Electrical Engineering Employment Opportunities
Among the largest employers of electrical engineers are computer, telecommunications and consumer electronics companies. These fields are pretty much the domain of electrical engineer, though a few mechanical engineers are needed for package design.
There are almost always job openings at the giants within these fields, such as IBM, Motorola, Cisco, Sharp, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments and Dell. These huge corporations employ hundreds of engineers at their home offices, but many also have remote engineering sites scattered around the country.
Most major corporations also have international offices. Though there is some chance for transferring overseas, the bulk of engineers in a region tend to be from that area.
Finally, there are a number of smaller companies that produce many different types of basic computing and telecommunications equipment.
The majority of electrical engineers go into what might be considered traditional job categories (if anything can be considered traditional in an industry that really didn't start to mature until 1981, when the first IBM PC was introduced).
The declining costs of electronics mean chips and systems will continuously find new applications. As computer chips become cheaper, clever electrical engineers can design electronic controls that are cheaper than mechanical switches.
And that's bound to continue. Semiconductor manufacturers make exponentially more chips every year. Though the first microchip was made by Texas Instruments' Jack Kirby in 1958, it wasn't until 1994 that worldwide sales cracked $100 billion. In the following six years, the industry matched growth that had previously taken 36 years, as sales surpassed $200 billion in 2000, according to the Semiconductor Industries Association.
Common appliances like refrigerators and stoves have benefited from plenty of electrical technologies, but it's only been in recent years that they have incorporated electronic components like microcontrollers. Today, it's possible to buy a refrigerator that links to the Internet and uses bar code readers to determine whether it's time to buy milk or mustard.
While this kind of growth creates many new job opportunities, job growth doesn't rise at nearly the same rate as market shipments. Corporations contend there aren't enough skilled engineers, and many are hiring engineers from foreign countries or contracting with designers abroad.
Nevertheless, the industry has not suffered a decline in the number of jobs worldwide. That's partly because the electronics industry is predicated on providing new, improved products in increasingly shorter development cycles. In some industries, like those of mobile phones and PCs, new products come out every few months, making older products obsolete in a hurry. Throughout the electronics industry, more than half of a company's revenue typically comes from products that were introduced within the past 18 months.
All these products require some level of design expertise. Complex products obviously require skilled engineers who understand leading-edge technologies, but someone has to design even the simplest products. New electrical engineers can often find a home with companies that need some design expertise for these simpler products.
But engineers can ply their craft in many different fields. Many engineers start out in conventional areas of electronics, but remain on the lookout for openings in fields that particularly interest them. Guitar amplifiers, race cars and medical instruments all have electronic components. Trains and planes make extensive use of electronic controls. A few lucky engineers are able to blend their hobbies, whether that's music or racing, with their career.
Not everyone wants to combine their hobby and their job. Sometime that takes the fun out of things. But for those who do, it is a possibility, as electronics is an area that holds almost unlimited career opportunities for engineers who want to work in areas that might be considered "out of the mainstream."
While the dominant firms in many fields are well known, there are far more opportunities at the hundreds of smaller firms around the country. Throughout the electronics industry, there are often customers who want something a bit different from what mainstream companies can provide. Smaller companies can carve out a niche in these specialized areas, which are often too minor for large corporations to address. Most of these so-called contract design houses have fewer than 50 engineers.