Electrical engineers use deep knowledge of electricity and electromagnetism to design things like radars, radios, electric motors and power generators. They attain this knowledge through a degree in electrical engineering. This involves extensive study of physics and advanced mathematics as well as technical topics in electricity and practical lessons in working as an electrical engineering professional.
A Head Start
High school students who know they want to study electrical engineering in college can get a head start by taking physics classes, advanced mathematics classes -- up to calculus -- and any technical drawing classes their high school offers. In addition to preparing students for college-level mathematics work, advanced mathematics classes in high school can also save students time by improving their chances of scoring high enough on entrance exams to be exempt from lower-level college mathematics classes.
A Well-Grounded Education
In college, electrical engineering students must take the same basic English, history and social science classes that students from all majors take. In addition to these, electrical engineering programs typically require multiple semesters of physics and calculus. Once an electrical engineering student has completed all university and department general education requirements, what remains are the electrical engineering major classes. Specific programs vary by university, but electrical engineering programs typically require course work in both the technical and professional aspects of electricity, electronics and the application of those technologies.
The most common technical course work is in circuits and electromagnetics. Classes in circuits cover the basics of circuit behavior in direct and alternating current contexts, the mathematic representation of circuits and the theory and methodology of circuit analysis. Classes in electromagnetics teach students about electromagnetic fields. This study starts with detailed lessons in the properties of electromagnetic waves, such as their frequency, phase velocity and attenuation. From here, electromagnetics classes typically focus on how these properties can affect the performance of electrical systems, or how they can help, for example, with maximizing the efficiency of power transmission.
Electrical engineering programs typically require several classes more concerned with application than technical theory. Most electrical engineering programs have hands-on classes that familiarize students with how to approach design projects and introduce them to the computer-aided design tools that professional electrical engineers use. Most electrical engineering programs also have classes designed to prepare students for electrical engineering careers, which cover topics from licenses and ethics to tools and product life cycles.
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