What Do Electrical Engineers Do?

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Learn about electrical engineer fields, skills, salaries, and professional registrations. Plan your education and training to start and advance your career in engineering.

[Featured Image] A team of electrical engineers is working on a construction site, analyzing the electrical systems of the site.

Electrical and electronics engineers design and develop, upgrade, and maintain electrical systems and equipment. The science of electricity applies to small and large projects, from household appliances or car transmissions to satellite communications systems or renewable energy power grids.

In this industry, your day-to-day tasks might include:

  • Designing electrical products and electrical systems 

  • Creating technical drawings and topographical maps to ensure proper installation and operation 

  • Identifying and correcting power system problems 

  • Using computer-assisted design software 

  • Communicating with customers, engineers, and other stakeholders on engineering projects 

  • Preparing specifications for manufacturing, maintenance, testing, and purchase of electric equipment 

  • Ensuring compliance with safety standards and codes

How much do electrical engineers make?

According to Glassdoor, the average annual salary for an electrical engineer in Canada is $84,719 as of February 2023 [1]. This amount can vary based on your location, education, and experience. Those working in research and development tend to earn on the higher end of the pay scale, followed by semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing. 

Fields of electrical engineering

Electrical engineering is a broad field covering a wide range of industries. A career in electrical engineering often means specializing in a certain area. Some common specialties include (but are not limited to):

  • Energy and power systems: In this field, you’ll work on generating, distributing, and maintaining electric power systems. This might include traditional sources of power, like motors, generators, and transformers, or emerging technologies, like fusion or green energy.

  • Computer engineering: While sometimes considered a separate field altogether, computer engineering overlaps with electrical engineering in many ways. As a computer engineer, you’ll work to develop and improve computer hardware and software across a range of industries. 

  • Telecommunications: We can communicate with people around the globe almost instantaneously, thanks to new technologies in telecommunications. Telecommunications engineers address the basic challenge of delivering information from one place to another, securely and efficiently. 

  • Microelectronics: The field of microelectronics deals with small (often very small) electronic components. In this career, you’ll work toward further reducing the size of circuits and microchips for use in electronic devices and even nanotechnology.

  • Systems and control: This discipline of electric engineering deals with the design of control systems that behave a certain way in controlled environments. This could involve everything from home thermostats to biomedical prosthetics. 

  • Robotics and artificial intelligence: Robotics engineers design and build robots and robotic systems from the circuits up. Some of these systems may also involve artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning.

How to become an electrical engineer

Let’s take a closer look at the basic qualifications you’ll need for a career in electrical engineering, including education, licenses, and skill sets.

Electrical engineering degrees 

Becoming an electrical engineer requires at least a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from a school accredited by the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board. Most electrical engineers hold either a Bachelor of Applied Science or a Bachelor of Science in Engineering with a focus on electrical engineering.


While not required for entry-level positions, you will need to become a Professional Engineer (PEng) to advance your career. This is common to pursue after you’ve gained between three and four years of work experience under the supervision of a licensed engineer as an engineer-in-training or member-in-training. Licensing is the responsibility of the regulatory bodies of provinces and territories where requirements and exams vary by location. A professional practice exam and a professional ethics exam must be passed to obtain a PEng designation. Licenses are only valid in the province or territory they are issued in. Only licensed engineers can assume responsibility and sign off on work.

Electrical engineer skills  

You'll also need a specific skill set to succeed as an electrical engineer. The technical and workplace skills you'll need include the following:

Technical skills

  • Mathematics

  • Computer science fundamentals

  • Electrical design

  • Circuit knowledge

  • Programming

  • AutoCAD

  • Systems integration knowledge

Workplace skills

  • Analytical skills

  • Concentration

  • Interpersonal skills

  • Communication skills

  • Problem-solving

  • Organization

  • Leadership

  • Teamwork

  • Adaptability

Career paths for electrical engineers 

There are many opportunities to advance within the field of electrical engineering depending on your interests, education, and experience. After you’ve met your basic requirements and obtained the necessary licenses, you may move on to become a project manager, consultant, or contractor. Some electrical engineers decide to pursue academic careers, teaching others the skills required for success in the field. 

Get started with Coursera

Experience for yourself whether a career in electrical engineering might be right for you with Introduction to Electronics from Georgia Tech. If you’re ready to take your electrical engineering career to the next level, learn more about earning your Master of Science in Electrical Engineering online from the University of Colorado Boulder.

Article sources

  1. Glassdoor. "Electrical Engineer Salaries in Canada, https://www.glassdoor.ca/Salaries/canada-electrical-engineer-salary-SRCH_IL.0,6_IN3_KO7,26.htm?clickSource=searchBtn." Accessed February 14, 2023.

Keep reading

Updated on
Written by:



Coursera is the global online learning platform that offers anyone, anywhere access to online course...

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.