Is Electrical Engineering right for me?

What do electrical engineers do?

EE Student

Electrical engineers study and apply the physics and mathematics of electricity, electronics, and electromagnetism to both large and small scale systems to process information and transmit energy. To do this, electrical engineers design computers, electronic devices, communication systems, test equipment, and improve systems through problem solving techniques.

What kinds of jobs and projects can I work on?

The electrical engineering field encompasses several sub-disciplines including: power, control, electronics, microelectronics, signal processing, communication, instrumentation, and computers. As an electrical engineer, you can work in the offices, labs, or industrial plants of various industries including: the manufacturers of electrical components and computer equipment, industrial machinery, medical and scientific instruments, transportation, communication, computer related sectors, the federal government, and utility firms. The projects you may work on can range from designing a telecommunication system or the operation of electric power stations to the lighting and wiring of buildings, the design of household appliances, and the electrical control of industry machinery.

How much money will I make?

IEEE Race Car

As of 2009, the average salary of an electrical engineer has been estimated at $86,000 with a range of $53,510 to $126,810. The salary you receive will depend on the industry you work in and the degree type you possess. Electrical engineers in the oil and gas extraction, movie and video, and mining and mining support industries earn the highest salaries with $120,140, $109,960, and $108,250, respectively. The median salary  for Cal Poly's electrical engineers graduates with a Bachelor’s degree was $65,000 in 2010. The salary increases for Cal Poly Master’s degree graduates to $80,000.  A listing of Cal Poly electrical engineering employers can be found at

Electrical Engineering (EE)

The electrical engineering (EE) program had its first graduating class was in 1949.  The graduating class pictures for each class are proudly displayed in our department hallways.  We hope to see your picture here in the future. 

The professional society for Electrical, Electronic, and Computer Engineers is the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).  The IEEE web site is at  The theme of the IEEE is “Advancing Technology for Humanity”.  This group constitutes “The World’s Largest Professional Association for the Advancement of Technology”.   The IEEE - affiliated engineering disciplines form the largest branch of engineering in the United States with over 375,000 employed engineers as documented by the bureau of labor statistics at  The breadth of career opportunities for Cal Poly’s Electrical Engineering graduates can be illustrated by reviewing the IEEE-affiliated professional societies listed below.  The field of electrical, electronic, and computer engineering impacts almost all aspects of the modern world.  Graduates can serve humanity by enhancing personal communication tools such as smart mobile phones that are now so pervasive.  The energy infrastructure changes needed of the 21st century will be centered on new methods of electrical power generation and distribution.  The Biotechnology field requires electrical engineers to invent new interfaces between biomedical and electronic systems.  Most technology-based industries utilize the skills of electrical engineers. 

Electrical Engineering is a broad discipline that has many career outcome possibilities.  At first, many perspective students primarily think of traditional roles in the areas of research, development and manufacturing.  Many of our graduate’s careers move toward technical management and business management areas as their careers progress.  Marketing and Sales Engineering are also very compelling areas for electrical engineers.  Graduate degree programs available to electrical engineering also enhance career options.  In addition to electrical engineering graduate degrees, biomedical engineering, computer science, materials engineering, industrial engineering, aerospace engineering, systems engineering, technical business administration, law school, and medical school are common career paths after the BS EE degree.

Cal Poly's Department of Electrical Engineering curriculum offers course work and laboratories in the areas that support the IEEE societies listed above.  At the undergraduate level, students gain a broad engineering foundation both in theory and practice.  The senior year has 12 units of degree specialization enabled by technical electives.  Students can continue their program at Cal Poly by entering the 4+1 Master’s program in electrical engineering.  The EE web site contains the graduate student handbook that outlines this program.  An MS degree allows for an extension of the student’s engineering foundation along with further specialization and research work.

What Makes the Cal Poly Electrical Engineering Program Unique?

Electrical Engineering Versus Computer Engineering

The Electrical Engineering (EE) department is closely aligned with the Computer Engineering (CPE) Program.  Both EE and CPE majors share much of the same curriculum and facilities.  The department offices are located adjacent to each other.  EE and CPE also share the same professional society, IEEE.   Computer Engineers take more coursework in the Computer Science Department than will the typical Electrical Engineer.

Electrical Engineering versus Computer Science

Electrical Engineering and Computer Science are closely related disciplines.  The department buildings are adjacent to each other.  Computer Engineering forms a intermediate major between Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Cal Poly.  Electrical Engineers often emphasize more of the electrical, electronic and computer hardware aspects of modern electronic systems.  Computer Science often emphasizes a higher-level approach to electronic systems with software development responsibilities and abstraction from the electronic hardware.

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