What is electrical and electronic engineering?
It’s almost impossible to imagine a world without electricity. We take it for granted in the modern age, but it’s easy to forget that the production and distribution of electricity is still a highly specialised skill that requires thousands of talented graduates each year. Whether you’re figuring out how to connect a new village to the grid, or you’re working on the smallest circuit boards for new smartphones, the science of electricity is an exciting and ever-evolving field.
By following in the footsteps of Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison, you can use your knowledge of electricity to make the world a better and more connected place. Expect to face some challenging lectures and projects, as electrical and electronic engineering degrees are no walk in the park – but you’ll be learning the skills and talents that may set you up with a job for life.
Electrical and electronic engineering course entry requirements
It’s maths and physics that most universities will be looking for in applications to electrical and electronic engineering. It’ll be a new subject for most 18 year olds, so admissions teams will be looking for the nearest thing in your current studies. Other subjects that are useful might include further maths, design technology, and engineering.
A levels – Entry requirements range from BCC to AAA, with the universities and colleges most commonly asking for ABB.
Scottish Highers – Entry requirements for Highers (the most common qualification) range from AABB to AAAAB, with universities or colleges most frequently requiring AAABB. Occasionally, universities ask for Advanced Highers to supplement Highers. If Advanced Highers are requested, universities or colleges typically ask for AB.
Vocational courses – Other Level 3/Level 6 qualifications (e.g. Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma, or an SCQF Level 6) may be accepted as an alternative to A levels/Highers by some providers. It’s essential that you check alternative entry requirements with universities or colleges.
In terms of soft skills to mention in your personal statement, you should play to your strengths in technology, computing, practicality, patience, calculation, and attention to detail. Electricity can be a very dangerous force, so it’s important to show your awareness of this in mentioning your accuracy.
- Apply by the January deadline
- Personal statement
- Attend an interview
- Show work experience
- Submit a portfolio
- Audition for a place
- Pass an entry test
Why study electrical or electronic engineering at university?
The obvious answer to this question is technology. There’s not much in the modern world that doesn’t require a computer or a smartphone, both of which require electricity. There’s also not long before the modern world will run on electric vehicles, and sustainable energy. Electrical and electronic engineers are going to be in higher demand than ever before, as companies compete to find the most efficient, sustainable, and profitable way of moving away from fossil fuels and ‘going electric’.
With electricity being the universal language of the modern age, you’re going to have a lot of exciting opportunities. Depending on the route you take, you might be working with aid organisations to help third world countries prosper, or you might be making circuit boards smaller and safer for the next new technological advance.
With your combination of technical, analytical, and practical skills, you’re going to be in high demand across a range of sectors. An average starting salary of £26k will certainly beat most of your friends expected earnings, and 94% of electrical and electronic engineering graduates will be studying or employed within six months of completing their course.
Some modules you may study are:
- Electromagnetic fields
- Analysis of circuits
- Computer programming
- Digital electronics
- System design
- Motor control
- Digital signal processing
- Analogue electrics
What’s the difference between electrical and electronic engineering?
Do I need to know computing or programming to study electrical and electronic engineering?
What can you do with an electrical or electronic engineering degree?
Graduates from electrical or electronic degrees will typically enter careers in:
But, you’ll also be attractive to employers in:
- petroleum engineering
- telecommunications engineering
- mechanical engineering
- broadcast engineering
- network engineering
- avionics engineering
- energy engineering
What’s it like to study electrical or electronic engineering?
You’ll spend the first year building your foundations in maths and physics, which are integral to both electrical and electronic engineering. There’ll be a lot of theory and lectures, which will slowly become more experiments and lab work in your second and third years. When it comes to specialising, you’ll be able to choose from fields as broad as software, robotics, transport, telecommunication, energy, computing, and medical.
Aside from the specific scientific skills you’ll develop, you can expect to work on your analysis, research, creative, practical, design, and programming abilities. These are important to forge a strong career in electrical and electronic engineering, but even more importantly, they’ll give you a broad range of talents should you decide to pursue a career elsewhere.
As much of engineering is problem-solving and solution-designing, you should be prepared to be set practical and theoretical challenges. One day you may be sitting at a computer with a calculator, running simulations, and emulating real-life scenarios. The next day, you might be in the lab with your soldering iron and circuits at the ready.
Most electrical and engineering courses will last three years, and result in a BSc or BEng. If your university offers you a placement year in industry, your degree may last four years, as it may if you decide to pursue a MSc or MEng.
Studying an electrical or electronic engineering degree will likely involve:
- writing reports and essays
- attending lectures and seminars
- laboratory and experimentation work
- placements and industry experience
- project, presentation, and group work
Across the range of classroom and lab work, you can expect to be in university a little longer than your friends studying other subjects – around 20 hours per week on average. If you choose to pursue a year in industry, this’ll most likely be normal work hours, so that 20 hours will double to 40 during your tenure in the real world.
Are you considering an accelerated degree? Click here to read more about the possibility of completing your undergraduate course in two years rather than three.
If you want to combine work and study while earning a salary, you could consider an apprenticeship. Which apprenticeships are available, and how you apply, depends on where you live.
Find out more about apprenticeships across the UK.
There are approximately 120 apprenticeships in the engineering sector available in England, with more in development.
Each apprenticeship sets out occupational standards for specific job roles, designed by employers. The standards outline the skills, knowledge, and behaviours required to demonstrate that an apprentice is fully competent in the job role.
Higher apprenticeships (Level 4)
Degree apprenticeships (Levels 5 – 7)
- Electrical/electronic technical support engineer (degree)
- Embedded electronic systems design and development engineer (degree)
- Electronic systems principal engineer
- Product design and development engineer (non-integrated degree)
- Systems engineer (degree)
Discover more about apprenticeships in engineering
Our guide has all the info you need to know about doing an apprenticeship in this industry. Find out what it's really like from current apprentices and decide if it's the right route for you.