What is the Employment Outlook for Electrical Engineering?

An image of electrical engineers for our FAQ about the Employment Outlook for Electrical Engineering

College students weighing the pros and cons of majoring in electrical engineering should be sure to inquire about the field’s employment outlook. By evaluating the job outlook, you can gain a clear perspective on the growth that is expected over the next several years.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the United States currently employs 193,100 electrical engineers. These engineers specialize in designing, building, and testing electric components used to make everyday appliances, from power generators tomorrow and cell phones. Electrical engineers possess the deeply technical skills needed to properly connect wiring, develop circuitry, implement electronics prototypes, and brainstorm fixes to bugs. Unlike computer engineers, electrical engineers have wide employment possibilities, as they create all types of high-tech devices that improve people’s lives.

Here’s an overview of the hiring outlook for electrical and electronics engineering occupations.

Job Prospects for Electrical Engineers

According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall employment of engineers is projected to grow four percent through 2029. However, electrical engineers should expect a five percent growth, which is slightly faster than the average for all engineering jobs. While the rate is also faster than the average for all occupations, tempered growth, and even some decline, may be seen in certain industries, like manufacturing and utilities. However, the rate is two percent faster than the anticipated growth rate for electronics engineers.

Most of the job growth, according to BLS, is projected to occur as companies rely on the services and expertise of electrical engineers, specifically in professional, scientific, and technical firms and organizations. As innovation thrives and demand for the creation of electrical and electronics devices grows, engineers with knowledge involving electronic devices, components, and systems will be needed. Also, to keep up with rapid innovation, electrical engineers in research and development will be needed. These types of engineers will play key roles in the development of new communication technologies, semiconductors, and solar arrays. In fact, an additional 9,000 new jobs will be likely added to the electrical engineering occupation over the next eight years, BLS projects.

Are Electrical Engineers in Demand?

A tempered growth rate doesn’t necessarily mean that employability has stalled. However, job creation is not what it used to be. However, with 9,000 jobs in electrical engineering up for grabs over the next several years, job placement might be as simple as acquiring the right skills and gaining the proper education to set you apart from competition.

BLS reports five states with the highest employment levels of electrical engineers. These states are California, Texas, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and New York. Employment for California electrical engineers consists of 26,360, while Texas offers 14,200 jobs. There is quite a difference between the two states, but according to BLS, they employ the highest number of electrical engineers. Pennsylvania employs 8,980 electrical engineers, Michigan employs 8,410, and New York employs 8,170.

There are also certain metropolitan areas that offer the highest employment levels for electrical engineering. BLS reports that the Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Anaheim area, in California, has the highest employment of electrical engineers. The New York, Jersey City, and Boston area also offers favorably high employment levels for this occupation.

As far as the highest employment levels for nonmetropolitan areas, BLS reports that Kansas, Northeast Virginia, South-Central Wisconsin, Southern Indiana, and West-Northwest Ohio have the highest employment for electrical engineers in non-metro areas.

Related: 20 Best Affordable Online Bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering

An image of electrical engineers for our FAQ on the Employment Outlook for Electrical Engineering

Maximizing Your Employability in Electrical Engineering

97 percent of electrical engineers in the U.S. have received post-secondary education beyond a high school diploma. Hopeful electrical engineers have the best job prospects after finishing a four-year Bachelor of Engineering (B.E.) or Bachelor of Science (B.S.) at an ABET-accredited college. Many universities offer five-year bachelor’s/master’s programs for electrical engineers to gain supervisory skills. Hiring companies strongly prefer résumés listing extensive experience, so taking part in internships at Boeing, Saab Defense, Google, Chevron, Carnegie Robotics, or another facility is beneficial. Internships provide experience outside the classroom, and due to employer demand for participation in these programs, many organizations and companies now offer access to college students. Internships are also a great way to make connections and network with colleagues. In fact, some companies hire their own interns.

Some employers might expect grads to pass the Fundamentals of Engineering exam for the Professional Engineer (PE) credential. Electrical engineers can also network by interacting with the over 400,000 IEEE members.

Engineering is America’s fifth most popular major, according to Niche, with 104,762 graduates, but there’s still a shortage in several technical trades. Double-digit job growth is projected in biomedical engineering, petroleum engineering, environmental engineering, and geological engineering. Picking these specialties could better position you for fast job placement after graduation. Yet, if you’re really passionate about the inner workings of electronics, don’t give up on electrical engineering, because Forbes reports that 25 percent of the field’s current workforce is aged 55 and older, which means that the current pool of employees will retire soon. In the very near future, we may see an even more favorable job growth for this occupation.

Earnings Potential for Electrical Engineers

Financial security is one of many reasons individuals pursue engineering careers. As an electrical engineer, one can expect to earn six figures at some point throughout their career. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for electrical engineers is $100,830. BLS reports the lowest 10 percent of earners in this occupation make over $67,000, while the highest 10 percent make over $159,500.

Earnings vary, depending on the industry. Top-paying industries for electrical engineers, according to BLS, include research and development in the engineering, life, and physical sciences. In this top-paying industry, electrical engineers earn a median annual wage of $116,050. The next-highest-paying industry for electrical engineers, as reported by BLS, is semiconductor and electronic component manufacturing. In this industry, electrical engineers can expect a median annual wage of $107,680. Control instruments, electro medical, measuring, and navigational manufacturing ranks as the third-highest-paying industry for electrical engineers. In this industry, the median annual wage is $104,480. The fourth-highest-paying industry for electrical engineers is electric power generation, transmission, and distribution. In this industry, electrical engineers can expect to see a median annual wage of $102,510. Engineering services is the fifth-top-paying industry for electrical engineers and offers a median annual wage of $98,440.

