What Is Power Electronics? (+ How to Start a Career in It)

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn about power electronics applications, examples, and careers.

[Featured Image] Two power electronics engineers examine documents in front of electrical equipment.

Power electronics is a multidisciplinary branch of electrical engineering. It focuses on processing, controlling, and converting electric power. Power electronics use high voltages and currents to deliver power to electrical equipment and devices. These devices range from air conditioning systems in homes to industrial machinery. By 2030, it's anticipated that up to 80 per cent of electric power worldwide will rely on power electronics in some capacity [1]. 

How do power electronics work?

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. Power electronics aim to achieve maximum efficiency and reliability at the lowest possible cost, weight, and size. Here are a few power electronics components:

  • Power diodes: These semiconductor devices enable the flow of electric current in one direction and extremely high resistance in the other. Diodes are used as voltage regulators and signal modulators, converting alternating current (AC) to direct current (DC). 

  • Transistors: These semiconductor devices amplify and switch electronic signals and electrical power. 

  • Gate Turn-Off Thyristor (GTO): These high-powered semiconductor switching devices are characterized by its gate turn-off capability. GTOs can also turn on the main current with a gate drive circuit. 

Power electronics applications and examples

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 applicationsExamples
Consumer electronicsAir conditioning systems, emergency lights, kitchen appliances, vacuum cleaners, laptops, cell phones
IndustrialTextile mills, welding equipment, excavators, cement mills
TransportationHybrid vehicles, subways, ships, trolleys
Aerospace and defenceAircraft and missile control, satellites, space shuttles
EnergySolar cell conversion systems and wind turbines

Careers in power electronics

Professionals who work in power electronics are usually electronics or electrical engineers. According to the Government of Canada Job Bank, the outlook for this career for the next few years ranges from moderate to very good, depending on the province or territory in which you work. Factors contributing to job growth in engineering include growing interest in areas like robotics and renewable energy. 

Power electronics engineering

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 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.

Related roles and job titles

  • Test engineer, power electronics

  • Power electronics design release engineer

  • Electrical engineer, power electronics

  • Power electronics manufacturing engineer

  • Electrical design engineer, power electronics

Power electronics engineer salary

According to Glassdoor, the estimated average pay for power electronics engineer in Canada is $65,051 per year [2]. Your earning potential may be influenced by your geographic location, industry, and years of experience.  

How to get a job in power electronics

To get a job in power electronics, you'll typically need a bachelor's degree in electrical or electronics engineering or an appropriate related engineering discipline, such as computer engineering. In some roles, you’ll need a master's or doctoral degree.  One example of a degree for aspiring electronics engineers to pursue is a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering

Did you know? The University of Colorado Boulder also offers the nine-month online course called Power Electronics Graduate Certificate, which counts toward degree credit. 


Gain the essential skills.

We’ve compiled a list of technical and workplace skills for power electronics engineers below. Keep in mind that technical skills represent the practical aspects of your role, while workplace skills contribute to how productive you are in a work environment. 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

Enhance your resume. 

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 that’s used 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.

Stay current with the industry. 

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

Learn more about power electronics with Coursera.

Ready to continue expanding your knowledge of power electronics? Enroll in the University of Colorado Boulder’s Power Electronics Specialization offered on Coursera. Upon completion, you'll earn a shareable certificate and the opportunity to apply your coursework toward a degree.

Article sources


PubMed Central (PMC). "Diamond for Electronics: Materials, Processing and Devices, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8623275/#:~:text=By%202030%2C%20it%20is%20expected%20that%20perhaps%20as%20much%20as%2080%25%20of%20all%20electric%20power%20will%20use%20power%20electronics%20somewhere%20between%20generation%20and%20consumption." Accessed October 11, 2023.

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