Guide to getting a bachelor in electrical engineering
As you’ve undoubtedly noticed, electronic devices play a massive role in just about every aspect of modern existence. Electrical engineers are involved in designing, developing, and testing those electronic and electrical devices.
Product development isn’t the only career path with a degree in electrical engineering. Some other possibilities include:
- designing and maintaining electrical grids for power companies
- assisting with the design and construction of dams, bridges, and other civil engineering projects
- helping customers integrate new machines such as custom automation robots into their factory
Discover the best electrical engineering schools to develop your knowledge and skills.
Francis Ronalds, who created the first working electric telegraph system in 1816, is credited as being the world’s first electrical engineer.
What can you do with a bachelor’s in electrical engineering?
New graduates who have earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering can qualify for entry-level electrical engineering positions such as engineer, graduate controls engineer, and graduate electrical design engineer positions. With experience, electrical engineers can qualify for higher-level positions such as team leader and senior engineer.
Should you get a bachelor in electrical engineering?
A degree in electrical engineering is well-suited for those with strong mathematic, analytic, and problem-solving skills as well as those who enjoy working with electronic and electrical systems.
When deciding whether a career as an electrical engineer is the right choice for you from a financial standpoint, it can help to compare the average earnings of electrical engineers to the average earnings of all other bachelor’s degree holders. The chart below is a short-term earnings comparison between the entire bachelor’s degree market and the bachelor in electrical engineering, 3 years after graduation.
Bachelor of electrical engineering
The above table provides a snapshot of earnings 3 years after graduation. We compare the earnings of all bachelor degree recipients to those who graduated from this specific program.
Graduates with a bachelor in electrical engineering earn substantially more on average during the early phases of their career than the average of all other bachelor’s degree holders. It is also worth noting that 97% of those with a bachelor in electrical engineering are employed within 2 years following graduation.
Below is a long-term picture of how the earnings of electrical engineers stack up against all other degree holders across the lifespan.
How to pick a bachelor in electrical engineering
The program you choose for your bachelor in electrical engineering can have a major impact on both your educational experience and your future career outlook. To start, it is essential to choose an ABET-accredited program. To earn this accreditation, engineering programs must meet a range of national academic standards. Enrolling in a program that has received ABET accreditation is important for receiving federal financial aid and future licensure. It also ensures you receive an education that best prepares you for your career.
Four other important considerations when choosing an electrical engineering program include:
- internships and co-op programs that the school offers
- cost of tuition
- school’s location
- courses and concentrations that the school offers
» Read: On-campus vs off-campus housing
Electrical engineering concentrations
Common electrical engineering concentrations include:
- Communications and signal processing
Communications and signal processing is focused on the efficient processing and transmission of data, including sound, images, and sensor output signals.
- Digital systems
One part electrical engineering, one part computer science, a concentration in digital systems prepares you to design, develop, and test new computers and computer-based systems.
- Electronics (circuits and devices)
One of the broader electrical engineering concentrations, a concentration in electronics prepares engineers to design, develop, and test a wide range of electronic devices.
- Photonics and quantum technology
Quantum technology enables computer scientist to encode information into photons, potentially leading to future supercomputers that are exponentially more powerful than the computers of today. If you would like to be on the cutting edge of this exciting new field, a concentration in photonics and quantum technology is a great option to consider.
- Semiconductors and nanotechnology
Choosing a concentration in semiconductors and nanotechnology prepares you for a career designing and developing the semiconductors and nanotransistors that power modern devices.
A concentration in energy can lead to careers such as designing electrical grids and more efficient alternative energy solutions.
A concentration in robotics prepares electrical engineers to design and develop the electronic systems that power a wide range of commercial robotic devices.
- Data science
Choosing a concentration in data science can be fundamental in a career as a data science engineer that focuses on analyzing data for practical engineering applications.
The best bachelor of electrical engineering programs
Find below our ratings of the comparative earnings, costs, and payback rates of different bachelor in electrical engineering programs.
How much does a bachelor in electrical engineering cost?
It is worth noting that public electrical engineering degree programs are much more affordable than private programs while still offering comparable earnings. This leads to shorter payback period for those who earn their degree from a public university.
See above how cost and earnings vary depending on the type of institution. Payback refers to how many years it takes students to cover the median costs while earning the median salary. Payback is calculated by subtracting the median earnings of a high school graduate from the median earnings related to this degree.
Financial aid and scholarships for electrical engineering degrees
Financial aid in the form of loans, grants, work-study, or scholarships, can go a long way toward reducing the burden of paying for an electrical engineering degree. As with any other degree program, the first step to acquiring financial aid is to fill out the FAFSA form available on the Federal Student Aid website. From there, be sure to schedule an appointment at your school’s financial aid office to see what other types of aid you might be eligible for.
» Read: Tips for budgeting as a student
What to expect from an electrical engineering program
Those who enroll in an electrical engineering program can expect to spend large amounts of time performing calculations and learning the principles of circuitry, physics, and mathematics as well as a significant lab hours putting those principles into practice. Common core coursework for electrical engineering majors includes calculus, physics, circuits, electromagnetic theory, signals and systems, and thermodynamics.
