Electrical engineers contribute to the development and refinement of numerous pivotal technologies, from the integrated circuits in many electronic devices to the technical systems for power generation, transmission and distribution. Since their field covers such a wide variety of potential concerns and projects, electrical engineers have numerous specialization options to choose from and may ultimately find employment in industries as varied as telecommunications, renewable energy, automotive and consumer electronics.
Earning a master’s degree in electrical engineering may open the door to additional opportunities as well as higher compensation. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a master’s degree in engineering can pay dividends for some professionals, with average wage premiums of up to 13% over individuals with only a bachelor’s degree. Certain careers, including senior systems engineer, solution architect, engineering group manager and controls engineers, are in many instances either available exclusively to candidates with a master’s or pay candidates with a master’s substantially higher salaries.
As you consider the next steps in your electrical engineering career, pursuing an online Master of Science in Engineering (MSE) from the University of California, Riverside (UCR) might be a beneficial route, as it provides a rigorous curriculum and high flexibility that is ideal for working professionals. Let’s look at what to expect from the electrical engineering field as a whole in the near future and also examine what careers you can explore after earning the UCR MSE.
The outlook for electrical engineering
The BLS foresees 7% expansion in total employment of electrical and electronics engineers between 2016 and 2026, which is about as fast as the average for all professions. Electronic devices and systems are expected to drive much of this growth, and many of the new engineering jobs created during this time will be at engineering services firms.
An undergraduate degree from an ABET-accredited institution is usually the starting point for an electrical engineering career. Completing a master’s degree will provide additional expertise, which may translate into the necessary qualifications for specific positions and possibly higher earnings. According to the BLS, median pay for electrical and electronic engineers was more than $99,000 in 2018. PayScale and Glassdoor estimated comparable and in some instances higher figures for some select senior-level positions for electrical engineers as of July 2019, including:
- Engineering group manager – $114,270 (median)/$152,000 (high end)
- Senior electrical engineer – $101,288/$135,000
- Power systems engineer – $76,940/$106,000
Moreover, the site’s summary of electrical engineer salaries estimated 29% higher earnings for experienced engineers and a 6% increase for demonstrable project management experience in particular — a key competency developed in programs with a distinct managerial focus, such as the 100% online UCR MSE track.
To understand the benefits of an electrical engineering master’s beyond just a potentially higher salary, it’s important to dive into the responsibilities of some of the more advanced positions in the field and explore how masters-level coursework prepares students to handle them.
Engineering group manager
An engineering group manager occupies a supervisory role in which they handle a potentially wide range of tasks including:
- Hiring and training staff
- Coordinating research and development projects
- Reviewing the methodologies and practices of staff
- Planning the lifecycle of new products
- Formulating and submitting project budgets
- Ensuring the quality of engineering work on a project
The BLS classifies these engineering professionals within architectural and engineering managers, who had median pay of over $140,000 in 2018.
Within the UCR MSE, all electrical engineering students complete four core courses — Engineering in the Global Environment, Technology Innovation and Strategy for Engineers, Introduction to Systems Engineering, and Principles of Engineering Management — that develop the necessary expertise to excel in this position. These courses focus on issues such as facilitating productive collaboration between teams and overseeing the technical aspects of each project.
Senior electrical engineer
This position is broadly similar to that of an electrical engineer, except with some added leadership responsibilities and employer expectations of deep expertise in multiple domains, including the use of relevant software applications, system installation and modification, debugging and troubleshooting.
A typical senior electrical engineer may also work more hours than their entry-level counterparts and be expected to travel to remote sites to assist other members of a team with a project. The aforementioned program core of the UCR MSE is helpful in building these managerial and technical competencies.
Power systems and smart grid engineer
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, nearly half of the country’s households had smart meters installed as of 2017. The digital technologies at the heart of the smart grid allow for rapid responses to changing conditions via communications between devices including smart meters and various sensors within the internet of things.
The specialization-specific coursework of the UCR MSE focuses heavily on power-related issues through courses including Power Systems Analysis, Power Electronics, Electric Drives, Introduction to Smart Grid, and Power System Steady State and Market. Program graduates will have deep knowledge of how to operate and manage the power systems that support the emerging smart grid.
Additional benefits of the UCR MSE for electrical engineers
As a fully online engineering degree program, the UCR MCE doesn’t require a residency and is well-suited to the busy schedules of today’s electrical engineers. Students may complete the entire program in only 13 months under an expedited schedule. There are also multiple start dates to choose from throughout the academic year for added flexibility.
The degree you can earn from the program is exactly the same as one from a traditional on-campus track, meaning it can provide the same potential benefits as you look for your next position in the field. To learn more about the UCR MSE, visit the program overview page, where you can download a copy of our brochure or view more specifics on the electrical engineering specialization.