NATURE OF THE WORK
If you have a cell phone hand set, if you have a digital wrist watch, if you have a car stereo system or kindle, you would be using the work of an electronics engineer. The hand and brains of an electronics design engineer can be seen in most of the technologies that make our life easier or entertaining. They could also be seen in more important areas such as telecommunications, transport, and military. When you become an electronics engineer you would add or remove from these existing technologies as well as design and implement new ones.
Electronics deal with small components such as transistors, diodes, and integrated circuit chips which form parts of most devices. When these components form the major part of the design, the brain then, you have the work of electronics engineers. These components, especially the integrated circuits such as those containing microprocessors, encoders and decoders, and similar circuits control the working of the gadget, device, or equipment which you have. While the actual work will be done by electrical and mechanical devices such as transducers, screens, and speakers, electronic components make these work in the way they should to have the result you want.
It is not just consumer electronics who use your work. Your work will also be used by scientific organizations, military, and space research organizations. You could be involved in launching rockets (although probably a small part), in satellite systems etc.
Your tasks would include taking design specifications, designing a gadget, electronics component, integrated circuits chip, or any other device to perform according to those specifications. You would also assemble the system, test it, and make it ready for mass production.
For example, consider you are working for a major electronics company who wants you to design a cell phone which can be wrapped around your wrist. You would have to decide on the components of the cell phone of course. You will also have to look at the material properties and find out which material would be suitably flexible, durable, etc. You would also have to consider how to make the chips involved so thin as to fit in such a device. You would have to worry about making the battery as thin and small as required while still giving sufficient power to the components. You would have to think of a screen which would also be wafer like, work on less power, and could be flexible.
And these you have to do in conjunction with other engineers such as material engineers, electrical engineers, and mechanical engineers. These engineers will give you inputs regarding the aspects that concern them. Other design engineers may also be involved. You have to review and evaluate the work of others and decide how to incorporate the changes and suggestions they make into your design; or modify your own to accommodate theirs.
In general you would also have to provide estimates of the costs that a design and its manufacture will cost. Once your design is accepted and the manufacturing go ahead given, you will have to coordinate and work with the engineers and workers concerned regarding the manufacturing and construction. You may also have to be involved in installation and maintenance as well.
This of course is the case where you are in the research and development wing of mobile handset manufacturer. If you are in other departments you would be involved in testing of new devices, in design modifications, in requirement gathering, in performance testing etc.
You have to review existing devices, suggest improvements, and provide solutions to engineering problems. In these cases also, you will have to provide budget estimates.
You may also have to represent your team and your employer in conferences, conventions, meetings, boards, panels etc. At such occasions you will have to make presentations including about new designs or devices and other problems, solutions, and technicalities related to engineering.
You will be using computers and, design, analytical, and other software for making the designs. For development and testing, you would be requiring ammeters, multimeters, oscilloscopes, integrated circuit testers, network analyzers, microcontrollers, and microprocessors. You may also be using circuit boards and soldering irons, though these might come handy only in design and development stage. Repair and similar work would typically be done by technicians, not engineers.
Mostly the work is done in an office environment or design laboratory. You may also have to travel quite a lot so as to take specifications, meet with clients, or for attending conferences. There are no particular dangers except that of posture problems and other issues which are associated those types of work which do not have much physical exercise. As long you follow safety protocols you will be safe from any injury due to equipment malfunction.
You will be working around 40 hours a week with weekends off, except in the case of meeting project deadlines and delivery schedules when you may have to step up a bit. But this usually is temporary.
Wide spread as use of electronics is the number of people who are employed as electronics engineers is also large. According to 2008 data, 143,700 people were employed in field in total.
A good percentage (18,100 workers) was employed by federal government except postal services (12.63 per cent of total workers). Wired telecommunications careers employed 15,700 workers (10.90 per cent). Semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing companies employed 15,300 folks (10.64 per cent). Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing companies employed 11,900 workers (8.30 per cent). Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences field employed 6,800 workers (4.70 per cent). Wireless telecommunications carriers (except satellite) employed 5,600 workers (3.87 of total workforce).
Earnings and Wages
Here is where engineers score when compared to many other professions. For, the entry level salary of engineers is one the highest. Hence once you get a job you will have a lucrative career.
The mean annual wage of electronics engineers in May, 2009 was $91,540. The mean hourly wage was $44.01. About 50 per cent of the workers earned $89,310 and more. Only 10 per cent earned $56,860.
The top paying industries were Scientific Research and Development Services (annual mean wage $105,620, hourly mean wage $50.78), Federal Executive Branch OES Designation (annual mean wage $101,120, hourly mean wage $48.62), Aerospace Product and Parts Manufacturing (annual mean wage, $100,270, hourly mean wage $48.21), Commercial and Service Industry Machinery Manufacturing (annual mean wage, $99,510, hourly mean wage $47.84), and Specialized Design Services (annual mean wage, $99,440, hourly mean wage $47.81).
The top paying states for the occupation were District of Columbia (annual mean wage $108,640, hourly mean wage $52.23), Rhode Island (annual mean wage $107,580, hourly mean wage $51.72), New Jersey (annual mean wage $103,910, hourly mean wage $49.96), California (annual mean wage $100,370, hourly mean wage $48.25), and Massachusetts (annual mean wage $98,790, hourly mean wage $47.49).
Trenton-Ewing, NJ (annual mean wage $111,440, hourly mean wage $53.58) and Edison-New Brunswick, NJ Metropolitan Division (annual mean wage $111,330, hourly mean wage $53.52) were the top paying metropolitan areas.