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What is Electrical Engineering

Electrical engineering is the branch of Engineering that involves the study of electrical and electronic components, devices, and equipment and the application of these components and equipment in our daily life. It also studies electrical machines and equipment for generating, distributing, utilizing, and protecting electric power. Apart from electronics and energy, other subjects of interest in electrical engineering are computers, telecommunication systems, signal and signal processing techniques, control systems, and photovoltaics.

People holding a degree in Electrical Engineering are known are Electrical Engineers.

Practising Electrical Engineers are usually specialized in one branch of Electrical Engineering. They hold professional certifications or licenses and are members of one or more local or international professional engineering organizations. Examples of a few international organizations include:

  • The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC)
  • The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
  • The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET, formerly the IEE)

10 SubFields of Electrical Engineering

Electrical Engineering can be broadly classified into ten subfields.

Computer Engineering

Computer Engineering is a multidisciplinary field that integrates principles and rules of electrical engineering with computer sciences for the design, development, analysis, and applications of computers. Computer Engineering involves a wide range of topics, including hardware design, software development, and the integration of both to create efficient and reliable computing systems. Computer engineers are interested in numerous hardware and software aspects of computers. They are involved in and work in various fields ranging from the design of individual microcontrollers, computers, microprocessors, quantum, and supercomputers. The field of computer engineering not only concentrates on working on computer systems on their own but as well as their integration into other systems. Robotics is one of the applications of computer engineering.

Control System Engineering

It involves the Engineering and modeling of different types of control systems, controllers for these systems, impact, and application of feedback in control systems.

Control systems engineering also sometimes known as Control Engineering is an electrical engineering specialization that involves the study of control systems, and the application of control system theory to design equipment and systems. The field of control systems overlaps electrical engineering at many universities and colleges across the globe. Control systems involve the study and application of sensors and detectors to gauge the performance of the processes being controlled. Control systems are further divided into many classes. Control systems engineering focuses on the implementation, installation, and utilization of control systems for the welfare of humankind.

Electric Drives, Motors & Power Electronics

This subfield of Electrical Engineering deals with studying electric and magnetic fields and their interaction. Electrical motors are machines that convert electrical power to mechanical power. Electrical motors are primarily classified into two categories: AC & DC electrical motors. As the name implies AC motors take AC power as input, while DC motors convert DC Electrical power to mechanical power.

The sub-discipline Electric Drives, Motors & Power Electronics involves the study of these motors, drives use for controlling motors, and power electronic devices and components that are involved in the field of electrical engineering. It involves the study of different types of electrical motors, including synchronous motors, induction motors, AC Brushless Motors, DC Brushed and brushless Motors, and Linear, Servo, and Stepper motors, which are part of the study in this subfield. Power Electronic components and devices such as AC to AC or DC to AC, DC to AC or DC to DC converters and applications of different types of power electronic components is also part of a study in this subfield.

Electronics Engineering

Electronics Engineering also known as Electronic Engineering is a branch of electrical engineering that involves the study and application of active electronic components and devices that are used for amplification and control of current flow. It also involves the design of different electronic components, circuits, and their applications in various electrical devices, appliances, and equipment around us.

The branch of Electronic Engineering appeared at the beginning of the 20th century and is characterized by the study of active components. The study of electronics engineering involves different subjects such as analog electronics, digital electronics, and consumer electronics such as laptops, air conditioners, refrigerators, and LCDs. Apart from this it also involves different types of embedded systems and power electronics. Apart from itself, electronics engineering also links related fields such as solid-state physics, radio engineering, telecommunications, control systems, signal processing, systems engineering, computer engineering, instrumentation engineering, electric power control, and robotics.

