How Hard Is Electrical Engineering? What to Expect When Pursuing an EE Career?

Electrical engineering stands as a challenging field of study, known for its rigorous coursework and the depth of knowledge required. Students must master various complex subjects, including mathematics, physics, and circuit design, to excel.

The discipline demands not only strong analytical skills but also creativity to solve problems in innovative ways. With a history dating back to the 19th century, it has evolved significantly, touching nearly every aspect of modern life, from telecommunications to power generation.

Despite its demands, the rewards for those who pursue electrical engineering can be substantial, offering diverse career paths and opportunities to contribute significantly to technological advancements.

Key Takeaways

  • The electrical engineering major is considered as one of the most difficult majors.
  • Students often highlight abstract thinking as one of the most challenging requirements throughout the studies.
  • It can also be stressful due to tight deadlines and high expectations.
  • However, getting a degree in this field bring a lot of opportunities for getting a high-salary job.

Core Skills and Knowledge Required

mathematics and physics

Electrical engineering demands a robust foundation in mathematics and physics. Students must excel in calculus, linear algebra, differential equations, and trigonometry. Physics topics, particularly electromagnetism, play a crucial role in understanding how electrical circuits operate.

Skill Category Skills Required Applications
Mathematics Calculus, Linear Algebra, Differential Equations System modeling, signal processing
Physics Electromagnetism, Circuit Theory Power generation, electronics design
Technical Skills Circuit Design, Computer Programming Creating electrical systems, software for simulations


  • Calculus: Used to model and analyze changes within electrical systems.
  • Linear Algebra: Essential for understanding complex number systems and Fourier transforms.
  • Differential Equations: Foundation for understanding dynamic systems and control theory.


  • Electromagnetism: Central to generating, transmitting, and utilizing electrical power.
  • Circuit Theory: Fundamental principles governing the operation of electrical circuits.

Critical thinking and problem-solving skills are vital. Electrical engineers often face complex challenges that require innovative solutions. These professionals must analyze problems from multiple angles and devise efficient, effective strategies.

Technical skills in circuit design and computer programming are also indispensable. Engineers use specialized software for simulations, creating prototypes, and testing electrical systems. Familiarity with tools like MATLAB or Simulink and programming languages such as Python or C can significantly enhance an engineer’s capability to tackle diverse projects.

Soft skills, such as communication and teamwork, are equally important. Engineers must effectively convey complex ideas to non-experts and collaborate with professionals from other disciplines to bring projects to fruition.

Typical Challenges Faced by Students

practical engineering

Electrical engineering students encounter several challenges throughout their academic journey. These hurdles test their resilience, adaptability, and dedication to mastering the discipline.

Challenge Description Strategies for Overcoming
Complex Theories Understanding abstract concepts and applying them to real-world scenarios. Study groups, online tutorials, office hours with professors.
Heavy Course Load Managing a rigorous schedule of courses, labs, and projects. Time management tools, prioritization, seeking academic support.
Practical Application Translating theoretical knowledge into practical engineering solutions. Internships, practical projects, lab work.

Complex Concepts and Theoretical Depth

Electrical engineering covers a wide range of complex concepts, from quantum mechanics to signal processing. The theoretical depth required can be daunting, demanding students to engage with abstract ideas and apply them to practical problems.

Intensive Course Load

The curriculum is rigorous, with a heavy course load that includes labs, projects, and theory classes. Balancing these demands alongside personal responsibilities requires effective time management and organizational skills.

Stay Familiar with Technological Advancements

The field of electrical engineering evolves rapidly, with new technologies and methodologies emerging regularly. Students must stay informed and adapt to these changes, which can add to the academic challenge.

Access to Resources

Access to high-quality resources, such as labs, equipment, and software, is crucial. However, not all institutions can provide state-of-the-art facilities, which may hinder practical learning.

Strategies for Success

  • Engage in Active Learning: Participate in study groups, attend workshops, and seek hands-on projects to enhance understanding.
  • Utilize Academic Resources: Take advantage of tutoring services, office hours, and online forums to clarify doubts and deepen knowledge.
  • Prioritize and Plan: Develop a study schedule that balances coursework, revision, and rest. Prioritization helps manage the course load effectively.
  • Stay Updated: Follow industry news, participate in webinars, and join professional networks to keep abreast of the latest trends and technologies.

Chance for a Profitable Career

Electrical engineers have a diverse range of career options across various industries. This flexibility allows individuals to pursue paths that align with their interests and skills, from traditional roles in power generation to innovative positions in emerging technologies.

Career Industry Sector Typical Roles
Energy and Power Utilities, Renewable Energy Power Engineer, Renewable Energy Engineer
Telecommunications Telecom Companies, Internet Providers Network Engineer, RF Engineer
Consumer Electronics Electronic Goods Manufacturers Electronics Design Engineer, Product Development Engineer
Automotive Car Manufacturers, Electric Vehicle Startups Automotive Systems Engineer, EV Systems Designer
Aerospace Aerospace Companies, Defense Contractors Avionics Engineer, Systems Engineer

Industry Sector

  • Energy and Power: Focus on generating, transmitting, and distributing electricity.
  • Telecommunications: Work on communication systems, from network infrastructure to satellite technology.
  • Consumer Electronics: Design and develop household electronic devices.
  • Automotive: Innovate in electric vehicles and automotive electronics.
  • Aerospace: Contribute to the development of aircraft and spacecraft systems.

