If you’ve always wondered about the workings of electrical devices, you might be considering a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. Electrical engineering is a growing and profitable career path, with a median salary of $95,060 per year, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Electrical engineering programs may be distinct majors, or they may be part of computer and electrical engineering or electrical and electronics engineering programs. Engineering programs in all disciplines are accredited by ABET (the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology). To become an electrical engineer, you will need to complete considerable coursework in basic science, advanced math, technical engineering science and design and computer science as well as meeting general education requirements.
Math and Science Coursework
Math and science classes are a big part of an engineering degree program in any discipline. Engineering is the application of mathematical and scientific principles to creative design and problem-solving, so naturally, engineers need to thoroughly understand these concepts to apply them.
The math courses you will take in a bachelor’s degree program in electrical engineering range from advanced mathematics subjects to probability and statistics. You should be prepared to study differential equations, complex variables, linear algebra and integral calculus during your electrical engineering education. If your degree program happens to be a computer and electrical engineering program, you should also expect to take classes in discrete mathematics. Your science studies in an electrical engineering program might include laboratory science classes in physics, chemistry or biology.
ABET-accredited engineering programs require students to spend at least one year – 32 semester hours or one-quarter of their total credits for graduation – on math and science courses.
Computer Science and Electrical Engineering Courses
The core of an electrical engineering degree program is the extensive coursework in engineering topics. Engineering topics include computer science, according to ABET. Students must spend a minimum of a year and a half learning the subjects needed to analyze and design all kinds of electrical components, devices and systems, including computer hardware and software.
The engineering courses required in an electrical engineering degree program might include circuit analysis, electro fields and materials, electric power engineering, signals and systems, control systems, integrated circuits, automation and digital communication systems. Often, students complete introductory courses in topics such as power engineering, control systems and communications systems before diving into more complex studies in these subject areas. Hands-on engineering work that takes place in laboratory and design courses is an important part of the curriculum.
The goal of a student’s core engineering coursework is to act as a bridge from the theory of science and advanced mathematics to the application of those theories in creative design work.
Within a degree program in electrical engineering, students may have the opportunity to pursue a specialization or concentration that focuses more narrowly on one aspect of the engineering discipline that appeals to them. Some of the most popular concentrations within an electrical engineering program include communications, electronics and nanotechnology, according to U.S. News & World Report.
In programs that allow students to choose a concentration, the academic track they choose will affect many of the courses they take. For example, an electrical engineering student pursuing a concentration in communications might study signal transmission and reception, antenna theory and microwave circuitry. Students focusing instead on electronics would be more likely to study the digital and analog systems used in computing and communications. A specialization in nanotechnology, the study of matter on an extremely small scale, would focus on the materials and processes used to create nanotechnology.
Often, the courses that make up an academic concentration in an electrical engineering degree are technical electives. Within a concentration, students may have the option to further narrow down their coursework to the most useful or interesting subjects of study.
Engineering Work Experience
Because the focus of engineering is design and problem-solving, rather than purely theoretical knowledge, it’s essential that graduates of an electrical engineering degree program have real-world experience apply the concepts they have learned. Many electrical engineering students gain this experience through an internship or cooperative program in which they work for a real employer of engineers, learning on the job, according to the BLS.
Students also gain experience through fieldwork opportunities in their coursework, including design studio assignments. In ABET-accredited programs, students must complete a major design experience, often called capstone experience, in which they apply the science and mathematical principles they have learned to the design of a device, component or system that solves a real problem.
Capstone projects for electrical engineering majors might include the creation of prototypes of sensors and machines or the development of new manufacturing processes.