What jobs can you do with an electrical engineering degree?
Graduates with electrical engineering degrees can choose from careers in a wide range of engineering industries. Here’s what you could do in each.
Electrical engineering graduates can find jobs in most engineering sectors. These include the:
- Aerospace industry
- Automotive industry
- Construction industry
- Defence industry
- Electronics industry
- Fast-moving consumer goods industry
- Marine industry
- Materials and metals industry
- Oil and gas industry
- Pharmaceuticals industry
- Power generation industry
- Rail industry
- Utilities industry
What precisely would my job as an electrical engineering graduate be?
The nature of your work will depend on the industry you work in. Most employers take on graduate electrical engineers with a view to developing their specialist knowledge further. In these companies you can expect to work alongside engineers from other disciplines, but your role will be to provide electrical engineering expertise. However, with some employers electrical engineering graduates will develop into more 'generalist' engineers. They may need to pick up knowledge from other areas of engineering and will perform similar jobs to graduates who studied different disciplines.
'A graduate electrical engineer in the aerospace industry would be working on cutting-edge technology, introducing or enhancing power-dense electrical machines and autonomous systems across the Rolls-Royce business sectors. Also, an increasing focus is on emerging technologies for hybrid/electric propulsion for aerospace platforms.' Eddie Orr, chief of sector for Rolls-Royce Electrical .
Electrical engineers in the automotive industy are required to work on a variety of components including engine and power units, interior and exterior lighting, air conditioning, safety systems, seating controls (movement, heating and cooling), start/stop technology, braking systems and infotainment systems. Their skills set is also important in the development of autonomous, connected and electrified (ACE) vehicles.
'Electrical engineers in the built environment sector can work on projects ranging from hospitals, offices and shopping malls to airports, universities and railway stations. They are responsible for designing various systems including electrical power, emergency power, communications, fire alarms, security, CCTV and lighting. As they mature professionally, they often take on responsibility for other technical disciplines to produce coordinated designs that meet client requirements.' David Eastland, divisional director at Mott MacDonald .
'Electrical engineers in the defence industry are involved in electrical power and network architecture or the optimisation of hardware and software design concepts, developing sophisticated design processes and testing complex products to ensure the equipment is fit for the air, sea or land operating environments. Activities could include: equipment design, assessment of equipment behaviour, fault diagnosis, assessment of new technologies, simulation and modelling, and data analysis.' Pamela Wilson, engineering manager at BAE Systems .
A graduate electrical engineer in the electronics industry can work in different areas such as design, layout, manufacturing, packaging, testing and field applications engineering (supporting a product and its customers for its entire life). They may work with chips, integrated circuits, components such as capacitors and resistors, and devices that use electricity as part of their source of power.
'Most of the graduate roles in the fast-moving consumer goods industry are in one of two areas: manufacturing/engineering or supply network operations/logistics. For both of these areas, the work is not defined in nice separate buckets of mechanical, electrical, chemical etc but is normally a mixture of different engineering disciplines as a general manufacturing or logistics engineer. Graduates will pick up skills from other disciplines as they go through their training and career.' Chris Traynor, careers adviser and former engineer and engineering recruiter .
Engineers in the marine industry usually either operate and maintain vessels and equipment or design and build them. Electrical engineers play a key role in generating and distributing energy. Huge cruise ships have power demands from the ballroom to the boiler room, while the latest offshore vessels have sophisticated electric propulsion systems.
'An electrical engineer in the materials and metals industry can expect to work alongside engineers from other disciplines. They will be working on cutting edge technology such as electrically driven fans, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) and UPS (uninterruptible power supply). Activities could include fault diagnosis, simulation and modelling and data analysis.' Peter Toms, senior engineering manager at Tata Steel .
Electrical engineers in the oil and gas industry design, develop, test, maintain and improve electrical systems and components, including generators, transformers and electric motors, making sure that they meet the right standard of safety, reliablity and efficiency and can withstand extreme conditions such as depth, temperature and pressure. This can involve making small alterations or large-scale equipment changes.
'Graduate electrical engineers in the pharmaceuticals industry are expected to deliver projects of a diverse nature, ranging from hazardous area inspections and high-voltage operations to energy monitoring and renewable generation. They additionally provide technical electrical expertise to the site at large for incoming equipment, ongoing maintenance and new installations.' Aditya Srivastava, electrical engineering associate at GSK .
An electrical engineer in the power generation industry will design, build and maintain the electrical plant items such as switchgear, generators, transformers, motors, cables, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), UPS (uninterrupted power supply) and lighting.
'An electrical engineer in the rail industry could work in a number of areas, including signalling, power, point heating and lighting. Their job will involve writing specifications for power distribution systems, reviewing designs and answering technical queries. On the maintenance side, they will be going out onto the rail network to test equipment or replace components.' Elen Jones, programme engineering manager at Network Rail .
Electrical engineers in the utilities industry may be involved in electrical design or network design work. Or they might be involved in the day-to-day running and maintenance of a site.
Alternative careers for electrical engineering graduates
If you don’t want to become an engineer, an electrical engineering degree can open plenty of other doors. You could work in a finance, management or logistics role within the engineering sector, or move into a closely related field such as IT .
There's no obligation to opt for a technical employer, though. You could put your background to good use in careers such as science journalism, technical publishing or teaching . Alternatively, you could train to become a solicitor or barrister and specialise in a tech-heavy area of law such as intellectual property, construction or energy, transport and infrastructure. Equally, you could become a patent attorney , which you don't need a law degree for.
Alternatively, if you want to explore something entirely different, remember that many graduate jobs are open to graduates from any degree discipline. An engineer's skills set appeals to recruiters for finance or business, management and consulting graduate schemes, for example.