Instrumentation and Measurement Engineering

Instrumentation and Measurement Engineering is about designing, applying, and utilizing different types of instruments and their integration with real-life systems around us. Instrumentation is a collaborative term that involves the study and application of different types of measuring instruments that are employed for indicating, measuring, and recording physical quantities. Instrumentation refers to devices as simple as direct-reading thermometers, or as complex as multi-sensor components of industrial control systems. The applications of Instrumentation and measurement engineering can be found in almost all fields. It can be found in laboratories, refineries, factories, and vehicles, as well as in everyday household use. Examples of some fields include Process control systems, Industrial automation, Instrumentation design, Biomedical instrumentation, Environmental monitoring, Power plant instrumentation, Oil and gas industry instrumentation, Chemical plant instrumentation, Water and wastewater treatment instrumentation, and Aerospace and defense instrumentation.

Microelectronics & Nanoelectronics

The term nano and micro are two SI prefixes. The prefix micro means small. It is one millionth. The prefix nano comes from the Greek word for dwarf and it means one billionth. The term Microelectronics & Nanoelectronics, as its name implies are the branches of Engineering that deal with the study and design of electronic chips of very small levels. Generally, microelectronics is focused on microelectronic semiconductor transistors and their applications. Nanoelectronics further scales down microelectronic devices.

Power Systems Engineering

Power Systems Engineering deals with all equipment, components, and devices used for the generation, transmission, distribution, protection, operation, and control of electrical power. Power Systems Engineering itself can be further classified into multiple branches, which include:

  • Power Generation: It deals with the study of different types of conventional and non-concentration power generation units such as hydroelectric, thermal, nuclear power plants, wind, and solar farms. Power generation is focused on the design, development, installation, and maintenance of different components in order to enable the economical generation of power that is available at good rates to consumers.
  • Power Transmission: Once electric power is generated, the next step is to transport it to the consumer end where it will be utilized in electrical equipment. This is achieved using the transmission lines. Electrical power is generated at voltage levels usually ranging between 11 to 25 kV. However, the transmission of power can’t be done at this voltage level since there will be a lot of losses that will decrease the efficiency of transmission. In order to have optimal transmission the power is stepped up using transformers to levels between 265 kV to 765 kV. The high voltage level electricity is then transmitted from generation stations to the distribution stations.
  • Power distribution: Once power is received at distribution stations, it is further stepped down and is sent forward to the transformers which further steps it down for final distribution.
  • Power System Operations & Control: The term power system operations and control abbreviated as PSO&C is an amalgamation of Power System Operations and Power System Controls. Power system operations or PSO refers to the process of making judgments on the timescale from one day early to minutes preceding power transmission. The terms power system control on the other hand explains the actions taken as a response to unplanned disturbances in order to provide a continuous and reliable power supply at consumer premises. The basic purpose of power system control is to control and respond to changes in demand or equipment failures.
  • Power System Protection: Power system protection abbreviated as PSP is the branch of Electrical Power Engineering that is primarily focused on protecting electrical components and devices against different types of electrical faults. Power system protection involves the design and application of different power system protection components such as fuses, circuit breaker relays, and instrumentation transformers. It also involves the study of different protection schemes and configurations in which circuit breakers, isolators and other components are installed.
  • Power System Analysis: The term power system analysis refers to the detailed examination of the elements & structure of a power system. Power system analysis is an essential part of electrical power system design. It involves the application and utilization of different calculations and simulation software for verifying that the electrical system and its components are correctly specified and will always be able to perform appropriately as intended, withstand expected stress, and be protected against failures.

Robotics and Automation

Robotics and Automation Engineering involves the study and application of computers, control systems, and information technology to oversee industrial processes and machinery. Robotics is an interdisciplinary branch of Electronics & Communication, computer science, and engineering that is primarily focused on designing machines that can help and assist humans in executing a variety of jobs and tedious tasks. Electrical and Electronics Engineers working in the field of robotics and automation are involved in the design, construction, operation, and use of robots. Robotics Engineering is actually an interdisciplinary branch that integrates different fields of engineering such as electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and computer sciences for the study, design, implementation, and application of actuators, electrical motors, and other components for designing robots.

