From the beginning of human existence, man has identified ways to improve the standard of living. Electricity was one of these identified ways. The development of electricity led to the creation of electrical engineering, a challenging vocation that changed and improved our way of life. In this paper I will discuss the history of electrical engineering, the preparation for becoming an electrical engineer, and the actual career.
The history of electrical engineering is rather recent, but it is based on ancient ideas. Electricity and magnetism are the two bases for electrical engineering. The Greeks were the first to discover the nature of attraction of amber and lodestone. The Chinese, on the other hand, were the first to control the power of magnetism. Therefore, they understood how to magnetize steel from lodestone.
The Chinese used their knowledge of magnetism to create the first compass in the third century A.D. Then came the first dedicated observers of magnetism, Roger Bacon and Peter Peregrinus, during the Renaissance period. Dr. William Gilber also wrote the first meaningful book, De Magnete, about electrical science in the 1600Тs. Gilbert discovered the first electrical instrument, a versorium, which is an electroscope for detecting the presence of an electrical charge.
There were many others who contributed to the advancement of electrical engineering such as: Robert Boyle, Otto von Guericke, Benjamin Franklin, Aslessandro Volta, Luigi Galvani, Georg Simon Ohm, Michael Faraday and many more. Robert Boyle, in 1675, wrote about the mechanical origins or production of electricity. Otto Von Guericke, of Magdeburg, Germany, observed, for the first time, sparks and heard crackling sounds when attaching objects using magnetism. Benjamin Franklin was a giant in electrical science. He coined the terms “conductor” and “nonconductor”.
He also theorized that lightning was an electrical display (History of Electricity 1). Aslessandro Volta created the volt, the unit of electromotive force, in 1900. Luigi Galvani was a professor of anatomy at the ancient University of Bologna (Kingsford 17). He discovered, when experimenting with dead frogs and electricity, that frogsТ legs twitched when two different metals, copper and zinc, were made to contact them. This was significant because it led Volta to finding the Voltaic pile, the first electric battery. Georg Ohm discovered Ohm’s Law when at Cologne caring out experiments (20).
Michael Friday was one of the greatest scientists of all time. He has been compared in greatness to Galileo and Isaac Newton (21). Friday brought electricity and magnetism together and discovered a new source of current, electromagnetic induction. His discovery was the basis for the electric motor and laid down the laws of electrolysis. Without all these contributions by the founders of electricity, our technology would not be as advanced as it is today.
College preparation is key to becoming a successful engineer. Consequently, it is beneficial to find others that are interested in electrical engineering. Being involved with students who have similar interests, most likely, will improve one’s chances of success. Likewise, one should meet with one’s high school career counselor and ask what kind of classes one must take to prepare for an engineering major in college. A person interested in engineering should get suggestions as to what must be done to prepare for such a career.
Thirdly, one should ask parents for support and advice to advance one’s exploration in engineering. In addition, one should let teachers know of his interest in electrical engineering in case they can provide more information (Jets). Chris Abrahamsen of Pace Engineering said, “I prepared for electrical engineering by taking all the math and science classes I could in high school. I also worked one summer while in college to help determine what area of electrical engineering I would like to pursue.”
If one wants to be an engineer, keep up with one’s communication skills. I often write reports that are technical in nature that need to be simple enough for a non-engineer to read and understand. I used to hate English, but now I spend just as much time attempting to clearly communicate with others in writing as I do in performing actual engineering work. I wish I paid more attention in my English classes in school. (Abrahamsen)
In preparation for the decision of which field of engineering one is interested in, one could job shadow an engineer. Also, one could get involved with some engineering related projects in society (Jets). These projects can let one know about certain disciplines and if these disciplines are of interest. The steps to preparing for engineering seem quite basic, but completing all will be time consuming and extremely difficult.
