Electrical engineering has a bright future even with automation increasing. As an electrical engineer, I’ll outline how this industry will continue to grow.
I’ll dive into the history of electrical engineering. Also, where the industry stands today.
And I know. There’s a lot of talk about machines, robots, and AI taking over the world. I’ve heard it countless times.
Even more, I often hear asked if electrical engineering jobs will soon disappear. To put it bluntly, the concern comes from misinformation and click bait articles.
I’m going to go over why you should dismiss this imagined dark reality.
The future impact of automation on electrical engineering
I can see this dark future as a reality one day. In the distant future, most jobs we know today will disappear. No one can argue against this if tech continues to advance as it is today.
I’m talking about over 200 years from now though. But, until that day comes, I see many jobs created through advanced tech.
As an example, in the 18th century, we had the industrial revolution. New advanced machines created many new jobs.
This went against the belief that machines would leave everyone jobless.
Even 40 years ago we couldn’t have guessed a teenager could become a millionaire through their TV. A teenager sitting in their parent’s basement playing video games all day.
So, the question today becomes, “what type of new jobs will the future create?”
The advancement of tech requires electrical engineers
Humans today design, build, and maintain all the hardware and software we use today.
On the same token, new tech bleeds into every industry. So, every industry heavily relies on tech.
By and large, humans will work on more tech as time passes by. Machines will not be repairing themselves and building new machines anytime soon.
The following is a table I created to show the great breadth of electrical engineering. The field is massive. I’ve left off many sub-fields too.
|Electrical Engineering Discipline||Types of Work|
|Communications||Designing and improving telecommunication systems|
|Electronics||Designing devices that have electronics|
|Energy Systems||Renewable energy designs, and making designs more energy efficient|
|Instrumentation||Designing flow, level, pressure, and temperature measurement devices|
|Power||Generation, transmission, and distribution of power|
|Microelectronics||Small electronic designs for devices typically using semiconductor materials|
|Photonics||New tech with transmission of photons|
|Signal Processing||Analyzing, modifying, and synthesizing signals such as sound and image|
|Systems and Controls||Designing systems to behave a certain way|
You can see how automation will not affect the work of electrical engineers anytime soon. To dig even deeper, let’s go over the history of electrical engineering.
A brief history of electrical engineering jobs
By learning history, we can better predict the future job market.
I’m always fascinated by how the profession has evolved over the years.
Electrical engineering went from one focus to a profession with countless specialties. Today, the profession employs 300,000 plus Americans. This according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
I’m sure this figure includes a lot of non-engineers too. But still, a significant figure.
The early history of electrical engineering jobs
In the late 19th century, an electrical engineer worked on the new electric telegraph. This became the first professional electrical engineering profession.
Back then, electrical engineering had limited specialty jobs. But, it had a promising future.
The communication industry had sparked a new job market. Thus, more electrical engineers found employment.
Near the same time, Werner von Siemens gave us the industrial generator.
He created a new industry out of thin air. Power utilities had formed. Their mission was to bring power to homes and businesses.
As a result, the U.S. power grid began to grow fast. Very fast. The power grid had to reach more and more people who craved electrical power.
Electricity had become plentiful and accessible to everyone. Like the discovery of fire, electricity transformed life.
In short, the power grid grew from one pocket of America to connecting almost all America. Again, this growth sparked many new technologies.
I see this in California today. Industrial growth always requires constant maintenance and innovation. This leads to more projects and jobs.
The discovery of electromagnetic waves
Moving ahead, in 1888 Heinrich Hertz discovered electromagnetic waves. This brought us electronics.
Look around you. You can find electronics in all parts of your life today. I’d go as far as to say we’d be miserable without electronics.
What’s more, every product using electronics typically has a unique specialty. This creates a demand for even more electrical engineering specialty jobs.
Back in the day, companies in all industries hired their own electrical engineers. They wanted to upgrade to electrical products.
Also, they wanted to upgrade their factories with electrical infrastructures. This was the only way for them not to fall behind their competitors.
Kind of like today with the internet. If your company has zero online presence, you’ll probably fail. Simple.
The impact of transistors in society
By now you see how industries influenced by electricity evolve. Nothing remains constant.
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 us into a new era.