Signal Processing Engineering

Generally, the word signal means a gesture, activity, or sound that is employed to transfer information or instructions, generally by prearrangement between the concerned people. In the field of electrical engineering, the signal refers to an electrical impulse or radio wave transmitted or received. The branch of signal processing engineering involves the study and analysis of analog or digital signals. It is a mathematically intensive field of study that is rapidly growing and has applications in various areas of electrical engineering. A few examples of Signal Processing Engineering are DSP processor ICs that are found in many electronic devices and are responsible for noise reduction, speech recognition or synthesis, encoding or decoding digital media, wirelessly transmitting or receiving data, and other kinds of image, video, audio, and speech processing.

Telecommunications Engineering

Telecommunications engineering is a subfield of electrical engineering that concentrates on transmitting information and designing electronic components, transmitters, and receivers required for communication systems. Telecommunication engineer deal with the design, installation, and overseeing operations of telecommunications equipment and facilities. They are involved in dealing with complex electronic switching systems, and other plain old telephone service facilities, optical fiber cabling, IP networks, and microwave transmission systems.

Electrical Engineering Education

Electrical Engineering education involves an academic degree with a concentration in either power, electronics, or telecom engineering. At the base level, all the same principles are taught. However, emphasis may vary according to the title of the degree.

Electrical Engineering Education is offered at four levels:

  • Bachelor in Electrical Engineering (Spans 4 to 5 Years)
  • Master in Electrical Engineering (Spans 2 Years)
  • Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering (Between 2 to 5 Years)
  • PostDoc in Electrical Engineering (Spans 1 to 3 years)

Study and Learn Electrical Engineering Online

Do you want to study and learn Electrical Engineering Online? ElectricalEngineeringOnline.com shares articles, MCQs, questions, Formulas, and 100s of other topics you want to learn in Electrical Engineering.

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  3. Electrical Engineering Short Questions and Answers Online
  4. Top Skills Required for Electrical Engineers
  5. Top Industries for Electrical Engineers
  6. Top Job Titles after Electrical Engineering Degrees

Electrical and Electronics Engineering Job Prospects

Electrical Engineers are involved in conceptualizing, designing, developing, testing, installing, commissioning, and supervising the manufacture of different types of electrical equipment. They work on and deal with electric motors, radar and navigation systems, communications systems, power systems such as power generation, power transmission & distribution, power system analysis, and power system protection equipment. As per bls.gov, Electrical Engineers earned a median salary of $101,780 annually in 2021. Overall employment is expected to grow by 3 percent from the same period till the next ten years.

Electrical Engineers are employed in different industries, incl Engineering services, semiconductor manufacturers, and instrumentation & control system industries. Given below is a list of a few industries where Electrical Engineers are employed:

Aerospace and Defense Industry

Aerospace is a diverse term that refers to outer space and the atmosphere and it encompasses a wide array of applications ranging from military, industrial, and commercial activities. Aerospace activities comprise both aeronautics and astronautics. Electrical Engineers in aerospace and defense industries work on the design, manufacturing, operations, and maintenance of all electrical parts and components related to aeronautical and astronautical structures. For example, as an Electrical Engineer working in the aerospace and defense industry, you will be researching DC-DC, and DC-AC converter applications of 5 to 500kW+ range or you might find yourself involved in the development, implementation, expansion, and maintenance of hardware-based security solutions for the protection of different defense installations.

Automotive Industry

The term automotive refers to the design, operation, manufacture, or sale of automobiles. The automotive industry constitutes of a broad range of companies and organizations that are involved in the design, evolution, manufacturing, selling, fixing, and development of different types of motors. The automotive industry is one of the largest global industries by revenue. The origin of the automotive industry dates back to the 1860s and the USA remained a key player in the automotive industry for a couple of years. Electrical Engineers working in the automotive industry are responsible for research, development, design, installation, integration, testing, and commissioning of all electrical components of automotive. The evolution of EVs has further broadened the scope of Electrical Engineers in the industry. Electrical Engineers working on EVs are responsible for circuit design, simulation, schematics, layout supervision, prototyping, validation, and manufacturing of all electrical parts as per the approved specifications. They collaborate with mechanical, and software engineers for seamless integration of electrical parts.

