What Do Electrical Engineers Do?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

An electrical engineer specialises in building, testing, installing, and maintaining electrical equipment and systems.

[Featured image] An electrical engineer works on a project with her laptop computer.

Electrical and electronics engineers design, 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 Indeed, the average base salary for an electrical engineer in the United Kingdom is £40,594 per year as of May 2024 [1]. This amount can vary based on your location, education, and experience. Those working in research and development tend to earn higher pay, 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 specialising in a specific area. Some common specialities 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: Although sometimes considered a separate field, computer engineering overlaps with electrical engineering in many ways. As a computer engineer, you’ll develop and improve computer hardware and software across a range of industries. 

  • Telecommunications: Thanks to new technologies in telecommunications, we can communicate with people around the globe almost instantaneously. 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 minimal) 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 designing 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. These systems may also involve artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning.

How to become an electrical engineer

Let’s examine the basic qualifications you’ll need for a career in electrical engineering, including education, training, registrations, and skill sets.

Electrical engineering degrees 

Becoming an electrical engineer requires education or training in the forms of a university degree, college diploma, or completion of an apprenticeship. University degrees in electromechanical engineering, building services engineering, applied physics, aeronautical engineering, and mechatronics are suitable programmes for a career in electrical engineering. The entry requirements for these degrees are usually 2 to 3 A levels or the equivalent.

A Level 4 and 5 Higher National Diploma in Electrical and Electronic Engineering at college is an acceptable qualification to apply for engineering positions. You will need 1 or 2 A levels, a level 3 diploma, or relevant experience to get into the Level 4 or 5 course.

Degree and higher apprenticeships as electrical technical support or electro-mechanical engineers are paths to becoming a qualified engineer. They usually take between four and six years to complete. To enter an apprenticeship, you need four or five GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels. 

Professional registration

While not required for entry-level positions, you may consider a professional registration in engineering like Engineering Technician (EngTech), Incorporated Engineer (IEng), or Chartered Engineer (CEng) as you advance in your career. This is common after you’ve gained a few years of work experience.

The registered titles are open to professionals who demonstrate competence and commitment to their field, as outlined in the UK Standard for Professional Engineering Competence and Commitment (UK-SPEC). As outlined by UK-SPEC, each registration title requires engineers to meet standards in five broad areas [2]:

  • Knowledge and understanding

  • Design, development, and solving engineering problems

  • Responsibility, management, and leadership

  • Communication and interpersonal skills

  • Professional commitment 

Additionally, eligibility to apply for CEng registration requires academic qualifications, including a bachelor's degree with honours accredited for CEng, plus an accredited master’s degree or Engineering Doctorate (EngD) or additional learning to the master level.

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

  • Organisation

  • 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 registrations, 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 to succeed. 

Get started with Coursera.

Experience whether an electrical engineering career 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


Indeed. “Electrical Engineer Salary in United Kingdom, https://uk.indeed.com/career/electrical-engineer/salaries.” Accessed May 13, 2024.

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