An image of electrical engineers for our FAQ on the Employment Outlook for Electrical Engineering

Another factor impacting earnings for electrical engineers is geographic location. According to the most recent published data by BLS, five top-paying areas for electrical engineers are the District of Columbia, California, New Jersey, Vermont, and Washington. The annual mean wage for electrical engineers in the District of Columbia is $126,840. The wage is approximately 26k more than the average wage for all electrical engineers. In California, the annual mean wage is slightly lower than DC. California electrical engineers see an annual mean wage of $124,390. New Jersey, the third-highest-paying state for electrical engineers, offer an annual mean wage to electrical engineers of $120,140. Vermont and Washington are also listed among the top-paying states for electrical engineers. BLS reports that these two states offer annual mean wages of $118,460 and $117,790, respectively.

Not only are there high-paying states for electrical engineers, there are certain cities and certain rural areas that pay more favorable wages than others. According to BLS, top-paying metropolitan areas where electrical engineers are paid high annual mean wages include numerous regions of California. Surprisingly, metro areas of Idaho and Hawaii also offer high wages. Topping the list of highest paying metro areas for electrical engineers is San Jose, Sunnyvale, and Santa Clara, California. In this metro area of California, electrical engineers earn annual mean wages of $150,480. The Washington, D.C., Arlington, and Alexandria metro area offers an annual mean wage of $130,150 for electrical engineers. The third-highest-paying metro area for this occupation is Idaho Falls, Idaho, which offers annual mean wages of $125,700 for electrical engineers. Other top-paying metro areas include Fresno, California; Yuba City, California; Stockton-Lodi, Georgia; Savannah, Georgia; and Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina, Hawaii.

In addition to metro areas, non-metro regions that offer higher-than-average earnings for electrical engineers include Northern New Mexico, Southwest Alabama, and Western North Dakota. In the Northern New Mexico non-metro area, electrical engineers earn an annual mean wage of $121,900. The Southwest Alabama non-metro area offers an annual mean wage of $116,870, slightly lower than the annual wage for this occupation in Northern New Mexico. Western North Dakota offers an annual mean wage of $115,880 for electrical engineers, and the Southern Virginia non-metro area offers an annual mean wage of approximately $500 less. Also among the high-paying non-metro areas is Western Kentucky. In this region, BLS reports an annual mean wage of $114,800 for electrical engineers.

Getting the Right Education for Electrical Engineering

It should come as no surprise that education is critical to a career as an electrical engineer. Employers hire electrical engineers with bachelor’s degrees. Employers also value practical work experience, such as participation in cooperative engineering programs or internships. If you’re still in high school and you are interested in studying electrical engineering in college, you would benefit from taking science- and math-heavy courses. Helpful high school classes include algebra, calculus, trigonometry, and physics. Also, since electrical engineers often design and prepare technical sketches and drawings, drafting courses are helpful.

During high school, students interested in pursuing engineering careers may find summer engineering camps beneficial. By attending these camps, students may learn how to plan their coursework while in high school. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a helpful directory of engineering summer camps can be found at the Engineering Education Service Center.

An image of an electrical engineer for our FAQ on the Employment Outlook for Electrical Engineering

Here you will find a list of summer engineering camps for K-12 students in the U.S. and Canada. For example, available camps may include iD Tech Camps, North Carolina State University Young Engineers of Today, and the STEM Summer Experience Camps. Many universities within your state offering summer programs for aspiring engineers may be listed on the directory.

As indicated above, electrical engineers need at least a bachelor’s degree to work for a company in this occupation. Programs should be ABET-accredited, especially if you plan to work for a top engineering firm or apply to graduate school. Most graduate electrical engineering programs require ABET-accredited bachelor’s degrees in engineering.

Important Qualities for Electrical Engineers

In addition to the proper schooling, there are several important qualities that electrical engineers should possess to help them be successful in their role. These soft skills are not always learned in the classroom, though they can be honed during college and interning. Some of these qualities include:

Concentration: The role of an electrical engineer requires working with complex electrical systems and components. They often keep track of various elements and characteristics while solving problems and performing tasks. In order to successfully work in this environment, an electrical engineer must be able to concentrate. Staying focused is a requirement for the job.

Communication skills: Having strong and effective communication skills helps electrical engineers work well with other engineers and technicians. Since the role, especially as a team leader, requires giving direction and instruction, communication skills are important. Also, electrical engineers must explain complex problems and solutions to customers or clients with little to no technical expertise. It is important to be able to address issues and convey them clearly to people who do not have an engineering background.

Initiative: Initiative is an important quality for an electrical engineer. This role requires the ability to apply knowledge to a new task and deliver a particular outcome. Engaging in continuing education, keeping up with changes in technology, and applying knowledge to help solve problems takes initiative.

Writing skills: While writing skills may be acquired in college, keeping them sharp is a must. Most roles as an electrical engineer require the development of technical publications. These may include parts lists, product proposals, and operation and maintenance manuals. Strong writing ability helps the electrical engineer to convey information clearly and effectively.

BDP Staff
July 2021

Related articles:

This concludes our article on the employment outlook for electrical engineering.

Brenda Rufener

Julie McCaulley

Carrie Sealey-Morris