What is the Best Degree Path to Becoming an Electrical Engineer?

Electrical engineering componentsWhen it comes to making major decisions about what field of study to pursue, electrical engineering is typically a good choice. In fact, senior electrical engineer is among the top paying jobs for engineering majors. These professionals earn an annual median salary of $95,900 once they have gained enough experience. Actually becoming an electrical engineer, though, takes much more than a simple decision. Candidates must earn a college education, get passing scores on multiple professional examinations and satisfy state work experience requirements so that they can attain a license.

Earning an Electrical Engineering Degree

The first step toward becoming an electrical engineer is also one of the most important: to earn a college degree in electrical engineering or a related discipline, like electrical engineering technology or electronics engineering. Regardless of minor differences in program titles, the curriculum of any degree program designed to prepare students for a career in electrical or electronics engineering should cover subjects such as electrical circuit theory, digital systems design and differential equations, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Students should expect to gain knowledge and hands-on experience through classroom lectures, laboratory research, field study and cooperative programs.

It’s important that students enroll in an accredited program, not only to make sure they are learning valuable information during their studies but also because many states consider a degree from an accredited institution to be one licensing requirement. ABET, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, currently accredits more than 300 undergraduate degree programs in electrical and electronics engineering. In addition to general education courses, students of ABET-accredited electrical engineering courses will take a minimum of one year of mathematics, biology, chemistry and physical science courses and one and one-half years of engineering sciences in which they will learn decision-making and design principles and practices.

The Path to Getting a License

Once a student graduates from an electrical engineering degree program, the next step is typically to pass the Fundamentals of Engineering exam. Successful completion of this exam allows candidates to officially be considered engineering interns or engineers-in-training. Under this designation, aspiring electrical engineers can find entry-level work under the supervision of experienced engineers. Once they have acquired the necessary amount of work experience as required by the state in which they are seeking licensure, these engineers-in-training can take a second test, the Professional Engineering examination. Only upon passing this test can they become full-fledged electrical engineers.

For some students, the path to career preparation may vary somewhat. For example, some students may decide to pursue an advanced education early on and earn a master’s degree, perhaps even through an accelerated program while completing their bachelor’s degree, to improve their opportunities for future advancement. Others may choose to go back to school after earning a license and gaining professional experience. Still others who are less interested in senior-level management, research and development or academic opportunities will end their schooling at the undergraduate level.

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