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Areas of electrical engineering with the most potential

  1. Mar 3, 2015 #1
    I'm currently a second-year electrical engineering major (in the US). Next semester I'll begin to take almost exclusively classes involving different branches of electrical engineering. I've taken two digital design courses, a course on microprocessors, and I'm currently on my second "circuits and signals" course.

    The courses I'll be taking next semester are a control systems course, an electronics course, circuits and signals III, and a communications engineering course. Now, I'm a bit concerned about certain things1 I've seen lately online involving employment for electrical engineers. I don't necessarily have hard data on this, but I do know that electrical and computer engineering seems to be seeing a rise in number of majors throughout the country (I'm guessing particularly in the "computer" side). Combined with the current outlook for electrical engineering according to the BLS (only a 4% increase in the next 10 years), this makes me a bit nervous about employment prospects.

    Now, I have found that I don't particularly enjoy computer engineering, as I really prefer more applied-physics areas of EE. I'm enjoying my circuits and signals course at the moment. I have experience doing computer-engineering and robotics related research which I somewhat enjoy, but I probably wouldn't pick something like it as a career (almost entirely dealing with programming computers). In other words, I prefer using a computer as a tool over designing something for a computer.

    All of that said, I know "what area will be in demand" questions are nearly possible to answer. But my question is, as of right now, what areas match the descriptions of what I like and have decent employment prospects (i.e. plenty of job openings). This can be something that affords good opportunities because few EEs specialize in it, or just because it's a big field. I've looked into things like the semiconductor industry, but quite frankly, I've heard some bad things about the work hours required there (It's not worth it to me to work 70 hours a week. I'll work overtime, but I do need some kind of social life--unless I'm wrong on this point).

    If you'd like a more specific question, I'd appreciate any information provided about the following fields:

    Control Engineering
    Signal Processing (what kinds of jobs would this lead to?)
    RF/antenna engineering (this actually sounds very neat to me, but I don't know much about how easy it is to get a job in this field or what companies I'd be working for)
    Semiconductor industry (is what I've heard about this field true?)

    And of course, feel free to point out any other options.

    Note: I do intend on going to graduate school.

    Last edited: Mar 3, 2015
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 3, 2015 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    The most potential? High voltage! <rimshot>

    Seriously, even if we had an exact answer today, which we don't, the landscape will have shifted by the time you finish school. You are going to have to make a decision based on incomplete information.
  4. Mar 4, 2015 #3


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    do you intend on going to grad school right out of undergrad, or work and study at the same time?

    I'll tell you what i know at this point in time. keep in mind this is one viewpoint.

    signal processing: For the most part this isnt really a job. rather signal processing is something that supplements another field. that being said signal processing can be VERY valuable to getting a job. It is important for FPGA design, certain software jobs, rf engineering, control theory, etc

    control theory: getting a job actually doing the control development right now is kind of difficult without a grad degree in the subject.

    rf/antenna: very in demand, however for the most part you need a masters degree to be of any real use. my company needs many rf engineers. big shortage

    semiconductors: Ti hired about 200 apps engineers over the past few years, in addition to quite a few design engineers. I'm not sure where they are at now. There aren't many foundries left in the country, but that isnt all the semiconductor industry is about.

    my opinion: the engineering workforce is getting old. many companies will need to replace their senior engineers in 10 years, so they need to start training replacements now. You should be able to find a job as an EE. choose to specialize in what you enjoy in school, not because it has good job potential.
  5. Mar 4, 2015 #4
    I plan to go straight to grad school after I finish undergrad.

    RF engineering seems very interesting to me. What types of problems would an RF or antenna engineer deal with?
  6. Mar 4, 2015 #5


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    You will see a few different problems in RF engineering.
    disclaimer: RF engineering is not my field

    It is one of the more math intensive fields of EE.
    Think of it as a hybrid between analog circuit engineering and a E&M applied physicist.
    you'll have to take fields and waves classes, which are all about electromagnetic waves and fields (duhh).
    You'll also take advanced mathematics classes that are required for the advanced RF classes.
    You learn how to make amplifier, filters, mixers, and antennas for RF applications.

    Past that i can't really give you anything. All of my RF knowledge is one fields and waves class and analog circuit design classes.
  7. Mar 7, 2015 #6
    Everything donpachino wrote has been my experience too. I dabble in RF engineering as a technician, as an amateur, and occasionally as an engineer.

    Antenna design and path modeling is a big deal for radio stations. RF Engineers design avionic systems, radar systems, telemetry systems, transponders, RFIDs, WiFi systems, and many more applications.

    However, I should caution you that this can be a boom/bust sort of industry. While it can be lucrative, it is not stable employment.
  8. Mar 7, 2015 #7
    Is this something you've seen a lot in your experience? I mean, the field sound quite interesting to me (more interesting than some areas of electrical engineering), but I'm not sure I'd want to go study something for 2-3 more years in graduate school only to have no job security and/or be moving around all the time to find employment (especially when there are many stable jobs in engineering).
  9. Mar 7, 2015 #8
    RF Engineering can be stable if you choose the right places. For example, working at a cell phone company can be interesting. Designing radar systems can be a multi-year effort. But at the end of the day, there will be travel. Projects come and go. If you choose a longer term project, you'll get stability at a cost of a slightly lower salary.

    You have to keep in mind that you have to grow your own career. This is true regardless of whether you work in a stable place that provides for lifelong employment, or whether you work in some short term contracts.

    RF Engineers are in some demand, but sadly many people are treating RF Engineering efforts as an afterthought. They often hand it to the IT Departments who promptly screw things up --because that's considered a "physical layer" thing.
  10. Mar 10, 2015 #9


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    Exactly....you are going to use some basic theory from school, but 90% of what you do at work will be learned at work.

    Most jobs in my opinion are going to fall under wiring up industrial factories. These are real world situations and believe it or not, factories still make up most of what we use.
    What I mean by "wiring up factories" is simply this: Designing construction drawings for the electricians in the field to install.

    Also, these factories are constantly being updated. Therefore, new substations, new Cable and ladder, new IO cabinets to control a multitude of machines.
    So most likely you will be wiring up power and control. Also with that goes short circuit analysis and coordination curves for multiple breakers and so forth.

    I took digital design for my senior design in college. Interesting stuff....haven't touched it since.
    So regardless of what you take on in school, what job is available to you will be the one you choose!!!

    Just my experience.....I was heavily involved with construction before my degree and it just never seems to escape me.

    So don't put too much weight in to what you are taking in school.....simply concentrate on the great skill of learning how to learn!!!! This is the skill you will use the most!
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