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Electrical engineers research, design, develop and install a part of, or the complete life cycle of, electrical products or systems.

It is expected that there will be 1.86 million job openings in engineering between 2010 and 2020.

What does an electrical engineer do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Electrical engineers can work in various areas including power generation, building services and transport.

Responsibilities vary greatly according to the size and type of employer. However, typical duties may include:

  • using computer-aided design and engineering software to create project plans and circuit diagrams
  • designing and overseeing the installation of electrical systems in buildings
  • agreeing project specifications, budgets and timescales with clients and managers
  • undertaking relevant research
  • implementing designs
  • creating test procedures
  • testing, evaluating, modifying and re-testing products
  • writing reports and documentation
  • analysing and interpreting data
  • attending meetings and giving presentations.

Some travel, including overseas trips, is often required to visit clients and suppliers. Extra hours may sometimes be necessary to meet deadlines.

Typical employers of electrical engineers

  • Telecommunications, engineering, computing and utilities companies
  • Consultancies
  • The Civil Service
  • The armed forces

Self-employment is possible for individuals who have several years’ experience.

Jobs are advertised online, by careers services and recruitment agencies, in newspapers and in relevant publications including TARGETjobs Engineering, Computer Weekly, The Engineer, Electronics Weekly and Electrical Review.

Qualifications and training required

There are routes into electrical engineering for both school leavers and graduates. For graduates, a degree in a relevant subject such as electrical, electronic, production or software engineering, physics or computing is required. Some employers will ask for a 2.1 degree but others will accept candidates with a 2.2 degree. Take a look at our list of engineering employers that accept 2.2 degrees.

A postgraduate qualification can be advantageous and may be necessary for some posts. A list of accredited courses is available on the Engineering Council’s website and you can read our article on engineering postgraduate study to explore your options.

Many employers offer final-year project work, degree sponsorship, vacation work and industrial placements, which can provide valuable contacts and a useful insight into the profession. Take a look at our list of engineering employers who offer industrial placements and summer internships.

If you’re aiming to work in a technician role, it is possible to enter the profession with a higher national diploma (HND) or a higher apprenticeship in an appropriate engineering subject such as electrical or electronic engineering. However, you will need further qualifications to become an engineer. To find out more about getting into engineering via a school leaver route, visit the engineering section of TARGETcareers, our website aimed at school leavers.

Achieving chartered (CEng) status with the Engineering Council can help to demonstrate your professionalism and commitment to your field. To become chartered, you will need an accredited bachelors degree with honours in engineering or technology, plus an appropriate masters degree (MEng) or doctorate (EngD) accredited by a professional engineering institution such as the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET). You will also be eligible with an integrated MSc. To find out more, take a look at our guide to chartership.

Key skills for electrical engineers

  • Enthusiasm
  • Good technical abilities
  • Innovation
  • Teamworking skills
  • The ability to work well under pressure
  • The motivation to work extra hours when necessary

Read our article on the skills engineering employers look for for more information and then find out how you can prove you possess these competencies at engineering assessment centres.

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