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electronic engineering career

Electronics Engineer

Electronics is the use of low-power electricity, electronic circuits and systems to control, communicate and process information. Electronics engineers may work on the development, installation and maintenance of equipment for the transport industry, the aerospace industry, heavy and light industry, hospitals and commerce. Electronic systems are also used in fields of science such as biology, physics and acoustics, and there is an increasing need for electronics engineers to be familiar with them. Electronics engineers usually work as part of a team that may include engineers and technicians from different engineering disciplines.

Most electronics engineers work regular daytime hours, but they have to be flexible. The hours worked depend on the project in hand, priorities and deadlines. The environment is likely to be clean, well-lit, air-conditioned offices or laboratories, although from time to time electronics engineers have to work elsewhere.

Salaries range from around £20,000 to £65,000 or more a year.

Electronics engineers should:

  • be good at maths
  • be highly computer literate
  • have relevant technical skills
  • be good with their hands
  • have normal colour vision.

There are opportunities for electronics engineers in a wide range of industries across the UK, including aerospace, marine, agricultural, chemical, energy and medical.

It is possible to begin training for craft or technician-level jobs straight from school with GCSEs (A*-C) in English, maths and science and one way to start is as a technician apprentice with an employer. Some entrants may start at Advanced Apprenticeship level. Full-time courses are also available at many colleges, which, like Apprenticeships, can lead to relevant NVQs at Level 3 or above and BTEC Nationals and HNC/HNDs. The Diploma in engineering may also be relevant.

To train directly as a professional electronics engineer a degree or equivalent in a relevant subject can be obtained before starting work. For degree courses, applicants need at least two A levels, normally including maths and a science subject, and five GCSEs (A*-C), or equivalent qualifications. A full list of accredited courses is available from the Engineering Council UK (ECUK).

Electronics engineers can go on to register with the Engineering Council (ECUK) as a professional engineer - either Incorporated Engineer (IEng) or Chartered Engineer (CEng).

Electronics engineers are expected to undertake continuing professional development (CPD).

There are promotion routes in most companies and larger companies offer the possibility of overseas work, especially within Europe and in the USA. An increasing number of chartered electronics engineers work freelance or on short-term contracts.

What is the work like?

Electronics is the use of low-power electricity, electronic circuits and systems to control, communicate and process information. Components such as capacitors, diodes, resistors, semiconductors and transistors are used to control equipment such as:

  • telecommunications equipment
  • radios and televisions
  • computer applications
  • hospital diagnostic equipment
  • control systems used in everything from satellite tracking to domestic appliances such as washing machines.

Electronics engineers may work on the development, installation and maintenance of equipment for:

  • the transport industry - radio systems for cars, ships and other vehicles
  • the aerospace industry - automatic pilots, radar, traffic control and blind landing systems
  • heavy industry - robots for motor vehicle manufacture
  • light industry - efficiency and quality control on production lines
  • hospitals - patient monitoring systems and anaesthesia and blood pressure equipment
  • commerce - computers, radio and television and video games.

Electronic systems are also used in fields of science, such as biology, physics and acoustics, and there is an increasing need for electronics engineers to be familiar with them. Electronics engineers usually work as part of a team that may include engineers and technicians from different engineering disciplines.

Professional electronics engineers are usually either incorporated or chartered. Incorporated engineers specialise in the day-to-day management of engineering operations. Chartered engineers have a more strategic role, planning, researching and developing new ideas, and streamlining management methods.

Chartered and incorporated electronics engineers may:

  • head a team of engineering staff
  • manage the personnel in a team
  • plan a team's workload
  • be responsible for budget control.

Hours and environment

Most electronics engineers work regular daytime hours, but they have to be flexible. The hours worked depend on the project in hand, priorities and deadlines, and engineers sometimes have to work at weekends and at night.

The environment is likely to be clean, well-lit, air-conditioned offices or laboratories, although from time to time electronics engineers have to work elsewhere, eg on the installation of a production line, or an outdoor operation involving transport or communications.

Salary and other benefits

These figures are only a guide, as actual rates of pay may vary, depending on the employer and where people live.

  • Graduates may start on around £20,000 a year.
  • Experienced electronics engineers may earn around £40,000.
  • The average income for chartered electronics engineers is £65,000.

