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What Every Student Should Know Before Pursuing an Electrical Engineering Degree

January 15, 2020 by Sam Holland

The journey to becoming an electronic or electrical engineer starts at university, where students are trained and introduced to theories and principles about their chosen field. In most European countries, this takes between three-to-four years.

Why Is It Necessary to Study Electrical Engineering?

Technologies emerging today like electric cars, smartphones, smart grids, and the IoT, make the world move at a fast pace. Electronic and electrical engineering (EE) forms the foundation of these modern technologies and they play a vital role in improving the standard of modern society. 

Like never before, electrical engineers are in high demand across different sectors and industries such as e-commerce, transportation, aviation, automotive, manufacturing industries, health care, and more. 

Today, students of EE have the opportunity to learn how electronic devices and gadgets work. They also get to be on the path of becoming inventors and develop technological solutions.


Skills All EE Students Acquire Through Study

The EE field is one of the toughest fields in engineering. It is necessary for aspiring students to prepare their minds for tough challenges ahead. Students are often exposed to critical thinking when they get to university, are trained to become problem solvers, and engage in intuitive and analytical subject matters. 

While at university, EE students are offered opportunities that will prepare them for the future ahead, working towards the advancement of technologies and engineering design.


Requirements for Pursuing an EE Bachelor’s Degree

It is important for students to know what qualifications they need in order to be accepted into a robust EE degree. This will enable them to set their goals and work towards them early on so that they stand the best possible chance of winning entry into the university or college of their choosing. It is quite important for students aspiring to enter an EE program to have a good grasp of traditional science subjects like mathematics and physics.

Universities in the UK have their respective entry requirements for a bachelor’s degree in EE. The University of Cambridge, for example, requires three ‘A’ grades at ‘A-Level’, and two of these must be in mathematics and physics. A good grade in a further mathematics A-Level course is also strongly advised but not necessary. 

In contrast, prospective candidates applying to pursue a bachelor’s degree at the University of Manchester are required to have a GCSE grade C or above in both English Language and Mathematics.

Students can also gain admission to study EE through the International Baccalaureate diploma (or IB). University College London (aka UCL) requires a score of 18 points in Mathematics and Physics for IB students.


What EE Undergraduate Courses Look Like

After meeting a university’s academic requirements to study an EE course, students typically spend three-to-four years in classrooms studying and learning about the many theories and principles that underpin the field. 

A typical EE curriculum will consist of fundamental subjects in circuit theory, analogue and digital circuit design, electromagnetism, microelectronics, digital logic circuits, signals and systems, measurement and instrumentation, digital signal processing, electrical machines, communication principles, and control engineering, to name a few.  Students are expected to have a solid knowledge of differential and integral calculus to handle the said fundamental subjects.

Also, most EE curriculums offer hands-on practical teaching in laboratories so that students may practise the theories they learn in classrooms.


A close-up view on a seven-segment display and breadboard used for experiments in electronics laboratories.

A close-up view on a seven-segment display and breadboard used for experiments in electronics laboratories. Image Credit: Pixabay


Making the Most of an EE Degree

No doubt, studying EE can (and should!) be quite challenging for students. However, there are ways students can take to surmount the challenges and achieve good grades in their examinations.

First, they must be dedicated and committed in their studies, as well as being diligent and hardworking when it comes to assignments, lab works, group projects, and examinations. 

Students should ensure that they also remember the basic principles of mathematics and physics, as many of these are applicable during their studies; mathematics and physics underpin EE, after all. 

It is also a good idea for students to form study groups where they can discuss what is being taught in classrooms, join professional bodies like the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (or IEEE), and stay up to date with leading names, current research papers, and technical articles in the field.


Taking EE to a Master’s or Doctoral Level

Following successful undergraduate studies, students have the choice to enrol in a Master’s degree programme, after which they can enrol in a doctoral degree programme. A typical Master’s degree will take around two years to complete, whereas a PhD programme typically takes around five years to complete. 

Master’s and PhD courses in EE involve intense levels of research, often in a highly specialized area. This research work is always geared towards contributing to current problems and the further advancement of the field on the whole. 


An engineer having hands-on experience in electronic devices and circuits.

An engineer having hands-on experience in electronic devices and circuits. Image Credit: Pixabay


Specializing After University Study

As they are in very high demand, EE students pursue careers in a wide range of sub-disciplines in the field. Specializations in the field include areas such as analogue and mixed-signal engineering, embedded systems engineering, RF engineering, instrumentation engineering, control and automation,  robotics, power systems engineering and so on.  

Fresh bachelor’s graduates typically begin their careers in EE by enrolling in graduate internships where they will have the opportunity to further their knowledge and gain hands-on experience. They may also choose to enrol on a Master’s programme to advance the fundamental knowledge learned during their undergraduate study.

Additionally, EE graduates can apply for job roles in academia to become educators in their field. Academic roles can be quite valuable, leading to future posts as researchers and professors.

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