What are the admission requirements for a bachelor in electrical engineering?
The admissions requirements for electrical engineering programs differ from school to school. A common requirement is a high school GPA of 3.0 or higher in addition to having achieved at least the minimum score set by the school of your choice on the SAT and/or ACT exams.
How long does it take to get a degree in electrical engineering?
It generally takes 4 years to earn a bachelor in electrical engineering.
Electrical engineering majors are not required to complete internships to earn their degree. Nevertheless, completing internships is an excellent way to build experience. Engineering internships are often completed during the junior and senior years of college. By interning at local engineering firms during the summer, students can gain professional experience and industry contacts that can help them find employment post-graduation.
Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam
When you are close to graduating, it is highly recommended that you begin to prepare and study for the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam. Passing this exam is the first step in the process of becoming a professional licensed engineer.
The FE exam is offered in a variety of versions geared toward various engineering disciplines, such as the FE Electrical exam for electrical engineers and the FE Mechanical exam for mechanical engineers. While students are given the option to choose the version that they wish to take, it is recommended that you choose the version that matches your engineering degree’s discipline.
Upon passing the FE and completing 4 years of engineering work experience, you are eligible to take the PE Exam to become a certified professional engineer. While passing the FE and PE are not mandatory for working as an electrical engineer, it is strongly recommended that you complete both. Many organizations do not consider candidates who have not at least passed the FE exam.
Becoming a professional engineer (PE)
Upon passing the FE exam, electrical engineering graduates are designated as either engineers in training or engineer interns. After 4 years of work experience, electrical engineering graduates are able to take the PE Exam and receive their certification as a professional engineer.
What type of courses are there in a bachelor of electrical engineering?
Electrical engineering students typically take core courses in mathematics, engineering analysis and computer proficiency, basic sciences, design and communications. More specialized courses may include:
Courses in electromagnetics and photonics cover the concepts of electromagnetic waves in electrical engineering and include coursework in topics such as electrostatics and magnetostatics, fiber optics and photonics, Maxwell’s equations for time-varying fields, and plane-wave propagation.
Electrical engineers interested in designing biomedical devices such as artificial organs and mechanical prosthetics can attend biomedical systems courses to learn more about designing biomedical devices and how technology can merge with human anatomy.
Digital signal processing is a branch of engineering that has given rise to CDs, mobile phones, and an untold number of other devices that now define our modern world. Coursework in digital signal processing prepares you for a wide range of careers working with telecommunications technology.
Solid-state engineering entails working with semiconductor electronics. Like digital signal processing, solid-state engineering is a great course for electrical engineers who want to work with computers and other telecommunication technologies.
One of the final courses electrical engineering majors take is a senior design project course. Students are tasked with designing, building, testing, and presenting a unique electronic device or other invention.
What type of electrical engineering bachelor’s degrees are available?
The most common electrical engineering degree is the Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering. Other options include the Bachelor of Science in Engineering Sciences (Electrical) and the Bachelor of Arts in Engineering Sciences (Electrical). Both of these degree paths feature broader-ranging material than a standard B.S. in electrical engineering, offering an emphasis on electrical engineering without making it the primary focus of the program.
Careers with a bachelor in electrical engineering
Engineering jobs aimed specifically at recent graduates are often advertised with the word ‘graduate’ before the job title – for example, ‘graduate chemical engineer’. Engineering career paths follow a progression of levels, starting with level 1 and continuing up to levels 5/6, or up to level 10 for software engineers. Your choice of electrical engineering career will depend on your interests and skills.
Electrical engineers seeking to advance their education and pursue research and development or leadership roles may pursue a master’s in electrical engineering.
Frequently asked questions
Can electrical engineers be computer or software engineers?
Yes, with the right academic and field experience, electrical engineering graduates can pursue careers in computer and software engineering. However, if you are specifically interested in working with computers or software, you may want to consider electrical engineering concentrations that focus on these subjects or consider choosing a degree program such as computer engineering or computer science.
What’s the difference between an electrician and an electrical engineer?
Electricians are tasked with responsibilities such as performing electrical repairs and installing wiring in new homes and commercial buildings while electrical engineers design and develop new electronic devices and systems. Working as an electrician requires only vocational training and professional certification rather than a 4-year degree.
Can electrical engineers become programmers?
It is certainly possible for electrical engineers to pursue careers in programming and computer science provided they have the right experience and qualifications.
Do electrical engineers do a lot of coding?
Coding is a requirement for some, but not all, electrical engineering careers.
How difficult is an electrical engineering degree?
Engineering as a whole is widely considered to be one of the more difficult degree paths. With that said, difficulty is a subjective measurement. Those who are especially skilled at mathematics, for example, are likely to find the calculations and analysis of electrical engineering easier than a major that requires more memorization, such as nursing.
The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES)
The NCEES is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing professional licensure for engineers and surveyors. They administer both the FE and PE examinations for engineers.
IEEE (Institution of Electrical and Electronics Engineers)
The IEEE is the world’s largest professional membership organization for electrical and electronics engineers. In addition to membership, the IEEE offers educational events, publications, standards, and community-building and networking opportunities.