Choosing a career in engineering can be a difficult decision due to the wide array of options offered by Universities and Colleges. The first step is identifying your passions and interests and to see how well they match each of the engineering disciplines. Electrical engineering is one of the four major disciplines along with mechanical, chemical and civil.
Electrical engineering focuses on the design and implementation of systems relating to electricity generation and distribution, electronics and computer systems. Electrical engineers tend to be involved with large-scale systems which generate and transmit power, unlike its sub-disciplines which focus on transmitting information. Due to the widespread use of computers and electrical systems, electrical engineers are also used to install and maintain electrical equipment and instrumentation in vehicles and buildings. This discipline is suited to those who have a high attention to detail and enjoy electrical circuit design. It can be the most difficult of the disciplines to study at university, due to the amount of theoretical knowledge that students must obtain.
The major sub-disciplines of electrical engineering are described below.
Power generation and transmission are the main areas of electrical power that engineers in this field will contribute towards. Power generation exists for industrial and public consumption and will often involve three-phase AC electricity. However, there are situations where power engineers can be involved with specialised projects for the military or other government organisations.
A sub system of electrical engineering that focuses on small-scale systems used to transmit information. These systems include microprocessors used in computers and video surveillance equipment. Electronics deals exclusively with active electrical components such as amplifiers and transistors.
Telecommunications engineering is a branch of electronics which focuses on the devices and mediums used to transmit information. The internet, mobile phone networks and satellites all require the expertise of telecommunications engineers. Telecommunication companies always seek out the services of engineers to develop their network base.
Computer & Network
Computer engineers have expertise in personal computing hardware and software, especially their integration. They design circuit boards, manage complex computer networks and develop software for various applications. Computer engineers assist businesses in increasing productivity by streamlining their computer and network configuration, utilizing new technology where possible. Many professionals offer their services as consultants to government agencies and large organisations.
Dealing exclusively with software programming and product development is what separates software engineers from computer engineers. Software engineers use problem solving and mathematical models to develop software platforms for computer operating programs and in develop computer games. This discipline is recommended for individuals who are interested in programming.
Control systems are commonly used in applications where physical quantities need to be kept within a certain range. Examples include the operating temperature of an internal combustion engine or the operation of an automatic sprinkler. Control engineers design and optimize these systems, along with the instrumentation used to operate them. Control engineers tend to be highly theoretical in nature, avoiding hands on work where possible.
If you are able to identify yourself with any of the above sub-disciplines you are halfway to deciding on an engineering course. If you are interested in electrical circuit design but are not particularly passionate about a specific field, then it is advisable to choose an electrical engineering course which will expose you to a broad range of subjects. Once enrolled in a course, it is always possible to transfer into a related discipline should you change your mind.
If you are interested in studying electrical engineering or one if its sub disciplines, the next step of your decision is to consider the course options that are available to students. As a student you must consider where you are going to study, the various pathways into a University and how you can pay your tuition fees.