Electrical engineering was my major in college. As a high school senior my college major choice was easy. I already had a passion for building things.
Also, I loved the Discovery channel. They showed amazing engineering from around the world. This fueled my interest.
The future of jobs in electrical engineering was great then too. Plus, many members of my family were engineers. Therefore, I had quick access to advice to better understand the profession.
Now fast forward to 2019. When you watch the news you hear about machines and robots, artificial intelligence (AI), and various technologies taking over the world. As a result, the subject of automation has gained a lot of attention.
This has led to even presidential candidates running in the 2020 election to take notice. They’ve made universal basic income (UBI) and jobs a focus of their campaigns.
These campaigns focus on how most of today’s jobs will one day be replaced by machines. As a result, most humans will live in poverty without UBI.
The UBI model gives all citizens of a country support. All citizens will receive a certain sum of money from the government. Your income or employment status doesn’t matter either.
I can see this dark future as a reality one day. In the distant future, most jobs we know today will disappear. However, until that day comes many jobs will be created through advanced technology.
As an example, in the 18th century we had the industrial revolution. The introduction of machines created many new jobs. This went against the belief that machines would leave everyone jobless.
Now today, would you have guessed 40 years ago a teenager could become a millionaire through their TV? Simply sitting in their parent’s basement playing video games all day? Probably not. Therefore, the question today is, “What type of jobs will be created in the future?”
Direction of Automation and Jobs
Automation will one day eliminate most all low skilled jobs. Throughout human history though, new technology also creates more creative jobs.
Seldom do the created jobs include back breaking labor. This creates healthier jobs. These new jobs will replace the old jobs. As a result, safer creative and specialty jobs will increase in supply.
Also, new technology today requires human support. Humans build and maintain both the hardware and software.
New advanced technology also bleeds into every industry. Technology today connects with near every product you could imagine. As a result, the demand here for human support will only increase over time.
Thus, choose your profession wisely. Enter or switch into a profession where you build equity the older you get. A profession where a newly minted college grad can’t instantly replace you.
You don’t want to become similar to a printer. Replaced without a second thought once you go up in age.
To become irreplaceable build a unique base of knowledge and skills. This will carry you into the future where only certain skills will stay in demand.
My knowledge base has increased every year. I’ve done this through both designing many electrical power projects and watching over the construction of my designs. Also, through starting and running various businesses of my own.
These aren’t skills I could’ve learned through only reading textbooks and observing others. Rather it’s equity I’ve gained over time. The equity came from hands on experience and solving challenging real world problems.
Looking into the future I can’t see the automation of my engineering work. Also, construction and business skills will remain valuable for society. However, computers will streamline certain aspects of the work.
Brief History into Electrical Engineering Jobs
We’ll now try to better understand the future job market. Looking into the history of electrical engineering will teach us a lot. The profession has evolved a lot over the years.
Electrical engineering went from one focus alone to now a profession with many specialties. This profession now employs over 300,000 in America alone according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Early History of Electrical Engineering Jobs
In the late 19th century you could become an electrical engineer to support the newly created electric telegraph. You’d join to be a part of the first professional electrical engineering profession.
At this time the electrical engineering profession had limited specialty jobs. However, a promising future lay ahead. The communication industry had sparked a new job market.
The electrical job market started to grow fast. Near the same time, Werner von Siemens gave us the industrial generator. He had created a new industry. Utilities now brought power to both homes and businesses.
To do this, the power grid began to grow. The grid had to reach more and more people. This growth required constant maintenance and innovation. Many new jobs formed to support the grid’s increased load, and to improve reliability and safety.
The power grid grew from one pocket of America to connecting most all of America together. As a result, the grid helped start many new technologies. Electricity had become plentiful and easily accessible to everyone.
Moving ahead, in 1888 Heinrich Hertz discovered electromagnetic waves. This then led to the introduction of electronics. Electronics then soon found their way into all parts of our lives.
Every product that uses electronics typically has its own specialty. This then creates a demand for even more specialty electrical engineering jobs.
