BlogUniversityWhat It’s Like Studying Electrical Engineering at UNSW

What It’s Like Studying Electrical Engineering at UNSW

Thinking of pursuing a UNSW Electrical Engineering major?

Good news! You’ve come to the right place. We’ve wrapped up absolutely everything you need to know about this world-class program into this neat little article – core units, career paths, faculty culture and more. 

What are you waiting for? Keep reading!

What is Electrical Engineering at UNSW?
Core Units and Majors
How to Get into Electrical Engineering at UNSW
What’s the Teaching Format?
What’s the Faculty and Culture Like?

What is Electrical Engineering at UNSW?

Reading the title of this course may conjure up images of science-fictionesque computer labs filled with robots and world-domination-seeking AIs. While Electrical Engineers do create some pretty cool stuff, it’s really much less sinister. 

Electrical Engineering at UNSW is the perfect entry point for someone who loves maths and science, but isn’t really sure which direction to head. It’s a four year program (with a compulsory honours year) that dives into all areas of the discipline.

The course may sound super specific but it’s actually really diverse. From coding, digital signal processing and working with analogue electrics, this program will develop both hard and soft engineering skills. 

Throughout the degree you will find yourself understanding things you’ve never even considered. How is electricity transported from a power grid? How do computers actually work? How is it actually possible to chat to someone halfway across the globe on the phone? The work of an Electrical Engineer is everywhere and the career prospects are as wide as the field itself.

Honours

UNSW Electrical Engineering also has an honours unit built into it. This means that you’ll finish off your degree with honours without even really thinking about it – a little heads up though, degrees with Honours programs have stricter progression rules than other degrees. 

Students that fail more than two core subjects and or have a WAM (UNSW’s grade point average) lower than 50% by the time they reach their final year will not be able to continue through the course.

Where will this degree take you?

UNSW Electrical Engineering - Student Quote

The more important question is: ‘where won’t it take me?’ One of the greatest things about UNSW’s engineering faculty (*cough* *cough* which is the best in the country) is that it prepares graduates for a variety of careers.

Graduates of UNSW Electrical Engineering end up in all sorts of areas, including tech, project management, building services and consulting – the world really will become your oyster. To give you a slightly more concrete idea of some of the positions that graduates generally obtain, here’s a quick little list of possible professions:

    • IT Consultant
    • Network Engineer
    • Sound Engineer
    • Broadcast Engineer
    • Management Consultant
    • Project Manager
    • Biomedical Engineer

A lot of UNSW Electrical Engineering graduates pursue these professional pathways through Engineering graduate programs. Companies like BHP, Google, IBM and Dolby Australia host these opportunities annually.

Core Units and Majors

To cut a long story short there aren’t any majors. Well, sort of. Firstly, UNSW Electrical Engineering is essentially a major of the Bachelor of Engineering.

The structure of the degree, for example, would be exactly the same as a Bachelor of Civil Engineering — the only difference is the courses that you will take. So in a way, you can think of your core courses as your major subjects.

The other thing about UNSW Electrical Engineering is that you can pick specialised electives in your fourth year and some students use these electives to have a bit of fun and explore different areas in the field. Other students use this opportunity to create a pseudo specialisation by taking courses in one area – the choice is yours!

What can you expect from each year of study?

The program itself is very regimented without much room for electives, as it’s primarily built up of core units, which are spread out throughout the years. There are also electives, but roughly 85% of the course is set in stone.

First Year

The first year will be very general, exposing you to maths, physics, computing, and some basic Engineering courses. It’s designed to give you a good grounding so that you will be prepared for whatever comes at you later on in the course.

Second Year

Second year is a little more focused on specific courses in Electrical Engineering, where you’ll dive into analogue electronics, signal processing and digital circuit design. In other words, this is the stuff you were really wanting to sink your teeth into.

Third Year

Third year is when things get a little more practical. You’ll still be doing course work in a variety of subjects like electromagnetic engineering and digital communications, but you’ll also be expected to do your Industrial Training (more on that later).

Fourth Year

The final year is the most autonomous year and it’s also where your Honours come in. Throughout the year you’ll be undertaking your own research for your thesis and you’ll also be selecting the Electrical Engineering electives where you can choose to specialise.

What is Industrial Training?

Industrial Training (IT) is the course equivalent of an internship/practical training, where you are given the opportunity to apply the skills you’ve learnt at uni into the real world. The best part is, you’ll get paid for the practical training by the host company!

A minimum of 60 days IT is required to graduate from this program.

You will generally commence your placement during your third year. It’s best not to start the placement too soon because you won’t have enough engineering experience and if you leave it too late, you’ll already be stressing about your Honours thesis. 

Another super cool thing about IT is that it can be studied interstate or overseas! The UNSW School of Engineering has set up this helpful guide that comprises all the important information you need to know about how to facilitate your IT, where to do it and what requirements need to be met before commencing it. 

 

How to Get into Electrical Engineering at UNSW

An ATAR of 91 will grant you guaranteed entry into the course. The absolute minimum ATAR score for entry in 2020 was an 88, so it’s best to aim for the 90s.

Otherwise, UNSW’s Faculty of Engineering Admissions Scheme (FEAS) offers alternative paths of entry for students who don’t meet the guaranteed entry requirements. 

Ways to apply can be found here!

Are there any prerequisite subjects or assumed knowledge?

