronic things

Do you seem to be the one that your family and friends come to when something at home is not working? A large part of being an electronic engineer is your ability to troubleshoot and fix electrical parts. 

You want to learn and improve

You need to be able to keep yourself motivated to learn as you may well face numerous trial and errors before you become a successful electrical engineer. Having a passion to learn also means that you will keep up to date with the latest development in this fast changing, fluid field. 

You are able to work in a team

Collaborating with others in the field is inevitable. You will have to work with fellow students during your electrical engineering course. This will prepare you to work with other people such as other engineers, contractors and designers once you have graduated. 

However, do not worry if you’re not used to working in a team. Stay open, learn to build trust among your team members and build on each other’s strengths. You may well find that working as a team enables you to accomplish more in a shorter amount of time. 

You’re good at critical thinking and problem solving

As an electrical engineer, you will most likely face issues in designs, systems and programming very often. As such, you will need to be able to think and solve problems even when you feel stressed out. Creativity is an added advantage.

The future of electrical engineering

Employment of electrical and electronics engineers is projected to grow by 4 percent between now and 2022, because of these professionals' "versatility in developing and applying emerging technologies," the BLS says.

The applications for these emerging technologies include studying red electrical flashes, called sprites, which hover above some thunderstorms. Victor Pasko, an electrical engineer at Penn State, and his colleagues have developed a model for how the strange lightning evolves and disappears. 

Another electrical engineer, Andrea Alù, of the University of Texas at Austin, is studying sound waves and has developed a one-way sound machine. "I can listen to you, but you cannot detect me back; you cannot hear my presence," Alù told LiveScience in a 2014 article.

And Michel Maharbiz, an electrical engineer at the University of California, Berkeley, is exploring ways to communicate with the brain wirelessly.

The BLS states, "The rapid pace of technological innovation and development will likely drive demand for electrical and electronics engineers in research and development, an area in which engineering expertise will be needed to develop distribution systems related to new technologies."

Why study electrical engineering?

Here are some of the top reasons why you should study electrical engineering:

  1. Electrical engineers are always in demand. This means you will have good job prospects once you graduate with an electrical engineering degree. 
  2. Electrical engineers have good salaries. 
  3. Electrical engineering plays an important role in the development of new technologies for numerous industries including robotics, transportation and healthcare. 
  4. The electrical engineering field is dynamic and continues to grow and expand. 
  5. You can choose to broaden your professional scope into the many subfields or related fields. 
  6. The laws of mathematics and physics are universal. As such, you will be able to choose to work in any country you wish. There are many international companies who need electrical engineers. 
  7. An electrical engineering degree is more affordable compared to fields such as medicine. 

What Electrical Engineer Skills Do I Need to Become an Electrical Engineer?

  • Critical thinking.
  • Technological knowledge.
  • Active learning.
  • Interpersonal skills.
  • Organizational skills.
  • Complex problem-solving skills.
  • Mathematics and physics skills.
  • Innovative thinking.

Electrical Engineering Skills

The Skills Required in Electrical Engineering are:

  • Circuit Designing
  • Instrumentation Electrical Measurements
  • Power Transmission and Transmission Lines Fundamentals
  • Electrical Drives and Electrical Machinery
  • Power Electronics
  • Renewable Energy Fundamentals
  • Microcontrollers and Programming Languages
  • Presentation and Communication Skills
  • Fundamentals of Electrical Power Generation and Maintenance of Electrical Power Plants
  • Control Systems and Control Machinery
  • Quality Control Analysis

What do electrical engineers do?

Electrical Engineers work in a very wide range of industries and the skills required are likewise variable. These range from basic circuit theory to the management skills required of a project manager.

They apply the physics and mathematics of electricity, electronics, and electromagnetism to both large and small scale systems to process information and transmit energy.

To do this electrical engineers design computers, electronic devices, communication systems, test equipment, electric power networks and improve systems through problem solving techniques. The tools and equipment that an individual engineer may need are similarly variable, ranging from a simple voltmeter to a top end analyzer to sophisticated design and manufacturing software.

The job scope of electrical engineers depends on the industry they are in but could include these duties:

  • Carrying out feasibility studies for new technical developments,
  • Drawing up project plans and circuit diagrams using computer assisted-engineering and design software,
  • Estimating costs and project timings,
  • Coordinating the work of technicians and craftspeople,
  • Testing installations and systems and analyzing test data,
  • Making sure projects meet safety regulations,
  • Oversee inspection and maintenance programs,
  • Attending meetings, writing reports and giving presentations.

They usually work on projects with other professionals like Civil Engineers, Architects and Engineering Technicians.