Computer Hardware

A computer is a machine that can be programmed to execute different types of arithmetic and logical operations. Electrical Engineers working in the field of computers have a variety of job roles including Electrical Engineering architect, Electrical Hardware Development Engineer, Power Delivery Engineer, and Research and Development Engineer. Electrical Engineers working in the field are involved in responsible for Identifying and evaluating new technologies. They review and evaluate designs and project activities for compliance with technology.

Construction and Building Services

NASA defines the construction industry as the branch of manufacturing and trade based on building, maintaining, and repairing structures. The construction industry can be broadly categorized into three subcategories including building construction, heavy construction, and special trade construction industry. Electrical Engineers in construction are involved in the design, installation, testing, and commissioning of electrical devices, cables, components, panels, lighting, and power equipment in the construction industry. They are responsible for laying conduits and containments such as cable trays, trunking, and GI pipes that carry electrical cables for power transmission, signaling, and control applications. Electrical Engineers ensure that all components and equipment are installed as per approved method statements and approved shop and IFC drawings.

Education and Academia

Electrical Engineers in the field of education of academia work as professors or instructors where they share their knowledge and expertise with students. Electrical Engineers in this field develop and deliver lectures, design coursework, conduct laboratory sessions, and assess student performance. Apart from instructing, Electrical engineers in academia are also engaged in research and innovation. They research a variety of topics in Electrical Engineering including power systems, control systems, power electronics, signal processing, telecommunications, and more.

Other Industries where Electrical Engineers work:

  1. Consulting Services
  2. Consumer Electronics
  3. Control Systems
  4. Electronics Manufacturing
  5. Information Technology
  6. Instrumentation and Measurement
  7. Medical Equipment and Devices
  8. Oil and Gas Industry
  9. Power Generation and Distribution
  10. Railway and Transportation
  11. Renewable Energy
  12. Research and Development
  13. Robotics and Automation
  14. Semiconductor Industry
  15. Telecommunications

Typical Roles and Responsibilities of Electrical Engineers

  1. Designing electrical systems and components
  2. Conducting research and development to innovate and enhance electrical technologies
  3. Analyzing and troubleshooting electrical systems and equipment
  4. Developing electrical plans and specifications for construction projects
  5. Ensuring compliance with electrical codes and regulations
  6. Testing and inspecting electrical systems for quality control
  7. Collaborating with multidisciplinary teams to integrate electrical systems into larger projects
  8. Managing and overseeing electrical projects from conception to completion
  9. Providing technical support and guidance to clients or colleagues
  10. Staying updated with advancements in electrical engineering and incorporating new technologies into designs and systems

Typical Roles and Responsibilities of Electronics Engineers

  1. Designing electronic circuits and systems
  2. Testing and troubleshooting electronic components and systems.
  3. Circuit board design, including layout and routing
  4. Prototyping and testing electronic devices and systems
  5. Selecting and sourcing electronic components for projects
  6. Collaborating with cross-functional teams to integrate electronics into larger systems
  7. Conducting research and development to enhance electronic technologies
  8. Ensuring compliance with industry standards and regulations
  9. Providing technical support and guidance to colleagues or clients
  10. Staying updated with advancements in electronics engineering and incorporating new technologies into designs and systems

Electrical Engineering Infographic

Sources/Further Reading:

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_system_operations_and_control
  • https://www.unitech.no/power-system-analysis/category572.html
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_engineering
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electrical_engineering
  • https://www.computerhistory.org/timeline/computers/
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer#History
  • https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/electrical-and-electronics-engineers.htm
  • https://www.hq.nasa.gov/iwgsdi/Construction.html