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Electronic engineering: industry sector overview

Electronic engineering: industry sector overview

The electronics industry offers graduate engineers the chance to specialise in a number of areas, including consumer goods, medical technology, military equipment and products for the automotive and communications industries.

Electronics are ubiquitous in the modern world so the industry encompasses many areas of expertise, including consumer goods, automotive, medical, military and communications equipment. At one end are the very high-volume consumer products such as smartphones, and at the other end are products such as medical scanners – a company might only produce 100 units of these a year because they are so expensive. Automotive electronics are produced in moderate volume so fall somewhere in the middle. The major players range from Samsung and Apple in consumer electronics to EADS and BAE Systems in defence electronics.

Trends and developments in the electronics industry

The shift towards smartphones and tablets as the standard computing devices is a current focus. The big thing for the future is the development of ‘wearable’ devices such as Google Glass, which feeds you information as and when you need it in a non-intrusive way. It’s a real piece of science-fiction come to life.

What it’s like working in electronics

Most roles in the electronics sector require some flexibility in terms of travel because of the international nature of the industry. However, the precise type of work depends on which area you go into. Safety is at the forefront of both medical and defence electronics, which have long product development cycles, involving lots of research. In contrast, consumer electronics is very fast-paced and highly competitive because companies need to release new products about every six months. As a result, individuals in this sector tend to work in large teams to make rapid progress.

Getting a graduate job in electronic engineering

The most conventional route into the industry is to get onto a graduate scheme with an MEng in electronic engineering, but it is by no means the only option; graduates from many engineering disciplines are welcomed.

There are generally lots of opportunities to progress – you might be promoted into a management role or become a technical consultant within your company. There’s also a vibrant marketplace for independent electronics contractors and consultants. If you choose this path you need to be flexible with your lifestyle because the contract work could be anywhere, and generally lasts for three to ten months at a time. Another possibility is to progress into a technical marketing role, combining customer service skills with your existing base of engineering know-how.

The highlights of a career in electronics

  • Working in a very diverse industry.
  • Exploring creative ways of solving difficult technical problems.
  • Electronics are so important in society that you have opportunities to influence people’s daily lives.

The electronics industry seeks graduates in...

  • Aerospace/aeronautical
  • Automotive
  • Chemical
  • Control
  • Electrical
  • Electronics
  • Instruments
  • Manufacturing
  • Materials
  • Mathematics
  • Mechanical
  • Physics
  • Power systems
  • Software
  • Telecoms

Thanks to Michael Page for his help with this article. Michael is a principal systems architect. He has an MEng in electrical and electronics engineering from Loughborough University.