Electrical EngineeringBasic Electrical

What is Electrical Engineering? History, Specialization and Education

What is Electrical Engineering? History, Specialization, and Education

Electrical engineering is a technical discipline that studies and applies electricity, electronics, and electromagnetism. Professionals in this field are called electrical engineers, and their main focus is developing, testing, and supervising electrical equipment manufacturing.

Look around you right now. Notice all of those lights, appliances, computers, phones – the modern electrical devices making your life easier. None would exist without electrical engineering!

Electrical engineering is a broad field focused on developing, designing, testing, and supervising all kinds of electrical systems and equipment. But with such a wide scope, many find this field mystifying.

In this guide, we’ll lift the veil on electrical engineering, explaining in simple terms what it is, what electrical engineers do, key areas they specialize in, and how to start an EE career. Let’s shed some light on this dynamic field powering our electrified world!

What is Electrical Engineering?

Electrical engineering applies principles of physics like electromagnetism to develop useful electrical systems and equipment. Think of it like creating devices to harness the power of electricity and magnetism to solve problems.

Electrical engineers work on designing, building, and optimizing:

  • Power systems – How we generate, transmit, and distribute electricity
  • Electronics – Microchips, circuits, sensors, and semiconductor devices
  • Control systems – Equipment control, robotics, motors, automation
  • Communications tech – Broadcasting, wireless, networks, mobile, internet
  • Signal processing – Analyzing and manipulating all kinds of signals
  • Sensors and instrumentation – For precise monitoring and measurement

Nearly all modern appliances, machinery, computing tech, communications networks – everything “powered” owes thanks to electrical engineering advancements!

A Quick History of Electrical Engineering

While electricity was known for centuries, only in the 19th century were the first systems developed through pioneering electrical engineering. Some vital historical milestones include:

19th Century:

  • 1821 – The electric motor is invented.
  • 1837 – The telegraph uses electricity to transmit messages long distances.
  • 1879 – Thomas Edison invented the incandescent lightbulb.
  • 1888 – Alternating current (AC) transmission systems emerged for distributing electricity thanks to Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse.

20th Century:

  • 1904 – Vacuum tube electronics enable new applications like broadcasting.
  • 1920s – Electric grid networks expand significantly.
  • 1947 – The transistor is invented at Bell Labs, allowing microchips.
  • 1960s – Integrated circuits pack transistors together, shrinking electronics tremendously.

Since then, electrical engineering has continued diversifying into new fields, playing a critical role in the digital technology revolution.

Understanding What Electrical Engineers Do

Electrical engineering roles span a wide range of responsibilities. Here are some typical activities EEs work on:


  • Develop brand-new electrical devices and systems.
  • Design schematics and circuit layouts; select components.
  • Draw plans integrating electrical parts into products.
  • Simulate and model creates digitally.


  • Fabricate, assemble, and test prototypes.
  • Select proper construction materials and components.
  • Identify and fix issues; improve performance.


  • Manage electrical infrastructure – power grids, networks, and systems.
  • Maintain, inspect, and install equipment; perform repairs.
  • Oversee manufacturing processes and production.


  • Perform experiments to investigate electrical phenomena.
  • Analyze data to confirm and improve electrical engineering theories.
  • Discover new potential applications for electrical systems.

Project Management:

  • Coordinate teams of technicians, tradespeople, and other engineers.
  • Manage budgets, timelines, supplies, and equipment for projects.
  • Ensure quality, safety, reliability, and efficiency goals are met.

Electrical engineers get to work on exciting, impactful projects across these diverse responsibilities!

Electrical Engineering Specializations

While roles involve overlapping skills, EEs often specialize in particular domains like:

Electronics Engineering: Focus on electronic devices like integrated circuits, sensors, displays, and embedded systems. Work may involve analog or digital circuits, semiconductors, PCBs, and programming firmware.

Power Engineering: Design, develop, and manage infrastructure for generating electricity from sources like fossil fuels or renewables. Also, construct transmission and distribution grids.

Control Engineering: Create control systems for precise equipment control and automation. They are used in robotics, mechatronics, motor drives, and manufacturing applications.

Signal Processing: Analyze and process different types of signals using techniques like amplification, filtering, and data compression. They are used in communications tech, image processing, and more.

Telecommunications: Build and manage communication networks for transmission services like telephony, television, radio, internet, wireless, and mobile communication.

Of course, many other emerging niches, like nanotechnology, mechatronics, and optical engineering exist. EEs also frequently work in interdisciplinary fields, integrating electrical engineering alongside other engineering disciplines and domains.

Core Skills and Knowledge for Aspiring Electrical Engineers

To succeed in electrical engineering, here are some must-have abilities:

  • Strong grasp of math and physics, especially electromagnetism and electronics.
  • Excellent analytical thinking and complex problem-solving skills.
  • Understanding of electrical circuit design principles.
  • Hands-on building skills; ability to physically prototype.
  • Troubleshooting and investigative competencies.
  • Attention to detail and organizational skills.
  • Oral and written communication competence.
  • Ability to collaborate in cross-functional teams.
  • Knowledge of safety procedures and legal requirements.

