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How to be an Electrical Engineer?

Nigel Goodwin

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what does an electrical/electronic engineer do?
It depends entirely which way you go, but an electrical engineer is completely different from an electronics engineer.

Assuming you're really wanted to try and do such qualifications I would suggest you check out what jobs might be available, and what THEY require - no point doing qualifications that have no hope of a job at the end.

Ian Rogers

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I have visited a local college here in Rochdale.... I didn't go here but several of my apprentices did.. Only one has moved on to Uni.... And they try and bias students according to funding / supporters.. Rochdale college had a BT following so fibre optics was on the "must do" list...

When asking the educational facility about their Electronic / Electrical course... Try and find out about their supporters..

I attended Portsmouth Uni, where they were heavily funded by Phillips, so we were using the newest Phillips 8051 micro's... Phillips provided software and hardware obviously to push the market share...

So even if you have a direction, governing bodies will be pushing you in another.... Just an observation...


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what does an electrical/electronic engineer do?
Oh my!

Electrical engineer:Research, design, develop, test, or supervise the manufacturing and installation of electrical equipment, components, or systems for commercial, industrial, military, or scientific use. Electrical power plants, high voltage transmission lines, motors, (I think of power or big)

Electronic engineer: (Think of small)
Electronics is the technology associated with electronic circuits and systems, and is one of the major branches of electrical engineering.

Electronics engineers use scientific knowledge of the behaviour and effects of electrons to design, develop and test components, devices, systems or equipment that use electricity as part of their source of power. These components include capacitors, diodes, resistors and transistors.

Electronics engineers usually work in cross-functional project teams with colleagues in other branches of engineering.

Work can be found in a variety of areas as electronics are used in many things including: acoustics, defence; medical instruments; mobile phones; nanotechnology; radio and satellite communication; robotics.

(design new (hardware or software), manufacture, study failure, improve old ) This is a huge field.


Active Member
I'm an electronic engineer, and feel I could only call myself that after I had completed my 4 year BSc in Electronic Engineering, even though I had been tinkering for years, and studying electronics at school level as well. Afterwards though, it still takes a couple of years to be a productive member of an R&D team. I now have several years experience and I love this job, it never stagnates, always changing and evolving at a lightning fast pace. I'll add though that the basics never change, and are the foundations to everything!

In South Africa, there are generally two types of EE's....Those that studied at a Technikon (Technical college) to get a diploma, and those that go to University for a bachelors degree. Generally anyone who doesn't go those two routes and does something elsewhere would be classified as an artisan, or electrician, unless they spend many years working their way up to EE designation after getting an extremely lucky break at an engineering firm.

From my experience, degree graduates are subjected to a lot of maths and physics, and end up getting a jump start in their career roles as well as earn a higher starting salary. They start in R&D, the real meaty roles and are groomed for leadership, ultimately ending up in management in 15years or so after graduating.
The diploma guys here start off at a slightly lower salary (generally) and get put into more technician roles. It takes a lot longer for them to progress up to the same level. They generally don't do a great deal or any software/firmware development. This limits their progress in an electronic engineering company, because embedded systems are so widespread these days.

This is just from an SA perspective, I'm not sure what its like elsewhere in the world. But either way, if I could give any advice it would be to aim for the highest university level of schooling, and go from there. If you can get a masters then by all means, but that isn't always as beneficial as it seems. Electronics is such a broad field, and a masters so niche, that often that experience means nothing other than having the accolade. Many EE's would probably find it more beneficial to do a masters in some other field, like an MBA or something along those lines.

My 2c :)
Overclocked do you then still earn the same as an electronics engineer? if is working for the same company?
Im young, and slightly inexperienced in the field, But Ive learned it very quickly. I dont know what the average salary is, But I know there is a guy that has way more experience than me and gets 60+ a hr. I make enough to 1) Buy a house and a Used Car. To put it simple: I live comfortably (Im also in the US)-I guess you would consider me to be Middle Class. Money is nice but sometimes I like doing my job because its Cool, and the end Product is interesting.

