Electrical Engineer

Introduction

Electrical Engineers research, design and develop products that use electronics, for example, telecommunications systems, computers, lasers, satellite systems, radar and television.

Electrical Engineers are involved in the generation, supply and use of electricity.

Also known as

  • Engineer, Electronics/Electrical

Video: - Allan: Electrical Engineer

Work Activities

As an Electrical Engineer, you will work as part of a team to research, design or develop electronic products. To produce an image of an electronic product you are working on, you'll use computer-aided design (CAD) technology.

Then, you can begin to build a model (a prototype) of the new product, or a version of an existing product. You'll carefully test how the model works and change your design, if necessary.

When the prototype is fully tested and ready, you will now become responsible for producing samples of the new model in a laboratory, and then overseeing the start of production on a large scale.

You will also be responsible for dealing with any problems that come up during production.

There are many different types or speciality of Electrical Engineer, including:

  • Microelectronics Engineer - designs and works tiny electronic circuit components
  • Signal Processing Engineer - deals with digital or analogue signals
  • Telecommunications Engineer - specialise in working on communications technology, such as mobile phones, internet, email, satellite and cable systems
  • Instrumentation Engineer - specialises in the design of measuring devices, used for measuring pressure, slow and temperature. You will need a great knowledge of physics

Developing an electronic product usually involves the Electrical Engineer working closely with other people, such as Design Engineers, and marketing and sales departments. You'll also work with clients to discuss their personal requirements and to explain the development of the product.

Some Electrical Engineers design electrical industrial machinery and supervise the installation of heating, ventilating and lighting systems.

Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.

Personal Qualities and Skills

To become an Electrical Engineer, you need:

  • to have technical ability and good computer skills
  • to be willing to keep up to date with any advances in technology
  • to be able to work as part of a team
  • good communication skills for writing technical reports and liaising with other staff and customers
  • organisational skills to plan and co-ordinate resources
  • the ability to pay close attention to detail
  • an understanding of electrical health and safety regulations
  • an analytical and logical mind to help with solving problems
  • to remain calm under pressure, as you often work to deadlines
  • a willingness to take on responsibility, and to lead and motivate others

Pay and Opportunities

Pay

The pay rates given below are approximate.

  • Starting: £23,500 - £26,000
  • With experience: £28,500 - £33,500
  • Senior Electrical Engineers earn £36,000 - £39,500

Hours of work

Most Electrical Engineers work around 35-40 hours a week, Monday to Friday. However, early starts, late finishes and some weekend work may be required.

Where could I work?

Employers are firms in a variety of industries, including engineering manufacturing, electricity generation and distribution, communications, transportation, chemical, water, and marine and offshore industries.

There are also opportunities within the public sector, the armed forces and computer manufacturers.

Opportunities for Electrical Engineers occur throughout the UK.

This career could involve working for an agency.

Self-employment

Some Electrical Engineers work as self-employed, independent consultants.

Where are vacancies advertised?

Vacancies are advertised in local/national newspapers, on recruitment and employers' websites, and on Find a Job (www.gov.uk/jobsearch).

GreenJobs is a job board aimed at people interested in green careers:

www.greenjobs.co.uk/browse-jobs/engineering/

Social media websites, such as LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, are a great way to network, find vacancies and get in contact with possible employers. Make sure that your profile presents you in a professional manner that will appeal to potential employers.

Take a look at our General Information Article 'Finding Work Online'.

Entry Routes and Training

Entry routes

Normally, employers will expect you to have a HND, HNC or a degree in order to go straight into this career. However, if you are thinking about leaving school after finishing your A levels, you could consider getting a lower level job and training within the industry you intend to specialise in. You might be able to get onto a Higher Level or Degree Apprenticeship in a relevant area.

Then, once you have gained relevant industry skills and experience, you might be able to apply for Electrical Engineer positions.

After completing your A levels, you might be able to get onto a Higher Level or Degree Apprenticeship in a relevant area.

A great way to get into this career is through an internship. Take a look at our information article 'Internships', for more details.

Training

If you would like some training, then BTEC offer a level 3 diploma in electronic engineering. This course has a mixture of mandatory and optional units which include:

  • health and safety
  • communications for Engineering Technicians
  • engineering projects
  • mathematics for Engineering Technicians
  • electrical and electronic principles
  • engineering design
  • electrical technology
  • construction and applications of digital systems
  • electronic fault finding
  • electrical installations
  • principles and applications of microcontrollers

Other courses could be available in your area.

Progression

Depending on your qualifications and experience, you can progress by taking on more responsibility for the management of engineering projects and teams of engineers.

Some engineers choose to become self-employed or take contract work on a freelance basis.

Work Experience

Previous experience working in the engineering industry (mechanical, chemical or electrical) would be really useful for this career.

