What is an Electrical Engineering Degree?

Electrical engineers create all types of electrical equipment and systems. These professionals design our electronics, build our electrical systems and power our communities. With an electrical engineering degree, you can work on the latest developments and technologies in the aerospace, automotive, telecommunications, and utility industries.

Depending on the level, electrical engineering degree programs include courses in circuitry, instrumentation, and electromagnetism. Electrical engineering degree programs often offer opportunities for specialization. You can focus your training in one of many subfields, including power generation, microelectronics, biomedical engineering.

Here, we take a look at the types of training and skills available in different electrical engineering degrees and what you can expect from them.

What Skills Do Electrical Engineering Programs Teach Students?

Each degree program and level provides a different set of skills. The following lists highlight some of the interpersonal, theoretical and technical skills available at different levels.

  • Problem solving
  • Project management
  • Critical mind
  • Mathematics and physics
  • Technical design
  • Computer Aided Design
  • simulation software
  • Automation controllers
  • Organization and management
  • Communication
  • Innovation
  • Advanced Mathematics and Physics
  • Systems theory
  • Operational planning
  • Circuit design
  • Instrumentation and measurements
  • Programming

What Types of Electrical Engineering Degrees Are There?

The type of electrical engineering degree you receive can have a big impact on your career. Each level offers something unique, with its own postgraduate benefits and opportunities. Here we break down each level and explore the training and career options they have to offer.

Electrical Engineering Certificate Program

Electrical engineering certificate programs tend to offer specialized or higher-level training. Students with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering can use certificates to develop a concentration in electrical power or automotive systems. Most certificate programs offer graduate-level training, providing advanced training for career development purposes or preparation for a master’s degree program.

Certificate programs often last between 3 and 12 months. Depending on the certificate holder’s previous education and experience, these programs can lead to a variety of electrical engineering jobs, such as electrical systems engineer, design engineer, and instrumentation engineer roles and in electrical reliability.

Associate’s Degree in Electrical Engineering

An electrical engineering degree at the associate level provides learners with the foundation of general education, science, math, and engineering. These programs typically last two years, and students can take courses in AC/DC circuits, computer programming, computer-aided design, and digital electronics.

Associate level students gain an understanding of engineering principles and electrical systems. They also develop their critical thinking and problem-solving skills. The education prepares graduates for entry-level positions, such as electronic engineering technologist and electromechanical technician.

Bachelor of Electrical Engineering

A bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering enables students to design and build various electrical systems and devices. Programs typically take students 3-4 years to complete, including general education, physics, and math courses. Learners also study engineering topics in electrical circuits, electronics manufacturing, controller systems, and computer programming.

Many bachelor’s degree programs offer specialization options, such as power systems, robotics, and signal processing. Graduates can qualify for many engineering positions, including the roles of electrical engineer, electronics engineer, and power engineer. They can also continue their training with a master’s or a postgraduate degree.

Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering vs Bachelor of Engineering (BEng)

A BS in Engineering can differ from a BEng in different ways. In general, BS programs combine general education and theoretical engineering courses, while BEng programs offer more focused and practical training. While both degrees can last between 3 and 4 years, BEng programs can last longer than BS programs.

Due to the difference in training, these diplomas can lead to different career paths. For example, BEng degrees lead graduates directly into the job market, while BS degrees can lead to graduate studies.

Master in Electrical Engineering

An electrical engineering degree at the master’s level builds on undergraduate education and allows students to tackle advanced research topics in the field. These programs typically last 1-2 years and cover courses in engineering design and project management. Programs may also include a practical project and an internship or an in-depth research project and a thesis.

Master’s students typically choose a specialization where they focus their studies and research in one area, such as biomedical engineering, energy systems, communications, and systems control. Graduates can enter most electrical engineering careers, including electrical engineering manager and biomedical engineer positions.

Master of Science in Electrical Engineering vs Master of Engineering

M.Eng. and the Masters in Electrical Engineering may differ in duration, focus, and postgraduate opportunities. For example, MS programs offer more theoretical training, while M.Eng. the programs focus on practical applications. MS programs can also last longer due to the strong research component.

M.Eng. graduates typically enter the labor market directly, while master’s graduates have the option of pursuing doctoral programs.

PhD in Electrical Engineering

A doctorate in electrical engineering is the terminal degree in this discipline. Programs can take between 3 and 7 years. Learners undertake in-depth research on a topic of their choice, such as computer hardware, power and energy systems, and nanotechnology.

Doctoral students aim to develop new innovations and contribute to the discourse in their sub-discipline using their dissertations. Graduates can pursue most engineering careers in their field, including management and higher-level positions. They can also start careers in post-secondary education and research and development.

Accreditation for Electrical Engineering Programs

When choosing an electrical engineering program, you should look for regional and programmatic accreditation. Accreditation is essential for financial aid and employment opportunities.

Regional accreditation comes from one of the official accreditation bodies. Programmatic accreditation for electrical engineering programs comes from the Accreditation Council for Engineering and Technology (A BET).

How Difficult Is An Electrical Engineering Degree?

Students may find an electrical engineering degree challenging, especially in the early stages. Learners without a background in math and physics may find these components of the curriculum the most difficult to grasp. However, once they have built a strong foundation in these disciplines, they should be able to achieve success overall.

Electrical engineering programs can also come with a demanding workload. The training includes large projects, but the practical and visual components of the courses can make it easier for learners to understand this subject. In general, students must be self-motivated and possess problem-solving and creative-thinking skills to be successful in these programs.

In conclusion

Electrical engineering offers various educational and career opportunities. Use this guide to help you choose the best degree for your specific studies and career interests.

This article has been reviewed by Monali Mirel Chuatico

Monali Mirel Chuatico, a woman with long black hair, smiles in a headshot.

In 2019, Monali Mirel Chuático earned her bachelor’s degree in computer science, which gave her the foundation she needed to excel in roles such as data engineer, front-end developer, UX designer, and computer science instructor.

Monali is currently a Data Engineer at Mission Lane. As a data analytics captain at a non-profit organization called CO-OP careersMonali helps new graduates and young professionals overcome underemployment by teaching them data analytics tools and mentoring them on their professional development journey.

Monali is passionate about implementing creative solutions, building community, advocating for mental health, empowering women and educating young people. Monali’s goal is to gain more experience in her field, broaden her skills and do meaningful work that will have a positive impact on the world.

Monali Mirel Chuatico is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education Independent Assessment Network.

Page last revised on January 19, 2022.