What Can You do with an Electrical Engineering Major?

By: Kirsi (who double majors in Electrical Engineering & Computer Science)

ee_careers I regret waiting to take Introduction to Electrical Engineering (EE), a freshman seminar class, until my fourth year of college. After participation in a high school robotics team and EE related internships, I figured that I knew all the trajectories an EE major could take post college… WRONG. During this semester I have heard from local power systems engineers, microchip-memory gurus, and professors at our own University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) conducting cutting edge research. This year US News and World Report listed Electrical Engineering as the 8th most needed degree in industry in their “Top College Majors for Finding Full-Time Work” article and 6th highest mid-career salaries in their “Top 10 College Majors That Earn the Highest Salaries.” Of course, success in an EE major requires more than the desire to get hired and paid well, it requires a passion for designing and problem-solving. I will share what University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) alumni are doing with their EE degrees, what EE majors across the US are doing with their degrees and future applications of electrical engineering.

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Careers of UMD EE Alumni
Electrical & Computer Engineering was offered as a joint major at UMD until 2012 when the degree became solely Electrical Engineering. UMD’s Career and Internship Services conducts a comprehensive Graduate Follow-up Report collecting data on the career choices of UMD Alumni. Most recently they have published a 2014-2015 EE report on the employment and continuing education of EE alumni, six months to one year after graduation. 96% of EE graduates from 2014-15 are employed (this is with a 95% response rate for our graduate follow-up survey). Of the 96% employed, 95% have indicated they are in a position related or somewhat related to their major. Some occupations held by these graduates include Project Engineer, mobile Applications Developer, Firmware Engineer, Design Automation Engineer, and Electronic Design Engineer.

Looking closer into UMD Alumni statistics, LinkedIn offers of a view of where EE graduates work in industry since the beginning of the EE program (even when it was offered as a joint major). If you log into your LinkedIn account you can see the analysis for yourself. Top five employers for UMD EE Alumni in order include Minnesota Power, Open Systems International, Intel Corporation, LHB, and Seagate Technology. These professionals perform engineering, operations, information technology, sales, and education related work.

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On the shores of Lake Superior, UMD is involved in a number of cutting edge EE research opportunities and projects. Colonoscopies are becoming more effective thanks to the work of Professor Jing Bai and her nanotechnology development. Bai is working on the design and fabrication of a new type of tabular-shaped sensor array for contact pressure measurement for colonoscopies. This sensor looks like a nimble rubber snake intricately covered in pressure sensors. This technology has the potential to effectively detect ulcers and other abrasions in the colon a camera might miss. Rural America is harnessing nature to provide electric power in remote locations thanks to Professor Taek Kwon and Research Associate Ryan Weidemann. They have researched the use of hybrid solar and wind renewable power generators for rural Minnesota transportation applications. Results show that combining solar and wind resources are a reliable way provide power in a variety of weather and seasons.While driving down a country highway in Southern Minnesota you may find a dynamic traffic message board powered by a wind turbine cross solar panel power generator (see photo above). Professors who conduct this research hire UROP undergrad and graduate students to assist and if you are lucky they may teach one or two of your courses!

EE Careers of EE Majors Across the US
Looking back at LinkedIn’s search tools you can search for all positions open with the keyword “Electrical Engineer.” There are currently over 17,000 electrical engineering positions posted on LinkedIn open in the US. The highest number of positions open are at Amazon (410) and Northrop Grumman Corporation (385). The most popular locations for these positions include San Francisco Bay Area, Greater Detroit, Washington DC and New York. Top positions being offered include Software Systems Engineer, Embedded Systems Engineer, Hardware Engineer, and Quality Assurance Engineer. Innovations in electrical engineering that are making the most noise highlighted in MIT Technology Review include renewable energy, electric cars, virtual reality, and driver-less vehicles.

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Power distribution at NASA Glenn Research Center Internship

Future of EE Careers
When I think of electrical engineering I think of big power and little power. Electrical Engineers have the power (haha get it) to distribute 410,885,000 megawatt-hours to the US (based US Energy Information Administration) in a month or to design a nano-scale device that squeezes mere electrons through at a time. In both extremes of the electrical engineering spectrum, innovation is happening. Summer before my first year of college I had the awesome opportunity to work with NASA Glenn Research Center engineers on a power system for a deep space habitat. The electrical design ensured solar panels and batteries took turns providing power to the habitat depending on exposure to the sun. Swap-able modules distribute the power and provide an easy way for astronauts to monitor and, if needed, troubleshoot the system. It turns out this technology being developed at NASA has the potential for renewable energy and commercial applications. In electrical engineering, discoveries are often applied in surprising ways. Give electrical engineering a try, you may effect the future with what you design as an electrical engineer!

Read Kirsi’s other posts

Photo Sources
1: Anna Jimenez Calaf via Unsplash
2: Taek Kwon and Ryan Weidemann
3: Kirsi

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