So, you’re fascinated with how things work, have an innovative mind and want to create equipment that people will use in their everyday lives? Well, a career as an electrical engineer might interest you!
You’re probably thinking — but what does an electrical engineer actually do? What kinds of skills do I need? How do I get started?
That’s why we’ve had a chat with an electrical engineer and we cover all those questions you want to know the answers to.
So, let’s take a closer look!
How did you end up in this role?
Nooshin Tafazzoli is currently working as an electrical engineering associate project manager. So, this means she oversees and manages electrical projects.
Previously she was working in the design area of electrical engineering which involved a lot of testing, working in the lab, problem-solving and collaborating with other engineers.
Studies and Experience
Nooshin completed a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering in Iran and then did her Masters degree in Design Engineering in Malaysia. After that, she completed an internship and then joined a company as a graduate electrical design engineer.
“That graduate program took two years, but after the first year, you start to feel like an engineer — your thinking changes, everything changes because being an electrical engineer is not just about the technical knowledge, it’s about how you look at stuff, how do you analyse when there is a problem, how do you solve that problem,” she explained.
Nooshin moved to Australia 3 years ago and has been working as an electrical engineer up until recently when she was promoted to electrical engineering associate project manager.
What made you want to work in this industry?
When Nooshin was about 13 years old, she started showing an interest in electrical engineering. Of course, at the time, she didn’t really know anything about it but the curiosity was definitely there.
“I was interested in playing with electronic devices like playing with radios and I even remember, I once opened my mom’s cell phone and then couldn’t put it back,” she laughed.
“I was so curious about how things work, like how the electricity in the room works, how can I turn on the lamp and all these connections,” she said.
Once she realised her passion, she decided to study it at uni and pursue it as a career.
What is an Electrical Engineer?
So, what actually is an electrical engineer? Now, that’s a good question.
To put it simply, an electrical engineer designs, develops and tests electrical systems — emphasis on the testing.
These systems can range from creating power generation equipment to navigation systems to computer hardware and much more. Electrical engineers are problem solvers with innovative minds!
Roles and Responsibilities
When we asked Nooshin what a typical day looks like for her, she told us that she always grabs a coffee on the way to the office — can’t forget that coffee! Then she checks her emails and prioritises her tasks for the day.
“I’ve mainly worked on designing the harnesses, electronic boards (printed circuit board), schematics and developed power supplies functionality,” Nooshin said.
One thing that Nooshin does most days as an electrical engineer is testing, testing and more testing! “If there is a designing task, I start designing the products, or I work in the lab so I do lots of testing and developing in the lab with my colleagues and then if there is any issue, I just go and talk to them,” Nooshin explained.
There’s also a lot of communication and collaboration throughout the day with all kinds of different people so that could be mechanical engineers, managers, other electrical designers, sourcing, vendors and product support teams.
“There are of course lots of meetings during the day, stand up and reviews to share the latest updates and reports with the rest of the team,” she said.
“Sometimes you need to go into the manufacturing factory and then you have to work alongside the technicians and make sure everything is on track and the quality is really important,” Nooshin added.
It’s really important that she ensures the quality of the product that she has designed is what the customer or stakeholder expects!
Which industries can this career be found in?
There are quite a few different industries that involve Electrical Engineers. These are just some of the few:
- Oil and gas
- Power generation
Characteristics and Qualities
“Every engineer needs project management skills, it’s one of the foundation skills apart from the technical knowledge to be effective in your role,” Nooshin said.
According to JobOutlook, the top 5 knowledge, skills, abilities and activities that are relevant to electrical engineers include:
|Knowledge||Engineering and technology, computers and electronics, technical design, mathematics, physics|
|Skills||Reading comprehension, active listening, critical thinking, mathematics, writing|
|Abilities||Written comprehension, oral comprehension, oral expression, problem spotting, written expression|
|Activities||Keeping your knowledge up-to-date, making decisions and solving problems, collecting and organising information, thinking creatively, planning and prioritising work|
Steps to Becoming an Electrical Engineer
What should you study?
If you want to become an electrical engineer, then it’s a good idea to study a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering. However, a degree in physics, mathematics, computing or another specialisation in engineering such as electronics can also get you there!
After completing your undergraduate degree, you should then register with Engineers Australia.
Now, if you want to grow as an electrical engineer and move into those more senior positions — so becoming a consultant, manager or project leader — it makes sense to complete a Masters of Electrical Engineering.
How long does it take to become an Electrical Engineer?
An undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering usually takes 4 years. If you decide to complete a Masters in Electrical Engineering, then that will add on another 1-2 years.
“As an electrical engineer, you need to be up to date with the latest software and technologies,” Nooshin said.
One of the main ones that Nooshin uses is called Altium Designer — it’s a PCB design program.
Another program is Solidworks which can be used to design cables and harnesses — Nooshin explained that this program is mostly used by mechanical engineers, however you need to know the basics because there is lots of collaboration between mechanical and electrical engineers.
There’s also a simulation software called LTSpice.
Nooshin explained the purpose of this software, “For example, I designed the board but I don’t have access to the lab so you can insert your board inside that software and then you can put different points on the board and use it to simulate the frequency, for example, the voltage or the graphs that you’re looking for.”
What will this career look like in the future?
How in-demand is this career?
According to JobOutlook, the future growth of people needed in this career is strong!
