How to Become an Electrical Engineer: A Counselors Perspective

Dec 17, 2014

Students often ask counselors how to become an electrical engineer, or what do you need to become an electrical engineer. While it can vary from person to person, we’ve put together a guide for those looking to pursue an engineering degree.

An electrical engineer degree is one of the most popular degree choices for college students today. In everyday life, electrical engineers are constantly changing the way the world works. Naturally, students have a lot of questions when selecting electrical engineering as their field of study. As an admissions counselor, these are the top questions I receive from students on how to become an electrical engineer.

What do you need to become an electrical engineer? Should high school students look to join certain groups or clubs to prepare for college?

To prepare for college, high school students should look for groups and clubs that focus on the areas of interest they want to pursue. For most of our students, this include clubs that focus on STEM topics. There are many clubs that give students an opportunity to exercise their math abilities, build engineering skills, and have fun with things like robotics and creative technology presentations. Organizations that emphasize academic excellence, like the National Honor Society, are also great because they condition students to focus on maintaining academic performance and instill skills that will prepare them for the increased rigor of college coursework.

I need to know how to become an electrical engineer. What groups or clubs should college students look to join to enhance their learning experience?

To enhance their learning experience, students should join academic support groups or clubs that can help them learn new or better study habits, introduce them to others who can help them succeed in courses and teach them additional skills, like time management. Students should also remember to join clubs that simply interest them. The key to having a well-rounded college experience is having a good balance of school and social activity. Along with study groups or STEM-oriented clubs, students should look to join groups that focus on community involvement or outside interests they enjoy, like art or music.

Aside from internships, what can a student do to prepare for a career in electrical engineering and to become an electrical engineer?

Outside of internships, students should explore as many career pathways within their chosen field as possible. Research various companies and organizations that work or do research in electrical engineering. Whenever possible, reach out to and try to connect to people working in the field who can offer an inside look at what skills and insights they’ve found most valuable or necessary in their career, or even what pathways they took themselves to get to where they are in their field. Electrical engineering as a field covers so many different actual jobs, so speaking to an actual electrical engineer might help a student narrow down what their specific concentration might be and give them a better idea of how to prepare for it. Use Florida Poly Career Services to gain additional resources and guidance on how to prepare for your career while you’re in college.

When do I need to finalize the selection of my major if I want to pursue electrical engineering? After freshman year? Sophomore? Is sooner better?

At Florida Poly, students should feel fairly certain of their majors their freshman year because our curriculum immerses you in major courses right off the bat, unlike other universities. At Florida Poly, you’ll be doing research and working in the lab almost as soon as you walk in the door. That early experience is what will give you a competitive edge throughout your college career and into the workforce. So the sooner a student declares their major the better, as electrical engineering entails specific requirements that may differ from other majors, even other engineering degrees. There are some general introductory courses, usually taken freshman year, that will overlap with other engineering fields, so there may be some time for exploration and consideration. If you aren’t quite certain, talking with professors and academic support staff for additional guidance can be helpful. They can offer insights in career areas that you might not have discovered in your own research.

What are the common strengths and weaknesses of electrical engineers? (Are they typically stronger in physics than anything else?)

Typically, engineering majors require more physics coursework than most other majors. Also, a common strength found in engineers is an aptitude for math. An area of opportunity that should be considered is communication for electrical engineers. Effectively working with others and concisely explaining a situation both in technical and layman’s terms for other team members or outside clients is a valuable trait, and as such should be a major point of emphasis throughout the engineering undergraduate experience.

Do all electrical engineers have a concentration as an undergrad? Should I?

Florida Poly is unique in offering a concentration format for undergrads. Typically, concentrations are observed at the graduate level. Nevertheless, the program at Florida Poly will offer the core electrical engineering discipline education as expected, while diving deeper into a concept of your choosing. Not only do students get the benefit of a rigorous electrical engineering core education, but are also able to tailor research and career interests in a recognized concentration format.

When should I create a resume? How can my resume stand out?

It is never too early to start building your resume! Some students even start in high school with any superior achievements they might have. If you maintain your resume throughout college as you work on various projects or in internships, you will always have it ready to go whenever a new opportunity presents itself. For example, a guest lecturer might come by campus and present a great summer project, and you will be able to submit your resume for immediate consideration. Highlight any and all hands-on experience you have. As a way to stand out even more, make sure you tailor your resume to the specific job you are applying for. You want to make sure you are matching as many points on the job description as possible. It will also be beneficial to reach out to Career Services for additional edits and review.

If I become an electrical engineer, am I stuck in this field?

You are never stuck in any field! Having the knowledge and understanding of how things work can open up many career paths from other engineering disciplines to humanitarian initiatives, pharmaceuticals, art and more. And of course, there’s always returning to school for additional training and advanced degrees.

For more information on electrical engineering degrees or a masters in engineering, visit our Academics page.

Lydia Guzman
Assistant Director of Communications