Electrical engineer

As an electronic or electrical engineer, you'll be involved with designing, developing and maintaining electrical control systems, machinery and equipment.

You could work in a very wide range of sectors, including transport networks, power generation, transmission and distribution, manufacturing, building services, telecommunications as well as scientific and military research.

So, what will I actually be doing?

Your exact duties will depend on your industry, but are likely to involve:

  • Carrying out feasibility studies for new technical innovations
  • Drawing up plans using computer-assisted engineering and design software
  • Estimating material, construction, and labour costs, and project timescales
  • Coordinating technicians and craftspeople
  • Testing installations and systems, and analysing data
  • Making sure projects meet electrical and construction safety regulations
  • Overseeing inspection and maintenance programmes
  • Attending meetings, writing reports and giving presentations to managers and clients.

You'll normally work on a project with a team of other professionals, which could include civil engineers, architects, engineering technicians and IT staff.

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The finer details... 

You'll normally work around 40 hours a week, with occasional overtime to meet deadlines.

As an incorporated engineer, you'll specialise in the day-to-day management of engineering operations. At chartered level, you will have a more strategic role, planning, researching and developing new ideas.

With relevant skills and experience, you could specialise in project management, research and development or consultancy work.

Money, money, money

Figures are intended as guideline only.

  • Newly qualified engineers can earn between £18,000 and £24,500 a year.
  • Experienced incorporated engineers earn between £28,000 and £37,000 a year.
  • Average income for electronics engineers is £37,500.
  • Senior and chartered engineers can earn between £40,000 and £52,000 a year.

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The good points...

You could find job opportunities with a wide range of employers, including local authorities, the armed forces, manufacturers in all industries, research and development companies, IT companies and public utilities.

If you're an electronics engineer, your options will also include the aerospace, telecommunications and defence industries, as well as scientific, medical and educational institutions.

As a qualified engineer, you could find job opportunities overseas so it’s time to pack your suitcase. Many countries recognise each other's engineering qualifications, including Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, United States and Canada.

...and the bad

No time for day-dreaming, a lot of your job is made up of complex problems that you have to find solutions to. Good luck with that one…

Is there study involved?

You would normally need to complete a foundation degree, BTEC HNC, HND or degree in electrical or electronic engineering, or engineering technology.

Other subjects you would need include:

  • Building services engineering
  • Mechanical engineering
  • Physics and applied physics
  • Aeronautical engineering mechatronics
  • Software engineering
  • Nanotechnology
  • Maths
  • Computer science

See the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) website for details of colleges and universities offering these courses.

For information about electrical engineering as a career, see the websites for the IET, SEMTA and Women into Science, Engineering and Construction.

For specific details about building services engineering, visit the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers' (CIBSE) website.

For information on software engineering, AI and nanotechnology, see the British Computer Society and the Institute of Nanotechnology.

You'll continue to develop your skills and knowledge through on-the-job training with your company. If you have a degree, you may be able to join a company's Graduate Apprenticeship scheme.

You could also help your career development by working towards incorporated or chartered status. To do this, you should register with your professional industry body and apply to the Engineering Council.

OK, I'm interested... But is it really the job for me?

To be a successful electrical or electronic engineer you'll need:

  • Excellent maths, science, technology and IT skills
  • The ability to analyse complex problems and assess possible solutions
  • The ability to explain design ideas clearly
  • Strong decision-making skills
  • Excellent communication skills
  • The ability to prioritise and plan effectively
  • Good budgetary skills
  • Excellent teamworking and people skills
  • A comprehensive understanding of electrical health and safety regulations


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