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Electrical engineering is the profession that applies electrical science for the benefit of society. As the use of electrical technology in all aspects of modern life grows not only more sophisticated but also more pervasive, electrical engineers will play a critical role in building and maintaining our technologically-based world.
Electrical engineers work in a wide variety of areas that encompass all practical uses of electricity. Among the important areas of study and practice in the profession are the following:
Networks—This area deals with the analysis and design of electric circuits using standard mathematical techniques and computer modeling. It forms the basis of many other areas in the profession such as electronics and electrical power.
Electronics—This area deals with the fabrication of electronic devices such as transistors, integrated circuits, and tubes and with the application of these devices in electric circuits.
Electrical Power—This area deals with the generation, distribution, and utilization of electricity to provide light, heat, motive power, and other energy needs. Along with the generators, motors, and transformers traditionally used to build electrical power systems, electronic devices and circuits are playing an increasingly important role.
Electromagnetics—This area deals with the theoretical study and practical applications of electric fields, magnetic fields, and electromagnetic waves. The use of radio and light waves for communication and the design of antennas are important specialties within the area of electromagnetics.
Communications and Information Theory—This area deals both with the design of communication hardware such as radio receivers and transmitters and with the theory that underlies the transmission of information by electrical methods.
Digital Electronics, Computers, and Information Technology—This area deals with the electronic circuits used in digital and computer hardware, with the theory and practice of computer programming, and with the theory and applications of information storage, transmission, and manipulation. This area is sometimes considered to be a separate engineering discipline, namely computer engineering. Furthermore, it overlaps with the related non-engineering discipline of computer science, which is primarily concerned with the programming and information aspects rather than the electronic aspects of digital and computer systems.
Controls—This area deals with the use of electronic and mechanical systems to control physical phenomena such as temperature, humidity, pressure, and motion. Digital electronics and computers are increasingly being used to build control systems in modern applications. A very important specialty within the area of controls is robotics, the design and application of electromechanical systems to accomplish specified physical tasks.
A student who wants to work in one of these areas should plan to obtain at least a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering or electrical engineering technology. Learn more about the difference between these degrees. Many students go on to earn master of science degrees that prepare them for a higher level of responsibility on the job; some even earn doctoral degrees that prepare them to do advanced research or to teach at the college level.
An undergraduate degree in electrical engineering or electrical engineering technology is also excellent preparation for further study in business, law, or medicine.
An electrical engineer who wishes to offer his or her services directly to the public, or whose work for an employer directly impacts public safety, must be licensed by his state as a Professional Engineer (PE). Licensure requires graduation from an accredited engineering or engineering technology program, a minimum of four years of professional practice, and passing grades on two standardized examinations. Learn more about engineering licensure. Although obtaining a PE license is a lengthy and challenging process, it provides proof that an engineer is able to practice his or her profession with integrity and technical competence.