Electronics Engineer

The Job and What's Involved

Electronics is the use of electricity to control, communicate and process information. Television, stereophonic recording, computers, space vehicles and the internet are all products of electronics.

Electronics engineers are concerned with using low-power electricity to control equipment such as:

  • Telecommunications equipment.
  • Radio and television.
  • 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, which may include engineers and technicians from different engineering disciplines.

Experienced electronics engineers are usually either incorporated or chartered.

Incorporated Engineers - specialise in developing and applying modern technology, and play a vital role in any organisation which depends on a skilled technical workforce. With their detailed knowledge and understanding of current engineering applications, they have the skills and know-how to make things happen, and often hold key operational management roles.

Chartered Engineers - may be involved in research and development or manufacture and installation. They may progress into senior general management - typically as project leaders - and be responsible for teams of incorporated engineers and technicians.

Working hours are based on daytime work, but electronics engineers have to be flexible - the hours worked depend on the project in hand, priorities and deadlines. They 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 they have to work elsewhere - for instance on the installation of a production line, or an outdoor operation involving transport or communications.

Starting salaries for graduate electronics engineers may be around £20,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

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

Employers across the UK include local and central government, the Armed Forces, manufacturers in all industries, research and development companies, IT companies, 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. It is the largest manufacturing industry in the USA, with a similar trend in Europe and Japan. Various developing countries such as South Korea, Taiwan and Israel are becoming important areas of growth.

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.

Education and Training

It is worth getting the highest possible qualifications, and engineers can work towards incorporated, chartered or engineering technician status.

It is possible to begin training for craft or technician-level jobs straight from school with GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3) in English, maths and science.

One way to start is with an employer as a technician apprentice. Most apprentices start between 16 and 18, but a start must be made before the age of 25. Applicants need around four GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), including maths, English, and science or technology. Some schools and colleges are offering double award GCSE's/S grades in engineering or manufacturing which, together with mathematics and English, can be accepted. Some entrants may start at Advanced Apprenticeship level.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

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 from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

To train directly as an electronics engineer, people need a degree in a relevant subject before starting work. Some employers may offer gap year employment to suitable students, and Graduate Apprenticeships may be available in England and Wales. This is an academic route for those keen to progress quickly to management and research roles with incorporated or chartered status.

There are also Foundation degrees available through some universities.

The Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE) offers a number of engineering degree scholarships each year to women in the first year of their A levels/H grades. There are also scholarships for students in the second year of their A levels/H grades who are applying for degree courses.

For degree courses, applicants need at least two A levels/three H grades, normally including maths and a science subject, and five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), or equivalent qualifications.

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

Degree courses in Scotland normally last one year longer than those in other parts of the UK. Students with A levels applying for courses in Scotland may be able to start in the second year of the course, depending on their grades.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

To qualify as an incorporated electronics engineer, candidates should:

  • Have an accredited degree, or equivalent qualification. (Or they can do an accredited HNC/HND and then further learning, equivalent to one year of study, which can be a combination of work-based learning and full-time, part-time or distance learning.)
  • Gain corporate membership of the IEE or IIE.
  • Complete a period of initial professional development, including practical training and professional engineering experience.
  • Successfully pass a professional review.

The IIE offers a number of awards to help women who are studying for incorporated engineer qualifications.

To qualify as a chartered electronics engineer, candidates must have:

  • Either an accredited MEng degree or BEng Hons degree, plus further learning to Masters level, or other relevant qualifications which, together with work experience, can be individually assessed as equivalent to Masters level.
  • Gain corporate membership of the IEE.
  • Complete a period of initial professional development which includes formal and informal training and professional engineering experience.
  • Successfully pass a professional review with an interview.

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.

Students can join the IEE or IIE as student members.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

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.

Your Long Term Prospects

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

Some larger companies offer the possibility of overseas work, especially within the European Union, developing Eastern European countries and in the USA.

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

Get Further Information

Engineering Council UK,
10 Maltravers Street, London WC2R 3ER
Tel: 020 7240 7891
Website: www.engc.org.uk

The Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE),
Savoy Place, London WC2R 0BL
Tel: 020 7240 1871
Website: www.iee.org

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

Scottish Engineering,
105 West George Street, Glasgow G2 1QL
Tel: 0141 221 3181
Website: www.scottishengineering.org.uk

SEMTA (Science, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies Alliance),
14 Upton Road, Watford, Hertfordshire WD18 0JT
Tel: 01923 238441
Website: www.semta.org.uk

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

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