What is Electrical Engineering all about? Discover the scope of Electrical Engineering

Electrical engineering is one of the most popular engineering courses in India and has been one of the major driving forces of high technology over the past few decades. Electrical engineering is rapidly growing not only within core areas such as wireless communications and mobile technologies but also in other areas such as nanotechnology, biotechnology and biomedical engineering. Considering how popular this course is, getting admissions into prestigious institutions such as the IITs and NITs is hugely competitive. The same applies for job hunting as well. Please read the following Q&A to discover this field in-depth, the various opportunities available in this realm and how you can go about forging a career path in electrical engineering.

Electrical engineering is one of the largest and most diverse technological and engineering disciplines in today’s world. Electrical engineering is the study and application of electricity, electronics and electromagnetism for the development and maintenance of electrical and electronics equipments such as electric motors, navigation systems, medical devices, broadcast and communication systems, power generation systems, electrical distribution systems, electric grids etc., while keeping in mind the safety, quality, economic feasibility and sustainability of these products and systems.

Based on the fundamentals of physics and mathematics, electrical engineering became a field of it’s own in the 19th century due to innovations such as the generator, motors, telephone, wireless communications and electronics. Since then, electrical engineering has sure come a long way. Not only has it been one of the major driving forces behind cutting edge technology in areas such as power engineering, computer engineering, communications and mobile technologies, it has also significantly impacted several other fields such as nanotechnology, biomedical engineering, neuroscience and biotechnology, to name a few.

Electrical engineering students use science, engineering, technology and analytical reasoning, creative and critical thinking skills to solve problems and design, construct and maintain electrical and electronics products. Some sub disciplines of electrical engineering are: electronics, digital computers, power engineering, telecommunications, control systems, RF engineering, signal processing, instrumentation, and microelectronics. India is home to renowned universities for electrical engineering, both at the undergraduate and graduate level.

Although the IITs have only one degree called electrical engineering which offers courses in both electrical and electronics, this is not the case with other universities in India. Most universities offer separate courses titled electrical and electronics engineering (EEE) and electronics and communication engineering (ECE). Following is a brief explanation for both courses based on their curriculum.

EEE primarily deals with the generation, transmission, control and utilization of electrical energy on a large scale. Electrical engineers work on large power grids, electrical systems, electric motors, hybrid electric vehicles, to name a few. Core courses in the undergraduate curriculum includes power system analysis, motors, transformers, control systems, high voltage engineering, power electronics, power system economics and control techniques, power system protection and switchgear and utilization of electrical energy.

ECE, on the other hand, focuses primarily on development and maintenance of electronic products for the transmission of information such as mobile phones, personal computers, tablets, digital televisions, internet etc. ECE students study about semiconductor devices, circuits and communication systems. Core courses in ECE includes signal processing, microprocessors, wireless systems, analog and digital circuits, VLSI, semiconductor physics, semiconductor devices, communication theory, mobile communication and digital communication.

EEE curriculum covers a few electronics related courses such as VLSI, microprocessors and microcontrollers but ECE does not cover any course related to power systems.

Computer science engineering degree covers both hardware and software aspects of computers. The hardware concepts overlap with a few electrical engineering courses such as electronic devices and circuits, electrical engineering and control systems, microprocessors and microcontrollers, communications and networks and digital signal processing. Electrical engineering students on the other hand study courses such as data structures and C++, computer software lab etc. However, the curriculum varies from college to college but you will be studying some amount of programming, mainly using MATLAB in electrical engineering.

B.E/B.Tech: A B.Tech/B.E in ECE/EEE is offered by numerous private and government universities across India.

Integrated M.Tech: This is a 5-year dual degree course and offered by the IITs, NITs and a few other universities. At the IIT’s, along with a B.Tech in electrical engineering, you can get your M.Tech in a specialized field of electrical engineering such as information and communication technology, fiber optics and lightwave engineering, communication engineering etc. For more details on choosing between a B.Tech and integrated M.Tech at the IITs, please refer to this article by a professor from IIT Kanpur.

First year of engineering will cover basic sciences courses such as mathematics, physics, chemistry and an overview to other engineering disciplines such as basic mechanical engineering, basic civil engineering, electronics, introduction to computers etc.

Second and third year will expose students to core subjects in electrical engineering. For students who are in ECE, the core courses are signal processing, microprocessors, wireless systems, analog and digital circuits, VLSI, semiconductor physics, semiconductor devices, communication theory, mobile communication and digital communication. For EEE students, core courses are power system analysis, motors, transformers, control systems, high voltage engineering, power electronics, power system economics and control techniques, power system protection and switchgear and utilization of electrical energy. There will also be elective subjects where students can choose courses that they are interested in specializing further in.

Fourth year will introduce students to a few more core courses, electives and courses related to management and economics. The final year project is usually during the final semester but some universities expect students to start their final year project right from the beginning of fourth year.

Considering that there is no proper accredited ranking system for engineering in India, we chose to use a popular world ranking system to find universities in India that are recognised globally for their work in Electrical and Electronics Engineering. The QS World University Rankings are annual university rankings published by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) which provides overall rankings as well as ranking for individual subjects. The QS World University Rankings is regarded as one of the three most influential and widely observed international university rankings, along with the Times Higher Education World University Rankings and the Academic Ranking of World Universities. The following universities from India appeared in the QS world ranking for top 200 universities in the world for Electrical and Electronics Engineering (In no particular order).