Dont worry so much about money. The pursuit of knowledge is well worth its weight in gold. Ive thought of going onwards to a mechanical engineering degree out of interest alone.


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I saw on TV last night you can take online classes from MIT, Stanford and other college for about 90% less what it cost to go to college. Once you finished you can go to MIT take the tests to prove you can pass the classes and they give you a Degree. TV said you can get a 4 year degree in 3 years of less for a fraction the cost.

In the 40 years since I gradated from Engineering college NO one has every asked to see my degree or make me prove I went to college. I asked all my friends, all the people I work with, and the people at church. NO one every made them prove they had a degree or went to college either.

I told my #2 Son several years ago take classes online, make good grades, when you finish forget the degree get a job. He took classes with high score 98 then he got a job. I told him get a minimum of 2 years job experence then move up the ladder, quit or threaten to quit to get a raise. After 2 years 6 months he took a better jobs and got a 35% pay raise. He has been at the new job almost 2 years and continues to take classes and certificates and 2 more pay raises. His goal is to get 8 more certificates then change job and move up the ladder again. He still has NO degree in anything but he knows more than many of the people that have a degree.

I have told my #1 Sons the whole world is in books. You can learn anything you want just read the books. He read all the books for technical school classes then took the tests and got his degree but they still wanted him take 30% of the classes to get him degree. Now he does not want to do that type work so he works in fun places like National Parks just to be there. He does not care about the money. He spent the last 2 years working at Yellowstone National Park. Next he is going to glacer national park. He did Smoky Mountain national park and Acadia national park already. He is making just enough money to live, very little extra spending money but he is having the Time Of His Life.

When I graduated from High School 1968 I went to technical school and got a degree in electronics graduated 1970. There was a job I wanted but I knew I was not qualified so I went to a different company and got job experience there for a year. Then I applied at the other company and got the job I wanted. Wow I thought that was the greatest job. After 3 years I decided to take Engineering in college and transfer class from the first college for credit. I graduated and got a job. I kept moving up the ladder changed jobs 4 more times and several pay raises. Then I was design engineer for several years then Plant Engineer for a big well known company for 20 years then I retired at age 55 and been camping and hiking and having FUN for the past 10 years.

You don't need a degree. You only need the knowledge and job experience.
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You don't need a degree. You only need the knowledge and job experience.
Agree, This conversation started with no degree and no experience. Getting started with out school is very hard. Most people do not have the "go" to take classes with out school to make you open the book at 9:00 every day.
I also agree. MIT (and other colleges) will often list the books you need for a course. Get the book and teach yourself! Of course with Math..It might be difficult. Not so much with engineering.


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Math is only hard if the books author does not know how to explain it clear enough for the reader to under stand.

I have several old college math books. My algerbra 1 and 2 books are impossible to under stand so I replaced them with books written by a different author.

My old 1970s geometry, trigonometry, calculus books are pretty easy.

Examine several books trash the ones that are hard to understand.

Same thing applies to other books other subjects.
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You don't need a degree. You only need the knowledge and job experience.
Agreed but only in part. Some engineering jobs you can only get with a degree, for example ... and i accept that i'm only speaking from my experience here ... research and development jobs usually require a degree in the job description.
Equally if you have a Phd in engineering you'll usually start in a higher paid job or leadership role, although in the 4 years it takes you to earn that Phd most regular graduate will be on the same level so its of a very questionable value.

So certainly you can be an engineer without a degree but having one would open more doors for you. In my opinion / experience.

I should add, I studied electo-mechanical engineering (think power generation, distribution and transformers ), but since then I've veered over into power electronics (think big transistors and other solid state switches) and now I work in the aerospace industry which is not an industry I'd have ever thought about back in school.

It's also worth saying that while I get paid well and live very comfortably my fellow graduates who all ended up in power distribution consultancies get paid ~25%-50% more.
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I'd say start repairing electronics too! You can learn a lot by looking at other people's designs and how to fix them. I would take broken PCBs and fix em. If I didn't know what a chip was used for I would research the data sheet to see what it was and how it worked. Also, get LTSpice and play with that. It's free! Good luck to you. I know you'll do well.

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