Power electronics is a multidisciplinary branch of electrical engineering. It focuses on processing, controlling, and converting electric power. Power electronics utilizes high voltages and currents to deliver power to electrical equipment and devices. These devices range from air conditioning systems in homes to industrial machinery. Worldwide, over 80 percent of generated power is reprocessed or repurposed through power electronic systems .
Power electronic systems convert electrical energy from one form to another. This process may involve modifying the voltage, current, or frequency. It ensures the flow of electricity is suitable for user loads. The goal of power electronics is to achieve maximum efficiency and reliability at the lowest possible cost, weight, and size. Here are a few power electronics components:
Power diodes. A diode is a semiconductor device. It enables the flow of electric current in one direction by having low resistance to current in one direction and extremely high resistance in the other. Diodes are used as voltage regulators, signal modulators, and to convert alternating current (AC) to direct current (DC).
Transistors. Transistors are also semiconductor devices. These are used to amplify and switch electronic signals and electrical power.
GTO. A Gate Turn-Off Thyristor, or GTO, is a high-powered semiconductor switching device. It is characterized by its gate turn-off capability. GTOs can also turn on the main current with a gate drive circuit.
Power electronics applications are prevalent in daily life. You've likely used a device that relies on power electronics engineering today. The chart below outlines a few industries that use power electronics with examples.
|Power electronics applications||Examples|
Air conditioning systems, emergency lights, kitchen appliances, vacuum cleaners, laptops, cell phones
Textile mills, welding equipment, excavators, cement mills
Hybrid vehicles, subways, ships, trolleys
Aerospace and defense
Aircraft and missile control, satellites, space shuttles
Solar cell conversion systems and wind turbines
Power electronics engineers belong to the occupational field of architecture and engineering. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), architecture and engineering jobs are projected to grow 6 percent between 2020 and 2030 . This statistic translates into about 146,000 new jobs, most of which can be attributed to engineering. Factors contributing to job growth in engineering include growing interest in areas like robotics and renewable energy.
If you’re interested in starting a career in power electronics, you may consider becoming a power electronics engineer. Power electronics engineer is a broad title that encompasses several specializations. Specific job duties vary depending on the industry, but the responsibilities below apply to most power electronics engineering roles:
Design and test circuits for use in power electronic systems.
Enhance existing mechanical designs.
Perform research to develop solutions for known issues like power loss and overall inefficiency.
Maintain documentation of designs and specifications.
Collaborate with other engineers and departments for testing and development.
Test engineer, power electronics
Power electronics design release engineer
Electrical engineer, power electronics
Research and development (R&D) engineer, power electronics
Power electronics manufacturing engineer
Electrical design engineer, power electronics
The average salary for a power electronics engineer in the US is $87,471 per year . Power electronics engineers also report a yearly average additional pay of $25,604. Additional income encompasses bonuses, commissions, and profit-sharing. Combined, these figures equal a total estimated annual pay of $113,075.
Seventy-six percent of electrical engineers hold a bachelor's degree, and 12 percent hold a master's degree . Relevant areas of study include electrical engineering and computer engineering. One example of a degree for aspiring optical engineers to pursue is a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering.
Below, we’ve compiled a list of technical and workplace skills for power electronics engineers. Consider using it to identify areas of focus for building your expertise.
Strong knowledge of power electronics systems and principles like AC/DC conversion, AC converters, DC-DC converters, and grid-connected converters
Experience with power electronics equipment such as variacs, power analyzers, and oscilloscopes
Understanding of safety procedures for working with hazardous voltage and current levels
Excellent written and verbal communication skills
High-level analytical skills
Ability to work independently as well as in a team environment
Experience with design and real-time simulation (RTS) tools such as MATLAB
Capability to translate operational specifications into hardware requirements
There are many methods for ensuring recruiters notice your resume. For example, consider matching the words you use to describe your skill set to the language employers use in job postings. Employers often use applicant tracking systems (ATS). These systems enable recruiters to filter resumes and applications via keywords to process candidates quickly. You have a higher chance of selection when your terms match the terms employers have input in their ATS. Read nine additional ways to enhance your resume in the below article.
Read more: 10 Ways to Enhance Your Resume
You can demonstrate your expertise to employers while staying up-to-date with industry trends by engaging with the power electronics community. Following industry leaders on social media and subscribing to relevant YouTube channels and blogs are excellent ways to get started. For more information regarding experts in the power electronics field, you might check the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' (IEEE) website.
Ready to continue expanding your knowledge of power electronics? Enroll in the Power Electronics Specialization offered by the University of Colorado Boulder today.
Expand your Engineering Excellence. Create modern power electronics systems for our devices, transportation and infrastructure.
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Average time: 4 month(s)
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Skills you'll build:
Understand the fundamentals of magnetic components including inductors and transformers, Design and optimize inductors and transformers for switched-mode power converters, Analyze and model losses in magnetic components
1. NC State University. “Power Electronics and Power Systems, https://ece.ncsu.edu/research/pes/#:~:text=Power%20electronics%20is%20the%20engineering,form%20of%20power%20electronic%20systems.” Accessed August 18, 2022.
2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Occupational Outlook Handbook: Architecture and Engineering Occupations, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/home.htm.” Accessed August 18, 2022.
3. Glassdoor. “How much does a Power Electronics Engineer make? https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/power-electronics-engineer-salary-SRCH_KO0,26.htm.” Accessed August 18, 2022.
4. Zippia. “Power electronics engineer education requirements, https://www.zippia.com/electrical-engineer-jobs/education/.” Accessed August 18, 2022.
This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.