What Do Electrical Engineers Do?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Explore the role of electrical engineers in greater detail, including the typical job responsibilities you can expect, essential skills you should consider cultivating, and how much you can make as an electrical engineer.

[Featured Image] Group of engineering students getting hands-on knowledge about what electrical engineers do while building relevant skills in an engineering lab.

Engineers play a vital role in building the world we all live in. Whether it’s the roads we drive on or the machines, vehicles, and computer systems we use, engineers use math and science knowledge to make a positive difference throughout society. 

Several different types of engineers exist, presenting you with many opportunities to find a specialization that interests you. One area of engineering you can work in is electrical engineering. In this article, you will explore what your career might look like as an electrical engineer, how to get there, and more.

What is an electrical engineer?

These professionals design, develop, and implement electrical systems using electricity and electromagnetism concepts. Tasks you might have as an electrical engineer may also include performing tests and completing repairs to ensure systems continue to run as designed. Electrical engineers work on a variety of different projects, such as communications systems, microelectronics, power generation, robotics, bioengineering, and control systems. 

What does an electrical engineer do?

As an electrical engineer, you will contribute to the production of electrical systems throughout different stages, from the initial design through building and maintaining the system and installing and testing the system. That said, your responsibilities as an electrical engineer can vary significantly since you can work in such a wide range of industries. 

Some common industries hiring electrical engineers are electric power generation and transmission, agriculture, research, electrical component manufacturing, and control instrument manufacturing. However, you aren’t limited to just these industries, as you can find opportunities in plenty of other areas, such as pharmaceutics, telecommunications, aerospace, government, construction, and automotive industries.

Electrical engineer tasks and responsibilities

Let’s take a closer look at some of the everyday job responsibilities within electrical engineering roles:

  • Design and develop electrical systems, along with the various electrical components involved.

  • Create reports that summarize critical information.

  • Maintain high product quality through regular product and system testing.

  • Identify and develop solutions to effectively address consumer concerns and problems. 

  • Meet all industry standards for product specification and installation and any government regulations.

  • Engage in continuous learning to keep your skills up to date with the latest industry practices, technical skills, and knowledge.

  • Communicate with customers to evaluate problems, develop an improved understanding of their needs, and investigate and research information regarding potential solutions.

Electrical engineer skills

Succeeding as an electrical engineer requires developing several technical and workplace skills. Follow along to learn more about these key electrical engineer skills.

Technical skills


Knowledge of circuits is important in electrical engineering since circuits are a fundamental component of electrical systems. You should understand how they work and how to build them.


You should have a robust familiarity with various calculus and mathematical formulas. These will be useful when performing calculations when developing products.

Electrical design

During the development process, you will use your knowledge of electrical design to plan, build, and test products. Doing so ensures they meet performance standards.


Computer programming skills are helpful for electrical engineering as they help you effectively analyze data and maintain product databases. Some popular languages for electrical engineers include C, C++, and Java.


As an electrical engineer, your ability to troubleshoot is an essential skill you need for effective problem-solving. Troubleshooting requires a blend of problem-solving abilities and knowledge of how to use different tools to develop solutions.

Workplace skills


Communication is vital for collaborating with other members of your team. You’ll also use this skill during documentation and when working with clients. Without clear communication, you’re increasing the risk of making mistakes at some point during the development process.


As an electrical engineer, you will have to find ways to solve problems, whether that involves developing quality designs or planning for things that could go wrong so you can address them quickly. 


With technical advancements comes opportunity. The ability to think creatively can help you harness the latest technologies to optimize the product design process and improve products compared to previous iterations. Additionally, you will need to use your creative side to find ways to enhance products and maximize your use of available technologies. 

Electrical engineer salary and job outlook

The average electrical engineer's salary is $114,857.84, according to data from Lightcast™ [1]. Some of the leading industries paying exceptionally high salaries for electrical engineers include electrical component manufacturing, life sciences, and control instrument manufacturing.

In addition to the high earning potential, electrical engineering positions offer a positive job outlook as well, with 5 percent growth projected in the decade spanning from 2022 to 2032 [2]. The states employing the highest number of electrical engineers include California, Texas, Michigan, New York, and Washington [3].

Electrical engineer career path

One exciting benefit of working in electrical engineering is the potential to choose the specific field you want to work in based on your own interests. You can also tailor your skills to put yourself in a position to specialize in a particular area. The following represent a few of the electrical engineering positions you might consider: 

  • Biomedical engineer

  • Electronics engineer

  • Robotics engineer

  • Computer hardware engineer

  • Systems engineer

  • Aeronautical engineer

  • Test engineer

  • Communications engineer

As you progress in your career, you can also find yourself in more senior roles, such as project engineer or project engineering manager.

Education and training

To become an electrical engineer, you must focus on your education and earn a bachelor's degree from an ABET-accredited program. A bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering is an option, as is electronics engineering or a similar engineering program. By earning a master’s degree, you might experience an increase in your chances of getting a more advanced position.

Depending on the field you plan on working in, you may need to meet specific licensing requirements, as well as pass the Professional Engineering Exam from the National Society of Professional Engineers to earn your license.

Learn more with Coursera.

On Coursera, you will find highly-rated courses to help you learn about topics of all types, including electrical engineering concepts. For example, Linear Circuits 1: DC Analysis from the Georgia Institute of Technology will teach you how to analyze circuits and their practical applications. 

The Power Electronics Specialization from the University of Colorado Boulder is another great option. It allows you to gain knowledge and develop skills related to the engineering of powerful electronic systems, including analysis, modeling, and simulation.

Article sources


Lightcast™ Analyst. “Occupation Summary for Electrical Engineers.” Accessed March 15, 2024.

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