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As workers in the largest division of engineering, computer and electrical engineers deal with electronics, digital systems, communications, controls, and the basics for system design. Computer and electrical engineering are so closely related that most schools often place them in the same program.

What separates computer engineers from electrical engineers is their area of concentration. While the basic training is similar across the board, schools offer a variety of concentrations including Integrated Circuits, Design and Fabrication, Semiconductor Materials and Processing, Semiconductor Devices, Wireless Communication, Digital Image Processing, Power Systems/Electronics, Digital & Analog Conversion and High-speed I/O Interfaces, to name just a few.

Students learn the fundamentals of electrical and computer engineering and prepare to deal with all aspects of computer and electrical engineering through laboratory and design experience. Grad students also learn to solve various problems using instrumentation and software tools. In some programs, you will be able to design most of your own curriculum, working closely with faculty to choose which courses will best suit your interests.

The world is changing rapidly; therefore, electrical and computer engineers must learn to adapt to new technologies. Since technology is constantly growing and changing, a broad-based understanding of engineering is vital for success in the field.

Qualified female applicants take note: women are particularly needed in engineering in general, and electrical engineering is no exception.

Degree Information

Students in engineering graduate programs work toward a Master of Science (M.S.) degree in an area of their choosing. A sampling of M.S. programs includes: Telecommunications Engineering; New Media Engineering; Lightwave (Photonics) Engineering; Wireless and Mobile Communications; and Electromagnetics and Optics. It usually takes students with an undergraduate engineering degree one year to earn a master’s degree in electrical engineering, and several more years for a doctorate, depending on your field of research.

Students wishing to pursue a higher degree can enter a doctorate program. Doctoral students work toward either a Ph.D. or a Doctor of Engineering Science (Eng.Sc.D.). A degree at this level is typically meant for individuals interested in pursuing a career in research or academics.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Degree Program

  • Do I want a more structured program, or one that allows me to choose my own research focus from the start?
  • What innovations/inventions/discoveries have been made at each potential school?
  • How much funding does each program get?
  • Am I willing to work in an academic environment where much of the funding is from corporate sources?
  • How will this affect the work I want to do?

Career Overview

Most graduates of a master’s degree program in electrical engineering work for corporations, either as engineers or in some sort of management position. Possible employers can range from the usual computer/techie choices to less common fields such as aerospace, medical research (someone has to design all that equipment), government, defense (and the military itself), and utilities. Being a good team worker is a great plus when job-hunting – many career paths, in contrast to the stereotype of the lone-wolf scientist, require extensive teamwork. Eventually, an electrical engineering degree can allow you to start your own business, perhaps to manufacture an invention of your own.

Those who have earned a doctorate will be qualified to teach at the university level.

Career/Licensing Requirements

Licensing is not required to get a job, per se. However, it is desirable, and will make a job search that much easier. If you want to work for a governmental organization, or in education, it may be required that you get licensed, and you also need a license to file plans or designs with public or private clients. In order to get licensed, the process varies from state to state, but the basics are pretty standard: you need to take an exam, which you are qualified to sit for once you have four years experience in the field, in addition to an undergraduate engineering degree.

Licensing requirements vary from state to state, and schools should offer the appropriate courses and exams for their state. If you plan to work in another state you may have to fulfill additional requirements. If you do not have first-hand experience in the field upon graduation, you will eligible for pre-licensure certification. Once you have earned four years experience you will be eligible for formal certification.

Salary Information

The average starting salary is around $50,000. The 2001 median income for electrical engineers was $93,100, plus benefits and potential stock options.

Related Links

National Society of Professional Engineers
The National Society of Professional Engineers had the scoop on all the latest technologies and licensing regulations.

American Engineering Association
The American Engineering Association provides a support system for all engineers. Included on the site are links to information for computer and electrical engineers.

Institute of Electronic and Electrical Engineers
The Institute of Electronic and Electrical Engineers is the most complete site dealing specifically with electrical engineering. It also contains job information, interesting articles on the field, and even a virtual museum.


  • Microprocessors

  • Communication Systems

  • Computer Architecture

  • Computer Networks

  • Device Design And Simulation

  • Digital Hardware Design

  • Digital Image Processing

  • Digital Signal Processing

  • Electric Machines And Drives

  • Integrated Circuit Processing

  • Integrated Circuited Physical Design

  • Linear Systems

  • Microwave Semiconductor Devices

  • Multivariable Control Systems

  • Operating Systems

  • Power Electronics

  • Probability And Stochastic Processes

  • Robotics And Automated Systems

  • Signals, Systems And Transforms

  • Software Engineering

  • Transmission Of Digital Data

  • Wireless Communications