Electronics. If that word gets your blood pumping with excitement -- and if you're a good student in math and science -- you may want to consider a career as an electrical engineer. After earning a bachelor's degree from an engineering school, you'll work with the technology of electricity and use your knowledge to research, develop and operate electrical systems.
You'll work with a team to create new and better electronics, you'll test equipment, and you'll draw with a computer. Electrical engineers work on projects big and small in offices, labs or industrial plants. Projects may involve smart phone systems, handheld gaming systems, robots, global positioning systems, cars, airplane electrical systems, lighting and wiring in buildings, radar and navigation systems and maybe even giant generators that power entire cities, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Sound good? Here's what you can expect when pursuing a career as an entry-level electrical engineer:
A solid salary. In May 2008, the average yearly wages of electrical engineers were $85,350, the BLS reports. Electrical engineers who specialize in electronics earned even more, at an average of $88,670. Starting salaries for entry-level electrical engineers average $59,381, the National Association of Colleges and Employers reported in July 2010.
A stimulating work life. While many entry-level electrical engineers work a normal 40-hour week, you can also expect to work longer at times to meet deadlines. You will most likely do project work with a team of other engineers, using design software to figure out the circuitry and wiring of components. When beginning a project, you'll build prototypes and conduct extensive tests on them to be sure your new product works and that your plan's components function well together. You might also be asked to test broken products to understand what went wrong or to study existing products to see how they can be improved.
A lot of competition. Employment growth for U.S.-based electrical engineers is expected to rise 2 percent in the next decade, while electronic engineers are expected to see little to no employment change. Why the flat job growth? Because engineers are seeing foreign competition in both products development and the use of engineering services performed overseas.
"Although strong demand for electrical devices -- including electric power generators, wireless phone transmitters, high-density batteries, and navigation systems-should spur job growth, international competition and the use of engineering services performed in other countries will limit employment growth," the BLS says.
More opportunities to come. Because entry-level electrical and electronic engineers must be both computer-savvy and aware of trends in the digital world, they can look forward to more career opportunities as they progress in their field. Often, these future opportunities will come from within your current engineering firm, which could very well provide a strong environment for learning and creativity and offer bonuses, promotions and profit sharing for high performance. Keep in mind that the BLS reports that electrical engineers who work for firms that provide expertise and design services to manufacturers should have good job prospects in the future.