Nooshin said that the demand is always changing depending on what’s happening in the market. She gave a good example:
“In Australia, there’s the metro city project, so electrical engineers are in high demand. But let’s say in the next five years, the job is done. What are they going to do? What I’m trying to say is that it’s not very high demand, but it is a very well earned position and you can grow a lot in this field,” she said.
Are there opportunities to grow or specialise?
Nooshin told us that there are many opportunities to grow and specialise as an electrical engineer.
“If they would like to grow in the technical fields, there are lots of speciality areas such as electronic designers, power and control system designer, commissioner, technical writer,” she said.
“However, if they would like to be also involved in communicating with people, the project manager, project engineers, lead or principal electrical engineer can be another career path for them,” she added.
|Annual Salary||Future Growth||Skill Level Rating|
|$112,000+||Strong over the next 5 years||Very high skill|
Influential Trends and The Future of the Industry
“As you know, technology’s really crazy, like it’s constantly and rapidly changing,” Nooshin said.
She explained how electrical engineers have an important role in the world, especially now with all the technological developments.
“Of course, having an eco-friendly world by the help of the renewable energy is a wish,” she added.
Best Thing & Worst Thing
What do you enjoy most about this job?
For Nooshin, it’s that whole process of creating something new!
“The most fun part of the job is the moment you receive the prototype and feel like all your hard work is in your hands and get paid no matter how many crazy hours you have spent on it,” she said.
“You’re the one who actually created something which is going to be helpful for the world and others can use it and this is something that maybe who knows, in the next few years, is going to be even more developed,” she added.
Nooshin worked on a medical science project back at uni and later on some students revisited her project and tried to further develop what she had created — which she found so exciting!
What do you feel is the worst part of this job?
“I don’t want to make the genders a big deal here but it is a reality, even if you want to ignore it,” Nooshin said.
She explained that when you first start out in the field after graduating from university and you join a team of 50 males where you’re the only female, it can sometimes be challenging.
“I wish that in the future, we have more girls and females to join this STEM field,” Nooshin said.
She also mentioned that you can’t be afraid to get your hands dirty!
“You will need to work in the lab and get your hands dirty. Sometimes you will be needed to work in the factory or construction fields that can be challenging, though being in the field during the executing phase can be very interesting,” she said.
Advice for Aspiring Electrical Engineers
What do you wish you had known before you started working in this career?
“Prior to my career, I wish I knew more about the electric devices and their functionality in different environments,” Nooshin said.
Nooshin also wishes that she had practised how to use the different softwares earlier on in her career. “It’s not just about designing hardware, like you need to know how to code,” she said.
“The coding and programming is to design the integrated circuits (also called chip or microchip) — these microchips are a set of electronic circuits on one small flat piece semiconductor material. For example, there are thousands of these mini chips in a computer or mobile phones,” she explained.
She also wishes that she had more time to learn about the latest technologies in the field.
Why should people consider taking on this career?
“You will feel proud as you are playing an important role by creating useful and enjoyable products for humanity,” she said.
“This career will play with your mind and makes you a very creative person — and don’t forget how much value you are adding to this world,” Nooshin added.
Depending on your personality and interests, there’s room for both technical minded people and more communication focussed/creative people.
Tips for Getting Started in the Industry
Nooshin recommended for electrical engineering students to get as much practical experience working in the labs as possible.
“It’s best for them to work in the lab so they will become familiar with the challenging environments and the real electrical engineer tasks,” Nooshin said.
She told us that it’s “best to join different internship programs to find out the field they [students] are interested in and make sure if this is the career that fulfills their passion”.
Her second piece of advice: “I would recommend everyone to focus on the software side as well.”
As Nooshin said a few times, it’s not just about the hardware — learning how to use the software to help design the hardware is just as important. “You also need to study all those electronics books very carefully,” she said.
Nooshin explained that there is job flexibility but the extent of it really depends on the company you’re working for and how they approach various projects.
“You can work with your PC from home but sometimes, you need to work in the lab or in the field,” she said.
“It all depends on what phase of the project you’re in — if you’re in the phase of design you can work from home, flexible hours, but if you’re in the phase of development and testing, you need to work in the lab and as for the production phase, working closely with technicians or quality control team to validate the product can be necessary,” Nooshin explained.
So, as an electrical engineer, you can’t expect to be able to work a lot from home like say, a software engineer.
However, Nooshin did say that there is a good work-life balance (of course, depends on the company).
What is the workplace culture like?
Nooshin explained that the workplace culture is professional and you’re surrounded by very well-educated people.
“If you join a company as a junior electrical engineer, you should be relaxed because there are so many seniors above you and they know what they’re doing and they will see the potential in you,” she said.
Nooshin said that in general most people in this field are “really friendly, helpful and intelligent.” However, she did mention that it’s still fairly male-dominated and there will be one or two generations above you when you first start out.
“If you’d like to work in a very fun environment, it can be different,” she said.
However, Nooshin really likes the workplace culture because she enjoys being around professional and friendly people who she can learn from.
“An advantage of this culture is that it’s really amazing, supportive and they really encourage you to continue in the field and try to motivate you,” she told us.
Tanna Nankivell is a Senior Content Writer at Art of Smart Education and is currently in Germany completing a year of study for her double degree in Communications (Journalism) and Bachelor of Arts (International Studies). She has had articles published on Central News – the UTS Journalism Lab and wrote a feature piece for Time Out Sydney during her internship. Tanna has a love for travel and the great outdoors, you’ll either find her on the snowfields or in the ocean, teaching aqua aerobics or creating short films.