Qualifications

The usual entry requirements for a degree in electrical and electronic engineering are:

  • 2/3 A levels
  • GCSEs in your A level subjects at grade C/4 or above
  • a further 2/3 GCSEs at grade C/4 or above
  • maths and a science or technology subject, eg, physics or electronics, are normally required at A level
  • English, maths and a science subject are usually required at GCSE at grade C/4 or above

To get onto an Apprenticeship, you’ll usually need at least 2 GCSEs at grade C/4 or above, possibly including English and maths.

To get onto a Degree Apprenticeship, you will usually need at least 2 A levels.

Other qualifications are often accepted, such as:

  • BTEC level 3 - electronic engineering
  • BTEC level 3 - electrical technologies theory
  • BTEC level 3 - electrical engineering
  • City & Guilds level 3 - electrotechnical technology
  • International Baccalaureate Diploma

Check college/university websites carefully.

Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A level.

Adult Opportunities

Age limits

It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.

Courses

If you don't have the qualifications needed to enter your chosen degree or HND course, a college or university Access course (eg, Access to Engineering) could be the way in.

These courses are designed for people who have not followed the usual routes into higher education (HE). No formal qualifications are usually needed, but you should check this with individual colleges.

London South Bank University offers an HNC and HND in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, via part-time evening study.

Numerous institutions offer part-time degrees, or postgraduate degrees, in Electronic Engineering.

Distance learning

London College UCK offers an HNC and HND in Electronic/Electrical Engineering, via distance learning.

The University of Portsmouth offers a BEng (Hons) in Electronic Systems Engineering, via distance learning. However you will need to have a relevant HND, Foundation Degree, or have started studying for a full-time relevant degree, in order to get onto this course.

Training

Information on pathways to registration as a Chartered (CEng) or Incorporated (IEng) Engineer can be found on the Engineering Council's website.

Sponsorship

Sponsorship for higher education study is available (in several branches of engineering) from the larger engineering and manufacturing companies.

Funding

Funding for postgraduate study is available through universities from some research councils, especially the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Grants and scholarships for study of accredited degrees, and fellowships for postgraduate courses, are available from the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET).

Further Information

Apprenticeships: Get In. Go Far

National Apprenticeship Service (NAS)

Tel: 0800 015 0400

Email: nationalhelpdesk@findapprenticeship.service.gov.uk

Website: www.apprenticeships.org.uk

Semta

Skills for science, engineering and manufacturing technologies

Address: 14 Upton Road, Watford, Hertfordshire WD18 0JT

Tel: 0845 6439001

Email: customerservices@semta.org.uk

Website: www.semta.org.uk

The Engineer

Engineering technology news

Email: customerservices@theengineer.co.uk

Website: www.theengineer.co.uk

Tomorrow's Engineers

Publisher: EngineeringUK and Royal Academy of Engineering

Email: contactus@tomorrowsengineers.org.uk

Website: www.tomorrowsengineers.org.uk

New Scientist

Publisher: Reed Business Information Ltd

Email: ns.subs@quadrantsubs.com

Website: www.newscientist.com

Inside Careers

Specialists in graduate careers

Address: Unit 6, The Quad, 49 Atalanta Street, Fulham, London SW6 6TU

Tel: 020 7565 7900

Website: www.insidecareers.co.uk

Earthworks-jobs.com

Website: www.earthworks-jobs.com

Construction Industry Training Board (CITB)

Address: Blue Court, Church Lane, Kings Langley, Hertfordshire WD4 8JP

Tel: 01923 260000

Email: ecitb@ecitb.org.uk

Website: careers.ecitb.org.uk

Engineer Jobs

Publisher: Venture Marketing Group

Email: ner@vmgl.com

Website: www.engineerjobs.co.uk

Getting into Engineering Courses

Author: James Burnett Publisher: Trotman

Website: www.mpw.ac.uk/university-guides/getting-into/engineering-courses/

Scottish Engineering

Scottish enquiries

Address: 105 West George Street, Glasgow G2 1QL

Tel: 0141 2213181

Email: consult@scottishengineering.org.uk

Website: www.scottishengineering.org.uk

Engineering Council

Address: 246 High Holborn, London WC1V 7EX

Tel: 020 3206 0500

Website: www.engc.org.uk

Engineering Training Council Northern Ireland (ETC NI)

Northern Ireland Enquiries

Address: Sketrick House, Ards Business Park, Jubilee Road, Newtownards BT23 4YH

Tel: 028 9182 2377

Email: info@etcni.org.uk

Website: www.etcni.org.uk

Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET)

Address: Michael Faraday House, Six Hills Way, Stevenage, Hertfordshire SG1 2AY

Tel: 01438 313311

Email: postmaster@theiet.org

Website: www.theiet.org

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

Address: Polaris House, North Star Avenue, Swindon SN2 1ET

Tel: 01793 444000

Website: www.epsrc.ac.uk

Careers Wales - Welsh Apprenticeships

Tel: 0800 028 4844

Website: ams.careerswales.com/

Electrical Careers - The Electrotechnical Skills Partnership

Website: www.electricalcareers.co.uk/

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