Skills and personal qualities

Electronics engineers should:

  • have an analytical mind
  • be good at maths
  • be highly computer literate
  • be able to read diagrams and drawings
  • have a logical approach to problem solving
  • have good communication skills
  • be able to produce accurate drawings
  • have relevant technical skills
  • be good with their hands
  • have normal colour vision
  • work well in a team
  • be happy to take on responsibility.

Interests

It helps to have an interest in:

  • science
  • technology
  • how things work.

Getting in

There are opportunities for electronics engineers in a wide range of industries. Some of the main ones are aerospace, marine, agricultural, chemical, energy and medical.

Employers across the UK include manufacturers in all industries, research and development companies, IT companies, local and central government, the armed forces and public utilities, such as water, gas and electricity companies.

Job prospects are excellent, as electronics is a huge (and still expanding) international industry - the opportunities for working overseas are considerable. Rapid developments in telecommunications, robotics and digital technology are bringing a steady demand for electronics engineers, and there are skills shortages in some areas.

Vacancies are advertised in the national press, the professional journals of the engineering institutions, and on their websites. There are numerous other employment websites specialising in vacancies for electronics engineers.

Entry routes

It is possible to begin training for craft or technician-level jobs straight from school with GCSEs (A*-C) in English, maths and science, and one way to start is as a technician apprentice with an employer. Applicants need around four GCSEs (A*-C), including maths, English, and science or technology. Some schools and colleges are offering GCSEs in engineering or manufacturing, which, together with mathematics and English, can be accepted. The Diploma in engineering may be relevant and some entrants may start at Advanced Apprenticeship level.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer and, from August 2009, will pay at least £95 per week. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available on the Apprenticeship page on this website, from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk

Full-time courses are also available at many colleges that, like Apprenticeships, can lead to further qualifications, such as relevant NVQs at Level 3 and above, BTEC nationals and HNC/HNDs. Some employers may offer gap year employment to suitable students, and Graduate Apprenticeships may be available.

To train directly as an electronics engineer, a degree or equivalent in a relevant subject can be obtained before starting work. This is an academic route for those keen to progress quickly to management and research roles.

For degree courses, applicants need at least two A levels, normally including maths and a science subject, and five GCSEs (A*-C), or equivalent qualifications. A full list of accredited courses is available from the Engineering Council UK (ECUK).

At many universities, students without the necessary background in science and mathematics can qualify for engineering degree courses by taking an engineering foundation year before entry to the full degree course.

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) has a Technical Report Route for people who do not have the normal academic qualifications. Applicants need experience in electronics engineering, including responsibility for initiating and managing projects. The scheme involves writing a technical paper and attending an interview.

Training

Following the award of a degree or an HNC/HND, and after further training with an employer, electronics engineers can go on to register with the Engineering Council (ECUK) as a professional engineer as either Incorporated Engineer (IEng) or Chartered Engineer (CEng).

For professional registration as a chartered engineer, candidates should be members of an institution and register with the Engineering Council. Institution members who inform their institution that they are working towards CEng accreditation will receive support throughout the process.

Electronics engineers are expected to undertake continuing professional development (CPD). This can include attending courses, meetings, workshops and seminars.

The IET offers awards to help women who are studying for incorporated engineer qualifications. Student membership of the IET is available.

Getting on

There are promotion routes in most companies for people with the right ability and skills.

Some larger companies offer the possibility of overseas work, especially within Europe and in the USA.

An increasing number of chartered electronics engineers now work freelance or on short-term contracts.

Further information

Apprenticeships website: www.apprenticeships.org.uk

Diploma website: www.direct.gov.uk/diplomas

Engineering Council UK, 246 High Holborn, London WC1V 7EX. 020 3206 0500. Website: www.engc.org.uk

Enginuity careers website www.enginuity.org.uk

The Institution of Engineering and Technology, Michael Faraday House, Stevenage SG1 2AY. 01438 313 311. Website www.theiet.org

SEMTA (the Sector Skills Council for Science, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies), 14 Upton Road, Watford WD18 0JT. 01923 238441. Learning helpline: 0800 282167 Website: www.semta.org.uk

SummitSkills, Vega House, Opal Drive, Fox Milne, Milton Keynes MK15 0DF. 01908 303960. Website: www.summitskills.org.uk

WISE (Women Into Science, Engineering and Construction), 2nd floor Weston House, 246 High Holborn, London. WC1V 7EX. 020 3206 0408 Website: www.wisecampaign.org.uk

 

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