A career as an electrical engineer can be a lucrative one, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting in 2010 that the median pay for jobs in the field is $87,180 per year. Your bachelor's degree will give you the basic skills you need for a wide variety of electrical engineering careers, but the time it takes to complete depends upon your course load.
Engineering degrees are usually designed to take four years to complete. To meet this goal, however, you'll need to take a full load of classes each semester. At most schools, this means 15 course hours. You may also have to take some prerequisite classes in physics, calculus and other general math classes, so if you don't have a strong math background, this could delay your graduation. These barriers cause many students to take longer than four years to graduate. At the University of California at Davis, for example, only 38% of engineering majors graduate in four years.
Factors Affecting Time
Upper-level electrical engineering classes require a strong subject-matter background. For example, at UC Davis, you won't be able to take elective classes or upper-division courses until you've completed intro-level courses in engineering and physics. If your school doesn't offer these classes every semester, it could delay your graduation. Similarly, failing a class that you have to retake, attending school part-time or taking additional elective classes can increase the amount of time it takes to complete your degree.
Electrical engineering classes can be highly challenging and technical. If you struggle, you might opt to take fewer classes so you can focus on the classes that require extra help. As part of your degree, you'll take a wide variety of classes in physics, chemistry, electrical engineering and computer engineering. You'll also be able to select elective courses, and at some schools, your electives can be designed to create a specialty within the field. For instance, UC Davis students can specialize in physical electronics, electromagnetics, analog electronics, digital electronics or communication controls and signal processing.
Some schools offer several different program tracks for students, and the program you choose can alter your graduation date. At Marquette University, for example, students can opt to do a five-year co-op program that provides them with hands-on experience in the field. They can also choose a dual major in a field such as computer engineering, and this program also increases the graduation time to five years.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Electrical and Electronics Engineers
- University of California at Davis: Electrical Engineering Undergraduate Program
- Marquette University College of Engineering: Program Length
- University of California at Davis: Undergraduate Time to Degree -- Completion Rates by College and Division
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images