JOB PROFILE: Electrical Engineer
Qualifications and courses
You will need a degree or postgraduate qualification in a subject such as electrical or electronic engineering, mechanical engineering, applied physics or computer science. For degree entry you will need at least 2 A levels/H grades and 5 GCSEs/National 5s (C or above, or 4 or above in England), including Maths and a science. Relevant HNDs or Foundation degrees, in Electrical, Mechanical or Building Services Engineering for example, may also be considered, although employers often place value on those who have studied at degree level. Some universities may offer those diplomates with relevant work experience the opportunity to accelerate into the final year of a degree programme.
Alternatively, you could enter the field at a lower level by first training as an electrical engineering technician and working your way up by gaining experience and higher qualifications. Advanced and Higher Level Apprenticeships in Manufacturing Engineering are available. You will need GCSE/National 5 passes in English, Maths, a science or technology in order to be considered. There is also a Level 6 electronic systems engineering degree apprenticeship available. Degree apprenticeships will qualify applicants to the same level as a graduate and typically take 3 to 6 years to complete.
Many companies offer graduates training schemes post-university. Programmes vary according to the size of the company but typically involve a series of on-the-job training and structured continuing professional development (CPD). Undertaking work experience or a vacation placement will benefit your application as employers often like to see evidence of a candidate’s enthusiasm, ability to work in a team and commercial awareness.
Those with a bachelor's degree in engineering (BEng) or equivalent can apply for incorporated engineer (IEng) status via the Engineering Council and those who have studied to master's level can gain chartered engineer (CEng) status further on in their career.
What the work involves
Electrical engineers research, design and develop a range of electrical equipment. You will be making, testing and servicing all types of electrical equipment and machinery, and as such you will be involved in projects from conception to completion.
You will usually work on projects with a team of professionals, including contractors and engineers from other industries.
You will also be liaising with clients and contractors about the development of each project, which will involve preparing reports and giving presentations.
Type of person suited to this work
You should have excellent mathematical ability and a very analytical mind in order to successfully design and develop complicated new electrical systems. A logical approach to problem-solving is also beneficial.
You will need good communication skills, both oral and written, for working alongside team members and clients. This will involve explaining and talking through projects, as well as compiling written reports and leading presentations.
You must have normal colour vision and natural manual dexterity.
Although electrical engineers usually work within the normal working week, you may find that you need to work additional or unsocial hours in order to solve problems and meet project deadlines.
Your time will be divided between office-based and on-site work. You can expect to travel on a daily basis so a driving licence is useful.
Conditions on-site can often be dirty, cramped and potentially hazardous so you should be prepared to get your hands dirty and wear safety equipment.
As a profession currently listed on the Home Office's Shortage Occupation List, there is high demand for electrical engineers in the UK. EngineeringUK has estimated that the UK needs 1.8 million new engineers and technicians to meet demand by 2025.
There are no set pathways of career progression for electrical engineers and many decide to stay in a purely engineering role for the duration of their working life.
Alternatively, there are possibilities to move into project management, become a consultant or take on a more managerial role within a company.
Membership of organisations such as The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) can be beneficial for career progression and also offers chances to network with other professionals.
Your work will be undertaken at a variety of indoor and outdoor locations so you will not be confined to an office environment.
You will play an instrumental role in developing new and increasingly safe electrical equipment for a variety of important functions.
Hours can be long and unpredictable, especially when nearing completion of a project.
The starting salary for a graduate electrical engineer can range from £20,000 to £28,000.
Experienced or incorporated engineers are likely to earn £30,000–£45,000 a year, with chartered engineers usually receiving a salary of £45,000–£60,000 or more.
Some companies offer excellent benefit packages and bonus schemes in addition to a basic wage.
Content generously provided by Indigo Trotman.