Electrical power and systems are at the heart of modern society – and so too are electrical and electronics engineers. Engineers specializing in these fields have transformed the 21st century with technologies such as universal electric power systems, television, radio and medical imaging to name just a few examples.
Among the most famous electronics and electrical engineers that you may have heard of are Nikola Tesla (pioneer of commercial electricity and electromagnetism), Thomas Edison (developer of the light bulb and inventor of the record player), Jack Kilby (inventor of the pocket calculator and the integrated circuit), Marcian Hoff (inventor of the microprocessor) and Martin Cooper (inventor of the mobile phone).
Electrical engineering degrees will equip students with knowledge of how the industry works, as well as giving them the engineering skills and technological knowledge needed to design, assess and improve electrical and electronic systems.
What's the difference between electrical and electronics engineering?
The difference between electrical and electronics engineering is often blurred, but it is generally true to say that electrical engineers are concerned mainly with the large-scale production and distribution of electrical power, while electronics engineers focus on much smaller electronic circuits.
In an electronics engineering degree, you are likely to develop an expert understanding of the circuits used in computers and other modern technologies, and for this reason electronics engineering is often taught alongside computer science. An electrical or electronics engineering degree will also overlap with mechanical and civil engineering.
What to expect from an electrical/ electronics engineering degree?
If you’re interested in how electrical devises work, are inquisitive, and have a strong interest in mathematics and science, then you probably already have some essential engineering skills and an electrical or electronics engineering degree may well be for you. Although technical knowledge is essential, electrical engineers are also involved in designing and building a range of devices, often within teams.
At bachelor level, an electrical engineering degree will aim to give students grounding in the underlying principles of electronic and electrical engineering, before allowing specialization in an area of interest later on in the course. Students will also be involved in projects working within groups.
Like most engineering subjects, it is best to imagine that you will be committed to your course every day of the working week. Although you almost certainly won’t be sitting in lectures for eight hours a day, your study timetable will be busy and will feature a range of learning methods, including laboratory work, tutorials, lectures, project work, group work and individual research.
Outside of scheduled lessons, you will also be required to develop your knowledge by working your way through your course’s reading list. You may also be set engineering problems to solve, as well as coursework assignments and laboratory reports to hand in. More hands-on sessions may also include physically dismantling electronic devices to see how they work, and then putting them back together again. This helps students learn how to develop and apply their engineering skills, rather than simply memorizing it from a textbook.
To study an electrical engineering degree, you will need a strong background in mathematics and science subjects (especially physics). However, don’t be deterred; many courses will start with some foundation modules designed to ensure this background knowledge is up to the required standard.
For leading universities it is common to be asked for top grades. For example, University College London (UCL) asks UK students to obtain the A-level grades AAA / A*AB, and international students will be expected to obtain the equivalent.
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