I believe the smartphone best symbolizes the peak of this transistor era.
I see smartphones glued to the hands of both young and old people. It’s pretty amazing how these small devices connect us to all the world’s information.
Now without electrical engineers, we wouldn’t have smartphones.
To build, support, and advance this technology, electrical engineers need to continue designing. This is how you get better and faster phones that you love.
Look at this Statisa data showing the growth of smartphone users in America. Keep in mind, the user count from 2017 to 2022 are only estimates.
|Year||Smartphone users in millions|
What’s more, this same level of advancement exists in many other industries. Most every device you see is a sub-industry of its own.
That’s why I find it important to constantly learn to upgrade your skills. Even specialty skills need refinement.
Professions no longer evolve at a tortoise’s pace. They evolve as if on steroids.
The electrical engineering profession today and moving into the future
Now back to the 21st century. Let’s look at the trending news in the electrical world and mainstream media.
Today news circles around renewable energy, robotics, AI, and other future technologies. Electrical engineers lead the way with all these technologies.
So again, the demand for electrical engineers will only increase over time. I see this as the path to creating our future sci-fi reality.
To highlight this increased demand, let’s look at electric cars. Today, electric cars have become synonymous with Elon Musk and his company Tesla.
And yes, the phasing out of internal combustion engine cars will cause great job loss. I get it.
But, a new industry is quickly growing in its place with electric cars. So, out with the old, and in with the new.
We need electrical engineers to design parts for these future electric cars. Also, to support the new sub-industries created from electric cars.
New electrical sub-industries created from electric cars
Let’s go over several of these new sub-industries. This way you can see the increased demand for electrical engineers.
1) Battery technology
Batteries are the heart of electric cars. For this reason, the battery industry is booming today.
We want to increase the driving range, and reduce battery weight and cost. All the while, improve battery life and safety. This is a huge undertaking with a great upside.
2) Autonomous vehicle technology
A car driving itself without human support.
In 100 years, young people may not even know what a steering wheel is. How crazy would that be?!
Today, every major tech and car company invests in this new future technology.
3) Charging stations
We need electric car charging stations to power our future cars. No different than the gas fuel stations you see sprinkled across cities.
Electrical engineers need to design the power connection to these charging stations. Also, to research how to improve charging station tech.
I’ve found I’ve been designing more charging stations with every passing year myself.
What’s more, charging stations that don’t connect to the power grid still need designers. Imagine a charging station connected to solar panels and batteries.
4) Car interiors
Improving car interiors with the bells and whistles we all love and expect.
Moving into the future, car interiors will advance too. This will further improve the driving experience for both drivers and passengers.
I want my future car to bring me into a sci-fi reality.
5) Electric utility improvements
More cars will connect to the power grid every day to charge. Also, city infrastructures will need to accommodate more electric cars.
So, we need to modify our power grid and city infrastructures. This goes for all 50 American states.
All in all, I only covered several sub-industries influenced by electric cars. You can do this same exercise with almost every other industry.
The electrical engineering profession now has amazing building blocks to stand on. This will lead us to solve more difficult problems and create even cooler things.
The direction of technology today
Technology has weaved itself into everything we know today. With every weave, technology creates more specialty jobs.
For this reason, I believe specialty jobs will be staples in the future.
Looking at my life alone, I own a smartphone, laptop, smart refrigerator, smart TV, and the list goes on. Each of these items creates countless new specialty jobs.
On that note, how many people do you know who don’t want faster, smarter, smaller, lighter, and cheaper devices? Few I would think.
The demand for electrical engineers is not decreasing anytime soon.
Power utility job prospects for electrical engineers
I see utility job openings for electrical engineers all the time. I live in Northern California, but I see openings in many states.
With a growing population, our power grid needs to supply power to more people.
We 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 needs replacement. This equipment includes transformers, switchgear, switchboards, and so on.
To top it off, most power engineers are nearing retirement age. So, the demand in this one sector alone for electrical engineers will only increase.
Here’s a breakdown of the most common industries employing electrical engineers in 2018:
|Industries employing electrical engineers||Number of people employed in 2018|
|Electronic component & product manufacturing n.e.c.||33,706|
|Architectural, engineering & related services||28,449|
|Electric power generation, transmission & distribution||18,338|
|Electric lighting & electrical equipment manufacturing||11,535|
You can see how power grid type work is #3. I’m sure the numbers are higher today in 2020.