Emerging Areas

  • Robotics: Develop autonomous machines that can perform tasks in various environments.
  • Biomedical Engineering: Create medical devices and systems to improve healthcare.
  • Sustainable Energy: Innovate in solar, wind, and other renewable energy technologies.
  • Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning: Apply AI and ML techniques to solve complex problems in electronics and communications.

Skills for Success

  • Technical Expertise: Deep understanding of electrical systems, circuit design, and software tools.
  • Innovation: Ability to think creatively to develop new technologies or improve existing ones.
  • Problem-Solving: Strong analytical skills to troubleshoot and solve engineering challenges.
  • Communication: Clear communication of complex technical concepts to non-specialists and team members.

Salary Expectations and Job Market

Salary Expectations

Electrical engineering is not only a rewarding career in terms of intellectual fulfillment but also offers substantial financial benefits. The salary range for electrical engineers varies widely, depending on factors such as experience, location, industry, and level of education.

Experience Level Annual Salary Range
Entry-Level $60,000 – $75,000
Mid-Career $75,000 – $100,000
Senior-Level/Manager $100,000 – $150,000+

Entry-Level to Experienced Engineer Salaries

  • Entry-Level Engineers typically start with salaries that reflect the demand for their fresh knowledge and potential for growth.
  • Mid-Career Engineers see a significant increase as they gain experience and specialize in their fields.
  • Senior Engineers and Managers can command high salaries, reflecting their expertise, leadership, and impact on their organizations.

Job Market Trends

The demand for electrical engineers remains steady, driven by ongoing advancements in technology, the need for renewable energy solutions, and infrastructural projects worldwide. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a growth rate for electrical engineering jobs, indicating healthy job prospects.

Key Factors Influencing Employment Opportunities

  • Technological Innovation: Rapid advancements in technology create new opportunities in sectors such as robotics, IoT (Internet of Things), and artificial intelligence.
  • Renewable Energy: The global push for sustainability fuels demand for electrical engineers in solar, wind, and other renewable energy sectors.
  • Telecommunications: The expansion of 5G and beyond ensures continuous demand in the telecommunications field.

Educational Resources and Support

Educational Resources

Electrical engineering students and professionals have access to a wealth of resources and support systems designed to facilitate learning, research, and career development. These resources range from online courses and textbooks to professional organizations and networking opportunities.

Resource Type Name Benefits
Online Learning Coursera, edX Access to courses from top universities on a flexible schedule.
Professional Organization IEEE Professional development, networking, and access to the latest research.
Textbooks and Journals Various Publishers Comprehensive coverage of electrical engineering principles and practices.

Online Learning Platforms

Platforms like Coursera, edX, and Khan Academy offer courses on electrical engineering fundamentals, advanced topics, and emerging technologies. These courses, often developed by leading universities and companies, provide flexibility for learners at all levels.

Professional Organizations

  • IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers): Offers journals, conferences, and a vast digital library for research and professional development.
  • IEE (Institution of Electrical Engineers): Provides resources for continuing education and networking opportunities in the electrical engineering field.

Mentorship Programs

Many universities and professional organizations offer mentorship programs, pairing students and young professionals with experienced engineers. These relationships can provide valuable guidance, career advice, and networking opportunities.

Costs of Pursuing an Electrical Engineering Degree

Electrical Engineering Degree

The financial commitment for an electrical engineering degree varies widely based on factors such as institution type, geographic location, and the duration of the program. Here is a breakdown of potential costs and examples of how students can manage these expenses:

  • Tuition Fees: Tuition can range from $10,000 to over $50,000 per year, depending on whether the institution is public or private, and the state or country in which it’s located.
  • Books and Supplies: Students may spend $1,000 to $2,000 annually on textbooks and essential equipment like software, calculators, and lab materials.
  • Living Expenses: Housing, food, and transportation can add significantly to the cost, potentially amounting to $10,000 to $20,000 per year, based on location and lifestyle.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

To offset these costs, students can explore various financial aid options:

  • Scholarships: Many organizations and universities offer scholarships based on merit, need, or specific criteria such as leadership qualities or community service.
  • Grants: Unlike loans, grants do not need to be repaid and are often awarded based on financial need.
  • Work-Study Programs: These programs provide part-time jobs to students, allowing them to earn money while studying. Jobs are often related to the student’s field of study, providing valuable experience alongside financial support.


What is the hardest subject in electrical engineering?

Electromagnetic fields can be particularly challenging due to their abstract concepts and mathematical intensity. This subject requires a strong grasp of advanced calculus and physics.

Which year of electrical engineering is hardest?

The third year of electrical engineering is often considered the hardest, as it includes deeply technical courses requiring a solid foundation from the first two years.

Am I smart enough to be an electrical engineer?

Intelligence is crucial, but determination, curiosity, and a willingness to work hard are equally important for success in electrical engineering.

Can an average person become an electrical engineer?

Yes, an average person can become an electrical engineer with dedication, effective study habits, and a passion for learning and solving problems.

Is electrical engineering mostly physics?

Electrical engineering is heavily based on physics, especially electromagnetism, but it also incorporates mathematics, computer science, and engineering principles to solve practical problems.


Electrical engineering combines challenges and rewards, requiring solid math and physics knowledge along with creativity and problem-solving abilities.

The field provides diverse career options, competitive salaries, and chances to contribute significantly to technology and society.

Through dedication, effective planning, and commitment to continuous learning, individuals can meet the discipline’s demands and succeed.