Becoming an Electronic Engineer

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Electronic engineers work on the design, development, production, testing, and maintenance of electronic systems, many of which maybe based on light rather than electronics. They may be employed in technical marketing and sales or in after-sales service. Some research new electronic materials or devices and are concerned with software (computer programs) in addition to hardware (the electronic equipment).

The Job:

There are many different, but related job options. Some electronic engineers’ research, design, and develop new electronic devices such as integrated circuits (minute circuits deposited onto chips of silicon or germanium).

Engineers may also design other electronic devices and connectors. Increasingly, they are concerned with light instead of electrons, designing systems to amplify optical and electronic signals over great distances (there are now optical-fiber telephone cables stretched right around the globe).

The design and development of new electronic circuits for many different purposes are important aspects of their work. New ideas are thoroughly tested before the electronic equipment can be produced. The tendency for electronic equipment to become smaller causes problems because one electronic device may affect the performance of another if they are very close together. In manufacturing, these engineers devise, install, and maintain automatic control systems, robots, sensors, and the instrumentation required to measure and optimize the production process. They have responsibility for carrying out detailed testing procedures on electronic systems once they have been produced.

Laboratory-based researchers apply new concepts, find novel solutions to electronic problems, and experiment with new materials and designs. Maintenance workers may have to work around the clock on shifts to keep a factory going. Often, the engineer detects the printed circuit board on which there is a fault, quickly replaces it with another, and, subsequently, in the workshop, repairs the board for re-use by replacing the damaged component.

Some engineers provide an after-sales service for customers, perhaps providing a telephone help line, or write training manuals for the users of equipment. A few become patent agents, protecting innovative ideas other engineers have devised from being copied by others.

Manufacturers of computers and related equipment (printers, fax machines, and modems), makers of telephone network systems, and providers of telephone services are among the largest employers.

These engineers can be involved in developing equipment for music or banking, disease diagnosis, or marine or aviation navigation systems – a host of electronic items for every conceivable use.

Engineers in information technology (IT) must have computer-programming skills.

Computer programs are often an integral part of a modern electronic circuit, being embedded in a read-only memory (ROM) magnetic device.

Electronic engineers use their technical expertise every day. They work in small teams, often with computer programmers. To work in research and design they need a high degree of creativity. Some become project leaders, supervising the work of other engineers, while others work in sales and marketing, where they have more mobility and contact with customers.

Useful Qualifications to Have:

Electronic engineers operate at many different levels from the top professional engineers to technicians. Those destined for senior management usually need a university degree in electronic engineering plus the training and experience required to become a professional engineer.

At a minimum, everybody working in electronics must have a good grounding in physics and mathematics to reach technician level.

Salary Expectations:

The base salary range of an Electronic Engineer ranges from $63,324,125 to $92,301 annually, while the median salary for most Electronic Engineers is $78,000 annually. (US Base Pay)

Training Involved:

Training includes practical work in the laboratory or workshop and experience in design.

It also involves gaining an understanding of the components most used in their particular industry and how to choose the best ones for specific purposes.

Training usually includes learning to write the computer programs that help electronic systems to operate. Those reaching senior professional status will receive at least 2 years of training and spend a few years in a junior management role before being accepted by an engineering institution as a professional engineer.

Future Prospects:

Electronic engineers are in demand around the world. The rapid development of telecommunications systems, the increasing application of computers to every walk of life, the now commonplace introduction of electronics in the home, the financial markets, and nearly all types of industry have all combined to create many more jobs for electronic engineers.

Electronic systems are now used in virtually every aspect of society in developed countries, and this provides employment for engineers in both the public and private sectors. Manufacturers of electronic systems are particularly evident in Southeast Asia, and research and design for new electronic systems are flourishing in the USA and in Europe.

For further information, contact national professional engineering institutions and trade associations of electronic equipment and computer manufacturers.