Electrical engineering is about generating, transmitting and using the electricity that powers our world. It covers a wide range of careers including energy and power development and supply, automation and communications engineering, microelectronics and technical informatics.
Power generation and energy supply are about converting a wide variety of energy sources (eg oil, nuclear, wind, gas) into energy products used by consumers (predominantly electricity).
Environmental issues are the driver for change in this sector. There is a pressing need to research, develop and design alternative sources of energy that are environmentally sustainable and renewable. Energy engineers are involved in the research, design and implementation of new energy systems, such as wave energy, tidal energy and wind power.
Electrical engineers design, develop, and supervise the production of equipment, processes, systems, and subsystems that rely on electricity to work. The electrical engineer works with items like circuits, transformers, wiring, and electrical parts to meet project specifications and project deadlines.
Electrical engineers work with electricity in a variety of areas including:
- Aircraft and automobiles
- Broadcasting and communications systems
- Lighting and wiring in buildings
- Machinery controls
- Power generating and transmitting
- Radar and navigation systems.
They can be involved with the design of new products as well as testing equipment and solving problems. Electrical engineering offers a wide range of challenging career paths, including sub-disciplines such as power engineering and control engineering.
- Dealing with the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity as well as the design of a range of related devices, such as transformers, electric generators, electric motors and power electronics.
- Modelling and designing dynamic control systems used in, for example, the flight and propulsion of airplanes and the cruise control present in many modern cars.
- Designing and producing drawings of electrical systems using computer-assisted design software.
- Writing performance requirements, instructions, and reports and developing maintenance schedules.
Travel: during the working day is common though much will depend on the type of employer.
Working hours: regular office hours with occasional long days and some weekends depending on project deadlines.
Location: mainly in manufacturing towns and cities.
Opportunities for self-employment: possible.
- Construction and building services
- Electronics and electrical manufacturers
- Engineering and consultancy firms
- Local authorities
- Transport organisations
- Research and educational institutions.
A career as an engineer can lead you in many directions, and the long-term opportunities are excellent. For those with strong initiative, interpersonal, team work and project-management skills opportunities exist to move into managerial roles.
Salaries will vary depending on employer, industry sector, location and experience. An electrical engineer could expect to earn between €30,000 and €60,000 (republic of Ireland) or £20,000 and £45,000 (Northern Ireland).
Engineers who graduate from 2013 and wish to become chartered engineers will need to hold an accredited masters degree (level 9), or equivalent. Level 8 bachelor degrees will, from 2013, satisfy the requirements for Institution of Engineers of Ireland membership only.
Specific degree subjects required
- Electrical/Electronic engineering
- Communications engineering
- Telecommunications engineering.
Engineers Ireland’s CPD training programme organises, promotes, and delivers a wide variety of technical and non-technical training courses, workshops and seminars. These are available both in-company and as public courses.
Skills and qualities
- Sound mathematical and technical skills including physics.
- Ability to think methodically, to design, plan and manage projects.
- Ability to maintain an overview of entire projects while continuing to attend to detailed technicalities.
- Excellent verbal and written communication skills.
- Good team-working, negotiating, supervisory and leadership skills combined with the ability to delegate.
- Creativity and problem solving skills.
- Pragmatism and practicality to turn a concept into reality.