Electrical engineers regularly apply what was learned in college in their daily work. For example, at Cal Poly University, the Electrical Engineering Department’s goal is to educate students to achieve excellence in the discipline of electrical engineering. This is why Cal Poly S.L.O is considered to be one of the best electrical engineering colleges. The engineering program at Cal Poly is difficult to get into. One must have worked extremely hard and one must have received outstanding grades in high school to be admitted. Cal Poly tries to educate their students to the point where they can apply their knowledge to practical problems (Cal Poly).
Electrical engineering graduates should be looking at many job opportunities since electrical engineering is supposed to grow with the average of all other occupations. Job openings will be due to the increased demand for electronic goods, including advanced communications equipment and defense related electronic equipment. For example, in 2000, electrical engineers held 288,000 jobs. For example, electrical engineers were employed by: business consulting firms, government agencies and manufacturers of electrical, electronic, computer and office equipment (Occupational Outlook Handbook). Electrical engineering, despite being an impacted major, has a promising outlook as a career after college.
Electrical engineers are characterized by specific categories and for whom they work. The main purpose of an electrical engineer is to: design, develop and supervise the manufacture, installation, operation and maintenance of electrical systems (Job Guide). In todayТs technological society there are building/construction, public work, educational institution, military, and design house engineers (Electrical Engineers). None of the subcategories is better than another. Personal preference determines which one an engineer will choose to pursue.
Much of the research done, concerning electrical engineering, is done in cooperation with industrial and government institutions. The main topics of research are: electronics, control, communications, computing and power systems (Kreuzer). Since electrical engineers are expected to be able to calculate every element within their field, they are highly trained through “higher education” (Electrical Engineers).
The different engineering departments often team up and work together. For example, electrical engineers may team up with mechanical engineers to design equipment with electrical control (Electrical Engineering). The work opportunities within the electrical engineering field are numerous and varied. Thus, it appears to be an exciting career in which to be involved.
Electrical engineers make a beginning salary that is often determined by the number of years of college one completed. The median salary for an electrical engineer was $64,910 in 2000. Graduates with master degrees have an average starting salary of $63,812 per year. Graduates with doctorate degrees make an average of $79,241 per year. The highest ten percent of engineers earned more than $94,490 a year. According to a 2001 salary survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, electrical engineers received a starting salary of $51,910 per year (Occupational Outlook Handbook). Although electrical engineering is not one of the highest paid careers available, it will provide for the economic needs of most.
The life of an electrical engineer is interesting, complex and varies from engineer to engineer. For Chris Abrahamsen, “A typical workday is from 8:00-5:00. Usually there are projects that I am working on which require electrical engineering design. Some of the projects might involve water/wastewater facilities, office buildings, schools etc.” Electrical engineering hours are similar to most other jobs. One might sometimes put in over time with or without pay. A person’s conscientiousness and dedication most often determines how successful one will be. Electrical engineers must keep up with new technologies.
Keeping up with technology is an on going process. I attend regular conferences and seminars to keep up with the most recent technology. I also subscribe to numerous technical journals and magazines, which I never seem to have enough time to read. Also, manufacturing representatives often drop by my office and let me know of their latest products. In order to keep my professional registration in the state of Arizona I am required to attain acertain number of continuing education units (CEU) every other year. (Abrahamsen)
One must also love the job in order to be successful at it. One should not go into a career because it makes a lot of money if one cannot stand doing the work. One could suffer from “burn out”, which may cause the quality of work to suffer. Chris Abrahamsen said this about his job as an electrical engineer, “I very much enjoy my job. I enjoy the variety of things I do and the fact that none of our projects are exactly the same. I enjoy the challenge of solving difficult problems and seeing the results afterward.” Electrical engineering is not a career for the average person. One must be interested in math and science and enjoy problem solving.
The founders of electricity did our society a great service. They made a difference by developing a science that has greatly improved our way of life. Not many Americans go through a day when they do not turn on one electrical appliance, use something electronic, or deal with something that uses magnetism. If scientists did not discover electricity, our society, today, would not be as advanced.