Electronics Engineers


Exploring this Job

Joining a science club is a good way to start exploring the electronics engineering field. For example, the Technology Student Association (TSA) provides students a chance to explore career opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, enter academic competitions, and participate in summer exploration programs. TSA administers a competition that allows high school students to use their technology skills. The Tests of Engineering Aptitude, Mathematics, and Science (https://tsaweb.org/teams) is an engineering problem competition.

Attending a summer camp or academic program that focuses on scientific projects as well as recreational activities is another way to learn more about electronics engineering. Summer programs offered by Michigan Technological University (MTU, https://www.mtu.edu/syp) and other U.S. colleges and universities focus on career exploration in engineering, computers, electronics, and robotics. MTU's academic program for high school students also offers art education, wilderness events, and other recreational activities.

Check out the American Society for Engineering Education’s precollege Web site, http://precollege.asee.org, for general information about careers in engineering, networking opportunities, and other resources. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers also offers helpful articles and ideas on its Web site TRY Engineering (https://tryengineering.org), to inspire students interested in electronics engineering, technology, and computing. 

The Job

Electronics engineering reaches nearly every other field of applied science and technology. Electronics engineers use their knowledge of the sciences in the practical applications of electrical energy. They concern themselves with things as large as atom smashers and as small as microchips. They are involved in the invention, design, construction, and operation of electronic components, products, or systems of all kinds.

The work of electronics engineers have created, developed, and improved on products that we use in all parts of our lives, from televisions and audio systems to heart monitors, smartphones, video games, computers, and more. Electronics engineers contribute to commercial, industrial, medical, military, and scientific applications. Some of the fields in which electronics engineers may work are communications and signal processing, computer engineering, controls, electrophysics, microelectronics, and power systems.

Electronics engineers work with small-scale applications, such as how computers are wired, how appliances work, or how electrical circuits are used in an endless number of applications. They may specialize in computers, industrial equipment and controls, aerospace equipment, biomedical equipment, or many other products.

Electronics engineers may focus on design, testing, research and development, production, field service, sales and marketing, and teaching. In addition, even within each category there are divisions of labor.

Researchers concern themselves mainly with issues that pertain to potential electronics applications. They conduct tests and perform studies to evaluate fundamental problems involving such things as new materials and chemical interactions. Those who work in design and development adapt the researchers' findings to actual practical applications. They devise functioning devices and draw up plans for their efficient production, using computer-aided design and engineering (CAD/CAE) tools. For a typical product such as a television, this phase usually takes up to 18 months to accomplish. For other products, particularly those that utilize developing technology, this phase can take as long as 10 years or more.

Production engineers have perhaps the most hands-on tasks in the field. They are responsible for the organization of the actual manufacture of whatever electric product is being made. They take care of materials and machinery, schedule technicians and assembly workers, and make sure that standards are met and products are quality-controlled. These engineers must have access to the best tools for measurement, materials handling, and processing.

After electrical systems are put in place, field service engineers must act as the liaison between the manufacturer or distributor and the client. They ensure the correct installation, operation, and maintenance of systems and products for both industry and individuals. In the sales and marketing divisions, engineers stay abreast of customer needs in order to evaluate potential applications, and they advise their companies of orders and effective marketing. A sales engineer would contact a client interested in, say, a certain type of microchip for its automobile electrical system controls. He or she would learn about the client's needs and report back to the various engineering teams at his or her company. During the manufacture and distribution of the product, the sales engineer would continue to communicate information between company and client until all objectives were met.

All engineers must be taught their skills, and so it is important that some remain involved in academia. Professors usually teach a portion of the basic engineering courses as well as classes in the subjects that they specialize in. Conducting personal research is generally an ongoing task for professors in addition to the supervision of student work and student research. A part of the teacher's time is also devoted to providing career and academic guidance to students.

Whatever type of project an electronics engineer works on, he or she is likely to have a certain amount of desk work. Writing status reports and communicating with clients and others who are working on the same project are examples of the paperwork that most electronics engineers are responsible for.