Electrical engineering is a comprehensive job requiring a complex range of skills. Hiring managers need engineers for various businesses, both large and small, but the language surrounding electrical engineering careers can sound entirely foreign to an outsider of the profession.
Volts, amps, watts, conductivity, resistance, phase, and panel layouts are just a few of the words you might overhear during a conversation between two electrical engineers.
Today, let’s examine what an electrical engineer does and how you can apply this understanding to various fields to hire a freelance electrical engineer.
What Does an Electrical Engineer Do?
You can divide electrical engineering into a few primary categories of expertise: power, electronics, control systems, signal processing, and telecommunications. Let’s look at each one in a bit more detail.
This field is all about generating power. Power engineers also deal with power transmission, in other words, getting it from point A to point B. An example of power engineering is designing a generator to turn wind energy into electricity. Another use would be creating the layout of wires for the optimal use of power in a manufacturing plant.
This electrical engineering discipline focuses on the circuitry and power supply in many products we use every day. It covers a range of projects, such as designing the circuit boards for a simple remote control or a project as complex as designing the electrical systems for satellites in outer space. Organizations big and small need electrical engineers if they want to develop their own products that require any kind of specialized electrical design.
Control Systems Engineering
Control systems are relatively self-explanatory—systems that control various things. This control system could be something simple like a thermostat for your home. On the other hand, it could be exceedingly complex, such as a data center that has the power, air cooling, and fire alarm systems connected to a single control point where the manager can oversee everything.
Signal Processing Engineering
Say a person wants to send a text message to a friend. How does the phone send the signal, and where does it go? How can phones identify which signals are for them versus their in-range neighbor?
This common scenario is where signal processing comes in. It allows calls and texts to be sent and received seamlessly without manually directing them. Engineers are crucial to building this connectivity between devices.
Let’s continue with the above example. At this point, we’ve processed and sent the signal, all thanks to engineers in telecommunication. Telecommunication companies build all the technology and infrastructure behind the scenes that allow the signals to move where they need to go to keep our digitally connected world moving.
Sample Job Descriptions
At this point, we can all see the value that electrical engineering brings to businesses. But how can you be sure to hire the right engineer for your team?
Here are a few sample job descriptions to help give you an idea of what you might see on a resume or how to structure your job description if you have a position available.
Signals Processing Engineer
- Developing prototype systems to send and receive signals using radiofrequency or Bluetooth connections
- Designing next-generation radio signal receivers
- Utilizing existing GPS signals to implement them into mapping devices for navigation
- Creating algorithms for robots in a warehouse to keep them on time and in the correct position
Control Systems Engineer
- Designing and reviewing Piping and Instrument Diagrams (P&IDs) for various plant systems
- Generating design and design change packages
- Specifying instrumentation and control valves
- Generating instrument and control valve data sheets and material requisitions
- Designing and reviewing digital and analog control logic
- Entering data into instrumentation, valve, and I/O databases
Power Systems Engineer
- Focusing on power distribution and solar energy
- Evaluating electrical systems, products, components, and applications.
- Assisting with the preparation and review of reports and proposals
- Checking system and components’ capabilities by designing testing methods; testing properties.
- Improving electrical products manufacturing and assembly methods and materials.
- Managing EBH circuit bandwidth for a given geographical portion of the company’s network
- Balancing cost and performance, ensuring circuits do not exceed utilization thresholds while looking for the most cost-effective ways to increase bandwidth
- Acting as company headquarters point of contact for EBH bandwidth for a given geographical area
- Managing third-party vendors to guarantee bandwidth is delivered on time and for the agreed-upon cost
As you can see in the above job descriptions, electrical engineering is no easy task. It requires extensive education and hands-on experience working with complex systems across various industries.
Typically, most electrical engineers will specialize in a given field, so when hiring an electrical engineer for your project or business, be sure to choose someone familiar with the environment you’ll have them working in.
For instance, if you need someone to design a circuit board, make sure you find someone with experience in circuitry design. A control systems engineer can’t make circuits, but he can then take already made circuits and put them together to control a manufacturing plant at the touch of a button! Once you’re ready to start the process of hiring an electrical engineer, you’ll need to establish a proper set of interview questions. You can read more on the topic by checking out our post on the key interview questions to ask an electrical engineer.