At the time, companies started to hire their own electrical engineers. Companies had to modify their non-electric products and infrastructure to keep up with changing times.
Later History of Electrical Engineering Jobs
By now you see how the industries influenced by electricity constantly evolve. Nothing ever remains the same. One discovery leads to another like dominos. This then leads us to transistors.
In 1947 the world forever changed with the invention of the transistor. Personal computing pushed humans into a new era. The smart phone symbolizes this new era with the transistor.
Today humans have become married to their smart phones. Smart phones instantly connect us to the other side of the world. Also, we gain access to more information than we could ever desire to consume in over one hundred lifetimes.
We need electrical engineers to build, support, and advance this technology. We get better and faster phones this way that we obsesses over. This increased job demand affects many industries beyond just smart phones.
Every device you have or think is cool is an industry in itself.
The demand for these new products requires the constant learning of new skills. Even specialty skills require refinement in these fast-changing times.
Professions no longer change at a tortoise’s pace, rather they evolve as if on steroids.
Electrical Engineering Today and in the Future
Now back to the 21st century. Looking at the trending news in the electrical world and mainstream media. The news circles around renewable energy, robotics, AI, and other future technologies.
One group of workers who lead the way with these technologies are electrical engineers. As a result, again we can assume the demand for electrical engineers will only increase over time. They design and support the technologies that’ll bring to life the future we’ve read about in science fiction books.
To highlight this surging job demand in the electrical sector today, we’ll briefly review electric cars. Today electric cars have become synonymous with Elon Musk and his company Tesla.
Eventually the phasing out of internal combustion engine cars will lead to great job loss. However, a new industry is growing in its place with electric cars.
We need electrical engineers to build these future electric cars. Also, we need electrical engineers for the many new sub-industries created through the mass adoption of electric cars. We’ll go over several of these sub-industries.
1) Battery Technology: batteries are the heart of electric cars. The constant pursuit to improve batteries is a booming industry. The pursuit includes increasing driving range, reducing battery weight and cost, and improving safety and performance.
2) Autonomous Vehicle Technology: a car that could drive itself was a fantasy not so long ago. Today every major tech and car company is investing in this new technology.
3) Charging Stations: like gas fuel stations, we need electric car charging stations to charge our future cars. These charging stations require electrical engineers to design their connection to the power grid. Also, to research the improvement of the charging stations.
Even if these charging stations don’t connect to the power grid and instead receive solar power, they still require designers.
4) Car Interiors: improving the car interior with the bells and whistles we all love and expect.
Moving into the future, the car interiors will advance too. This will further improve the driving experience for both the driver and passengers.
5) Electric Utility Improvements: more cars will need to connect to the power grid everyday to charge. Also, city infrastructures will need to accommodate electric cars. These modifications to our power grid and city infrastructures are necessary. They also will affect all 50 states.
I only covered several new jobs created through electric cars. This same practice of visualizing new jobs carries over to most every other industry. Today technology is weaving itself into everything we know. With every weave technology creates more specialty jobs. This creation of new specialty jobs will become part of our foreseeable future.
Looking at my life alone, I have a smart phone, laptop, smart refrigerator, smart TV, and the list goes on. Each of these items creates more and more jobs.
How many people do you know who don’t want faster, smarter, smaller, lighter, and cheaper devices? Not many I would think. Now multiply these advancements across all the industries you know. It’s clear how we need more and more electrical engineers to support these advancements.
Here in Northern California alone I see job openings at utilities for qualified electrical engineers all the time. With the population increasing, our power grid needs to support the increased power demand.
We now also need to meet California’s bold goal of 100 percent zero-carbon electricity by 2045. This increased demand for workers doesn’t even account for our outdated power grid. A lot of our power grid’s electrical equipment such as transformers, switchgear, and switchboards needs replacement.
As we’ve repeated, the demand for electrical engineering jobs will only grow moving into the future.
It’s Not All a Cake Walk
I may have made the search to find a future job sound too easy. However, anything worthwhile requires effort and sacrifice.