In addition, expertise in specialized engineering software tools is a huge asset. This includes programs for simulations, schematic capture, PCB layout, 3D modeling, data analysis, and programming.

Starting an Electrical Engineering Career

If learning all things electrical appeals to you, here is a quick guide to starting an EE career path:

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

The standard entry point is a 4-year bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering (BSEE) covering topics like circuits, electronics, signals, electromagnetism, power, and control systems. Programs blend theoretical learning with hands-on labs and projects.

Get Licensed

Gain licensure as a Professional Engineer (PE) by passing the PE exam and meeting experience requirements. This certifies your qualifications and allows you to work independently.

Pursue Internships

Internship experience at electrical companies during college is precious preparation for full-time work. Apply technical knowledge and gain exposure to the field.

Start Your EE Career

With your BSEE and some experience, you are ready for entry-level EE roles! Continual learning and skills development on the job will advance your expertise and responsibilities.

Consider a Masters’s or PhD

Those interested in research, academia, or highly specialized technical roles may pursue a Master’s degree or Doctoral program for further education.

Explore Certifications

Voluntary certifications in specific electrical engineering subfields can also demonstrate proficiency. Professional associations like IEEE offer certification programs.

Embarking on the electrical engineering path takes commitment – but the payoff is an exciting, stable career improving lives through electrical technology innovations!

The opportunities are electrifying.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What is electrical engineering, and what does it entail?

  • Electrical engineering deals with the study and application of electricity, electronics, and electromagnetism to design, develop, and maintain electrical systems and devices.

2. When did electrical engineering emerge as a distinct discipline?

  • Electrical engineering emerged as a distinct discipline in the late 19th century, coinciding with significant advancements in electrical science and technology.

3. Can you explain the historical significance of key figures like Michael Faraday and Nikola Tesla in electrical engineering?

- Michael Faraday's work on electromagnetic induction and Nikola Tesla's contributions to AC power systems significantly influenced the development of electrical engineering.

4. What are the main specializations within electrical engineering?

- Common specializations include power systems, electronics, telecommunications, control systems, signal processing, and computer engineering.

5. How do electrical engineers contribute to power systems engineering?

- Power systems engineers design, develop, and maintain electrical grids, power generation, and distribution systems to ensure reliable electricity supply.

6. What is the role of electronics engineers, and in what industries do they work?

- Electronics engineers design and develop electronic circuits, devices, and systems used in various industries, including consumer electronics, aerospace, and healthcare.

7. Can you explain the significance of telecommunications engineering in modern society?

- Telecommunications engineers design and manage communication systems, including cell networks, satellite communication, and internet infrastructure, enabling global connectivity.

8. What is control systems engineering, and how does it impact automation and robotics?

- Control systems engineers design systems to regulate processes and automation, making them essential in industries like manufacturing, robotics, and aerospace.

9. How can students pursue a career in electrical engineering, and what educational paths are available?

- Students can pursue electrical engineering through bachelor's, master's, or doctoral programs at accredited universities and colleges.

10. Are there online electrical engineering programs available for remote learning?

- Yes, many universities offer online electrical engineering programs, making education accessible to remote learners.

11. What skills are essential for success in electrical engineering careers?

- Key skills include problem-solving, critical thinking, strong mathematical abilities, and proficiency in relevant software and tools.

12. Can you explain the role of electrical engineers in emerging fields like renewable energy and the Internet of Things (IoT)?

- Electrical engineers play pivotal roles in designing renewable energy systems and IoT devices, contributing to sustainability and technological advancements.

13. How does electrical engineering education prepare students for industry challenges and technological advancements?

- Electrical engineering programs provide students with a strong foundation in theory, hands-on experience, and the ability to adapt to evolving technologies.

14. Are there opportunities for interdisciplinary work in electrical engineering?

- Yes, electrical engineers often collaborate with other engineering disciplines, such as mechanical, civil, and computer engineering, on complex projects.

15. What is the future outlook for electrical engineering, considering advancements in technology?

- The future of electrical engineering is promising, with opportunities in renewable energy, AI, smart technology, and beyond as technology continues to advance and shape our world.


Engr. Muhammad Ali Raza

Hello, I'm Engr. Ali Raza, an Electrical Engineering Professional with a passion for innovation and a commitment to excellence. I completed my electrical engineering degree in 2017 and have since been actively engaged in the field, where I've had the opportunity to apply my knowledge and skills to real-world projects. Over the years, I've gained valuable experience in Engineering field, allowing me to contribute effectively to the development and implementation of electrical systems and solutions. I thrive in dynamic and challenging environments, constantly seeking opportunities to expand my expertise and make a meaningful impact in the world of Electrical Engineering.

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