Due to the intense focus on both Maths and Physics in the first year, it goes without saying that students should have assumed knowledge in both areas. It’s assumed that students will have taken at least HSC Mathematics 1 as well as HSC Physics or equivalent. 

Scholarships

UNSW offers a variety of scholarships specific to each year and field of study. A list of those scholarships can be found here! 

What’s the Teaching Format?

For anyone that was looking forward to a long mid semester break, this may come as an unwanted surprise; UNSW transitioned to a trimester system at the beginning of 2019. Yes, it’s true, this does mean less holidays, but trimesters are definitely an amazing combo with UNSW Electrical Engineering. 

Trimesters mean you can get more bang for your buck (achieve more credits in other words) each year so you can do your IT without having to worry about doing other subjects at the same time. Under the trimester system, you’ll be doing 3 subjects per academic session.

Class Structure

Each subject is built up of lectures, tutorials and labs. You’ll have 4 hours of lectures, an hour of tutorials and 3 hours of labs per course.

That adds up to 8 hours per course (lucky I didn’t drop out of math!), so you’ll most likely have 24 contact hours per week.

Lectures

These fun little sessions are where all of the content is introduced. Generally lecture sessions are separated, to give your brain some time to digest the mountains of information introduced, so you’ll have 2 x 2 hour lecture sessions per week per course. 

Lectures are filled with all of the people in the course so will most likely have around 200 people present. There’s almost zero peer interaction during lectures and you’ll use the time only to listen.

What is introduced in the lecture will depend on the subject but if it were computing, for example, this would be where you would be introduced to modelling techniques, which you would practically apply in the labs.

Tutorials 

Tutorials are where you get the chance to interact with the course content, guided by a teacher. These class types are much more intimate than lectures with around 30 students present.

Generally, there will be preparation questions, which are introduced in the lecture. You will be expected to complete those questions before you go to the tutorial. 

During the class the teacher will then go over the working out to help you better understand the problems and you will also be able to ask the teacher questions when you don’t understand something. Tutorials are much more collaborative than lectures and a lot of students say this is the most useful time to actually learn the content. 

Labs

This is where you’ll actually have the chance to put theory into practice, by physically interacting with the ideas introduced in the lecture, and these classes are also smaller than lectures with around 30 students present. You’ll be paired up with a lab partner, but you will be graded separately.

Throughout the semester, you will be expected to maintain a lab report each week which will act as an assessment. A large amount of time in your lab is fairly autonomous, so the teacher will be there to supervise rather than hold your hand.

What are the assessments like?

Each subject will vary but generally your lab report, which you keep up every week, will account for 20-40% of your final grade.

You’ll then have small quizzes throughout the semester to test your knowledge. These quizzes will not be worth much and will probably add up to 10% of your final grade.

There will also be a final lab report and then a final exam which will be weighted at least 40%. 

The content that will appear in the examinations will involve a lot of problem solving and will require you to memorise a lot of equations, which is why it’s important to keep up throughout the semester. It would be almost impossible to memorise all of the course content at the last minute (even more so than HSC trust me)!

What skills will you refine?

UNSW Electrical Engineering - Skills

Electrical Engineering at UNSW is a highly technical major. Spending hours in a computer lab every week will increase both hard and soft engineering skills. 

Working with computer hardware will soon become second nature, and reading code like Java Script or Python will be easier for you than picking up a Charles Dickens book. You’ll also become a problem solver in multiple senses of the word.

Not only will you be able to work through complicated equations, but you’ll be able to use your critical thinking to find solutions to practical problems.

The autonomous nature of the program will also instil in you a unique ability to manage projects on your own. This will work well with your practical thinking abilities that will stop you from cracking under the pressure of multiple tasks.

What’s the Faculty and Culture Like?

UNSW is known for its super chill campus and diverse cohort. There are people from all walks of life and you’re guaranteed to find a mate (or 10) in no time!

The UNSW Electrical Engineering student body is also known for being a good mix. Pretty much everyone is open to having a good chat, but there are always the odd few who are primarily just at uni to get the job done.

The Engineering faculty itself is one of the biggest at UNSW, so they have a lot of resources at their fingertips. You’ll never have any problems gaining access to career-boosting events, end of year balls and other fun social events throughout the year.

What about societies?

Electrical Engineering Society (or ELSOC as they like to call it) is one of the biggest and oldest societies at UNSW. Their purpose is to make uni life for all undergraduate students of UNSW Electrical Engineering as smooth, efficient and fun as it possibly can be. 

By becoming a member, you will open yourself up to a whole new world of academic, social and industry-related resources. Whether it be helping you score an awesome internship, giving you hands-on advice with your coursework or swooping you off to a social camp, ELSOC certainly has you covered.

Make sure to check out their Facebook to find out more and keep up to date!

Other Types of Engineering

UNSW offers a wide range of majors for Engineering. If you’re still a bit iffy about Electrical Engineering, you can check out our articles on the other majors:


Cody Williams is a Content Writer at Art of Smart Education. While Cody studied a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations and French Studies at UNSW, he quickly realised that his dream job would have him sit happily behind a keyboard. Cody’s digital writing career started with an internship at Bauer Media where he was writing for ELLE and Harper’s BAZAAR’s online publications. Once he had a taste for writing he never looked back, moving to Brisbane soon later to work as a Producer for Channel Nine Queensland. After a year in television media, he dusted off his online writing shoes so he could put them to good use, stamping out some scorching-hot career and educational resources at AOS.

 

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