With globalization and an increasing population, employment competition will only increase. However, there will also be greater opportunities for jobs in all corners of the globe. Every year more developing countries become modernized.
You’ll need to work smarter, and possibly harder. You may even need to move to another state or country. However, once you gain experience, you should have a path to an eventual great job. The barrier to entry of the jobs of tomorrow will give you greater job security too.
If you have the entrepreneurial gene you can take an added giant step forward. Start your own tech focused or non-tech related business. Combine your engineering skills with your business skills.
Regardless of the path you choose, you’ll need to constantly learn to stay ahead of the competition.
Michael Jordan entered into the NBA in 1984. He won his first championship in 1991. When Jordan first became a champion he didn’t stop practicing shooting free throws, or quit perfecting his foot work. His thirst to stay on top in his field made him practice even more.
He became even more relentless with his workouts. This led him to eventually become one of the greatest basketball players of all time. Jordan’s Chicago Bulls’ teammates even said his practices had more intensity than the actual games he played in. Imagine that!
How I Treat Jobs
I never treat a job and especially a business as clock in and clock out work. This is because I want to maximize each opportunity.
I entered into my professions because I had a thirst for them. I constantly feed my mind with knowledge to quench that thirst.
Elon Musk didn’t go to school to master the ins and outs of rockets before he started Space X. Rather, he devoured textbooks on his own time. He also surrounded himself with the brightest minds in the aerospace field to absorb their knowledge.
Never allow a job’s responsibilities to limit you to specific actions and habits. Just because a job requires you to do X, it doesn’t mean you can’t do X and Y together. Do this to avoid age discrimination that becomes a reality as engineers age.
Additionally, you cannot become comfortable in any job. You must constantly adapt to avoid falling behind in today’s fast changing world.
Think of a wild animal that constantly migrates for food despite predators roaming nearby. Wild animals need to adapt as a way of life. The animal kingdom teaches us survival at all costs.
Jobs in the Future and Engineering
I have discussed how the demand for electrical engineers will only increase over time. Using my own experience, and looking into our past and future, I can say it’s a safe career choice. The profession won’t disappear in the coming decades.
You may even make other jobs disappear working as an electrical engineer. But don’t feel too bad about it as you’ll create more creative jobs in return.
More importantly, electrical engineering is only one of many disciplines of engineering with a bright future. Many other promising disciplines of engineering exist from structural engineering to bioengineering. Also, we have the trades that go in hand with these engineering professions. We have electricians, welders, plumbers, and so on.
These engineering and trade lines of work are here to stay. They are today’s and tomorrow’s road to a comfortable life and even riches. They’ll continue to advance society like how oil advanced America many decades ago through John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil Company.
Further, earning your engineering degree will give you a lot of flexibility. Look at the abbreviated list of top American business men and women below who hold engineering degrees:
- Tim Cook – CEO of Apple
- Jeff Bezos – Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Amazon
- Mary Barra – CEO of General Motors
- Larry Page – Co-Founder, and CEO of Alphabet (Google)
- Michael Bloomberg – Founder of Bloomberg L.P.
Clearly an engineering degree is a great investment. To maximize your future success, look at yourself 30 years down the road.
You shouldn’t become overwhelmed with the direction of technology. Instead, do your best to join the technology movement to avoid it passing you by.
How do you see the future of engineering? Also, how do you see the future of the job market in general? Do you think we must have UBI?
Author Bio: Ken started Engineer Calcs in 2019 to help people better understand the engineering and construction industry, and to discuss various science and engineering related topics to make people think. He has been working in the engineering and tech industry in California for over a decade now and is a licensed professional electrical engineer, and also has various entrepreneurial pursuits.
Ken has an extensive background in the design and specification of electrical systems with areas of expertise including power generation, transmission, distribution, instrumentation and controls, and water distribution and pumping as well as alternative energy (wind, solar, geothermal, and storage).
Ken is most interested in engineering innovations, the cosmos, and our history and future.