  • IISc, Bangalore
  • IIT Bombay, Madras, Delhi, Kanpur, Kharagpur, Roorkee

The following universities from India appeared in the QS world ranking for top 200 universities in Asia for Electrical and Electronics Engineering. (In no particular order)

  • IISc, Bangalore
  • IIT Bombay, Madras, Delhi, Kanpur, Kharagpur, Roorkee, Guwahati
  • Delhi University
  • Mumbai University
  • Pune University
  • Calcutta University

Apart from the above mentioned universities, other prestigious universities in India such as the NITs, BITs Pilani, Anna University etc are all renowned for electrical engineering. If you are unable to get a seat in any one of the above mentioned universities or reputed colleges within your state, try working with professors in reputed universities for internships and final year project. This will give you the much needed practical, quality work experience that will help elevate your academic profile.

  • Electrical engineering plays a very important role in other fields such as biomedical engineering, nanotechnology, biotechnology, to name a few. Therefore, you will have a lot of options open for further studies or specializations. Since it is also quantitative heavy, electrical engineering students will have a good future in business and management fields as well.
  • Job opportunities are good for this field, be it the United States or India. However, when it comes to placements in India, there is a major caveat. Unlike computer science, there are not many core electrical and electronics companies in India, apart from companies such as Qualcomm and Intel. So, if you want to find a job in a core company in India, it may take a while and also depends on the reputation of your university.
  • The future for this field looks great considering the number of innovations happening in areas such as mobile technology, wearable devices, nanotechnology and robotics.
  • Since electrical engineering is based on the fundamentals of physics and mathematics, it is important for students to be skilled in the basic sciences in order to grasp advanced concepts of electrical engineering.
  • ECE and CS are two of the most competitive fields in India. Therefore, there will be a lot of competition, be it admissions to B.Tech programs, job search or higher studies. Be prepared to work very hard.

Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Computer Science (or Biology) will be the perfect option for a strong foundation in the field of Electrical Engineering. Considering that physics and mathematics are the backbone of electrical engineering , you might want to pay more close attention to it.

Role of CS in Electrical Engineering: Many areas of electrical engineering such as image processing lean heavily towards computer science. You will be expected to write algorithms (in languages other than MATLAB) to solve problems in the above mentioned areas. However, not all areas of electrical engineering involve a lot of heavy coding, but having strong programming skills will always be an added advantage, especially for this field.

Role of biology in Electrical Engineering: Certain aspects of nanotechnology, biotechnology, bioinformatics use electrical engineering principles to solve problems related to medicine and healthcare. If you are interested in specializing in any of these areas, then a background in biology will help. Also, these areas are upcoming and poised to be doing well in the coming few years.

Upon completion of your undergraduate studies, you have two options ahead of you - find a job or pursue higher studies in Electrical Engineering or allied fields.

Jobs: Even though electrical engineering is very popular in India due to great job opportunities, growth etc, if you take a look at the placement statistics of various universities ranging from the reputed ones such as the IITs, NITs, BITS to the non reputed institutions, you will notice that core, prestigious companies such as Qualcomm, Intel etc go only to the reputed institutions for campus placements. If your college is reputed within your state, then a few locally situated core companies will come to hire students. If your college is not among the reputed one’s in India or within your state, then the only companies that will come are software. Having said that, you can always try off-campus placements for these companies by applying on your own. Many students have got in through this procedure. Electrical engineering students typically find jobs in core electrical engineering companies such as Intel, Qualcomm or in conglomerates such as Reliance industries, TATA technologies, Microsoft etc that have an electronics division. Some students also find jobs in banking, consulting and finance industries as these sectors need students with strong quantitative skills. Students who are unable to find jobs in core areas move towards software and IT industry. Some of the most popular electronic engineering companies are as follows:

Core companies: Qualcomm, Intel, Ericsson, NVidia, Analog Devices Ltd, Broadcom, Cisco systems, Cosmic circuits, Ericsson India Global Services, Eaton technologies, IBM, Schneider electric, General Electric, Analog devices, Cosmic circuits Pvt Ltd, KLA Tencor, NTT Communications, Texas Instruments.

Other sectors (software, internet, manufacturing, oil and gas, power etc): Shell, TATA technologies, DRDO, Dr.Reddy’s Laboratories, HCL technologies, Google, Microsoft, Power grid corporation of India Ltd, Samsung, Sony corporation, TATA Motors, Toshiba.

Salaries: Salary is heavily dependent on students academic profile and reputation of their universities. Also, MNCs like Qualcomm, Intel pay very well when compared with other companies.

Studies: Considering that electrical engineering significantly impacts many other fields, you will have many options to choose from for M.S and M.Tech degrees. Some areas which are popular by students for specializations are: Signal processing, telecom, nanotechnology. Also, since this field is quantitative heavy, electrical engineering students have a great future in management and business as well. Many EE students go for an MBA immediately after their undergraduate studies or after a few years of work experience in a core company or software.

Considering how prevalent and diverse electrical engineering is, even if recession affects one segment, electrical engineers can find jobs in other sectors. Renewable resources, environmental conservation, energy, power conservation and sustainability areas will see a lot of jobs in the coming few years for electrical engineers due to issues such as climate change and global warming. Also, with mobile technologies and communications still going strong, ECE students have a stable future at the moment.