Advancing into Leadership Roles in Electrical Engineering

A career in electrical engineering is full of chances to solve problems while designing, developing, and testing sophisticated components and equipment. Working with generators, motors or communications systems takes advanced skill; however, you may need to expand your capabilities if you have your sights set on electrical engineering career advancement.

Supervisory roles for electrical engineers require a variety of specialized qualifications: taking the next steps in your career could call for a combination of technical training, hands-on experience and soft skills. With the right preparation, you’ll excel as a leader in the field.


Lead Positions for Electrical Engineers

Electrical engineers find rewarding careers in a range of industries and organizations, whether working for utility providers, manufacturers or research and development companies. As of 2017, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a median salary of $95,060 for electrical engineers.
A lead position can take your career to the next level by offering fresh challenges in managing teams or leading complex projects, as well as possibilities for salary increases. With the right education, an electrical engineer can become:
career advancement in electrical engineering

  • A senior electrical engineer, who oversees the work of junior engineers and contributes to design and development processes. These leaders coordinate with the teams handling related systems and can communicate directly with vendors or clients.
  • An electrical project manager, responsible for assigning and supervising the completion of tasks for engineers, programmers and other technical workers. Project managers must be strong collaborators who can work closely with professionals at all levels of technical knowledge. They should be capable of managing schedules and budgets, and of keeping projects in line with policies and regulations.
  • A principal electrical engineer, who supervises all electrical design and building projects for an organization. Those duties commonly involve managing a staff of engineers and participating in hiring decisions. Principal managers must estimate the costs of completing projects, adjusting plans as necessary to stay within budget and meet standards for quality and compliance. According to PayScale, these professionals earn an average of $124,192 per year.

Develop the Skills to Advance Your Electrical Engineering Career

Electrical engineering leaders achieve the best results when they thoroughly understand the latest methods and technology for manufacturing, installing and testing equipment. Professionals in these positions should be able to optimize processes, perform complex calculations, and strategically allocate resources to meet the precise requirements of each project. Electrical engineers specialize in areas like power generation, signal and image processing, or communications, and use their technical expertise to set realistic goals and guide teams toward their objectives.

At the same time, effective communication and cooperation are vital for electrical engineering supervisors. Leaders need to know how their responsibilities fit into an organization’s larger objectives, and how to keep a team on track. They must be able to explain their plans and needs for resources to decision-makers who may have limited technical understanding of electrical equipment and systems.

Paysa Talent reports that project management is one of the top skills electrical engineers are called upon to use. Professionals can move their careers forward by learning essential management skills like:

  • Setting and adhering to a budget
  • Performing earned-value and situation analyses
  • Delegating responsibilities
  • Conducting productive meetings
  • Managing conflicts
  • Writing proposals
  • Giving presentations

Qualify for Your Engineering License

A state Professional Engineer license is often a prerequisite for a leader of engineers. The National Society of Professional Engineers explains that only licensed engineers are permitted to prepare, seal and submit engineering plans for approval by a public authority such as a planning or zoning commission. For this reason, many organizations have policies that prevent the hire of unlicensed engineers for certain jobs.

Every state has its own licensing board and laws, but a few key requirements factor in qualifying someone for licensure across the country:

  • Completing an engineering bachelor’s or master’s degree from an accredited institution
  • Passing the Fundamentals of Engineering exam conducted by the National Council of Examiners
  • Gaining four years of work experience under the supervision of a qualified engineer
  • Passing the NCEES Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam

The PE Electrical and Computer exam consists of 80 questions to be completed over eight hours. Exam takers are tested on design, analysis, and application in the areas of:

  • Power engineering
  • Computer engineering
  • Electronics, controls, and communications

Earning a master’s degree in one of these fields can prepare an electrical engineer for the PE and, in some states, reduce the work experience requirements.


About GW’s Online M.S. in Electrical Engineering

The online Master of Science program in electrical engineering from the George Washington University equips graduates with the cutting-edge knowledge and in-demand skills they need to advance their careers. Students choose one of three focus areas:

  • Electrical power and energy
  • Communications and networks
  • Signal and image processing, systems and control

While building on their technical capabilities, online electrical engineering master’s degree students learn to manage projects. In classes taught by experienced GW faculty, professional electrical engineers develop as leaders by applying engineering theories to real-world problems. You can complete the program entirely online and finish in as little as one-and-half years.


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