A job search is not a cakewalk
I may have made the search to get an engineering job sound too easy. Truth is, like anything worthwhile, it takes effort and sacrifice.
With globalization and an increasing population, job competition will only increase. That’s a given. At the same time, you’ll find greater opportunities for jobs in all corners of the globe.
Every year more developing nations become modernized. This increases the demand for electrical engineers.
In short, you may need to move to another state or country. This is on top of working smarter and harder. Yes, it’s not ideal.
But, once you gain experience, you should have a path to a great job. The barrier to entry of tomorrow’s jobs will give you greater job security too.
Even more, 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 engineering with business skills.
Regardless of the path you choose, you’ll need to learn to stay ahead of your competition. As an example, let’s take a look at one of the top athletes who ever lived.
Learning work ethic from the great Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan entered the NBA in 1984. He won his first championship in 1991.
After Jordan first became a champion, he didn’t slow down. He continued practicing shooting free throws and perfecting his footwork. His thirst to stay on top in his field made him practice even harder.
He became even more relentless with his workouts. This is what led him to become the greatest basketball player of all time.
Jordan always fascinates me. Especially one story from his Chicago Bulls’ teammates. They said his practices were more intense than the actual NBA games he played. Crazy!
How I treat my work to stay on top of my craft
I never treat my work as a clock in and clock out. Instead, I want to always produce the best quality work, even if that means staying late.
I entered my profession because of my interest in the subject matter. So, even if it wasn’t about money, I’d still try to learn as much as possible.
As an illustration, think of Elon Musk. Elon didn’t go to school to master the ins and outs of rockets before he started SpaceX.
He devoured textbooks on his own time. Also, he surrounded himself with the brightest minds in the aerospace field. This way, he could absorb all their knowledge.
The point is, don’t allow a job’s responsibilities to limit you to specific actions and habits. If a job requires you to do X, it doesn’t mean you can’t do X and Y together.
So, don’t become comfortable in any job. You need to always adapt to changing times. Otherwise, you’ll fall behind in today’s fast-changing world.
As an analogy, imagine wild animals. They migrate for food every year despite predators roaming nearby.
These wild animals hold food above their fears. They step outside their comfort zone every day to survive.
What am I trying to get at? The animal kingdom teaches us survival at all costs.
To help you bring out your inner animal, I’ve written on how to become a great engineer. To go from average to great.
This will help you avoid age discrimination too. A reality many engineers fear and face as they move up in age.
Electrical engineering jobs in the future
I’ve discussed how the demand for electrical engineers will only increase over time. Using my own experience, and looking into our past and present, I see a bright future ahead.
The profession won’t disappear anytime in the coming decades. It’s like saying will people stop eating animal products in the future.
It can happen, but the chances are slim.
On that note, you may even make other jobs disappear as an electrical engineer. But, don’t feel too bad as you’ll create more creative jobs in return.
Engineers paving the future path like Rockefeller did a century ago
Most all types of engineering have a bright future. The same goes for the trades that go in hand with these engineering professions. Think of electricians, welders, plumbers, and so on.
I see these engineering and trade jobs only increasing in demand. These jobs will fuel tomorrow’s comforts.
I compare it to how oil advanced America many decades ago.
John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil Company forever changed America. They fed America exactly what it wanted in a time it was growing to become a superpower.
Now, today we all want our future sci-fi reality. Electrical engineers will take us there.
By the same token, any engineering degree will give you a lot of flexibility. Look at this abbreviated list of Americans 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.
It’s clear how an engineering degree makes a great investment. To maximize your future success, look deep into the future.
You shouldn’t become overwhelmed with the direction of technology. Instead, do your best to join the tech movement to avoid it passing you by.
How do you view the future of electrical engineering? What type of engineering jobs do you foresee in the future?
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Author Bio: Koosha 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 well over 15 years now and is a licensed professional electrical engineer, and also has various entrepreneurial pursuits.
Koosha 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).
Koosha is most interested in engineering innovations, the cosmos, sports, fitness, and our history and future.