Electrical Engineering (E E) is one of the broadest of all engineering majors and is much more than just building electrical circuits. Electrical engineering is the application of electronics, electrical science and technology, and computer systems to the needs of society. An electrical engineer is responsible for designing and integrating electronic/electrical systems in diverse industries such as defense, communications, transportation, manufacturing, health care, construction, power/energy, and entertainment.
The B.S. degree in E E begins with a first-year emphasis on math, physics, and chemistry common to all engineering students. In the second and third years, most of the course work consists of required E E lecture and laboratory courses that provide a broad exposure to the many aspects of E E. During the final three semesters, the student can select from over 30 technical electives in such areas as:
- Communications—analog/digital, wireless, and satellite communications
- Control Systems—servo systems, process control, robotics, and navigational systems
- Digital Signal Processing—digital filtering, digital audio processing, and neural networks
- Digital Systems (computer engineering)—micro-controllers, digital logic, and VLSI design
- Electro-Optics—lasers, holography, and fiber optic communications
- Electromagnetics—radar, antenna design, and wave propagation in space
- Electronic Materials and Device Fabrication—semi-conductors and super conductor
- Electronics—amplifier design, integrated circuits, and instrumentation
- Image Processing—medical imaging and computer vision
- Power—motors, power generation, power electronics, and power plant control
- Space Sciences—the study of electrical properties of the atmosphere
The BSEE degree includes a four-year design course sequence (Engineering Design, Design Tools, Design Process, Design Experience) that culminates with a capstone design project that encompasses the various phases of creating a new product – designing, building, testing, and even marketing. Students may also opt to participate in the co-op program, with alternating periods of classes and employment, thus obtaining invaluable on-the-job technical training.
Throughout the E E program, you will broaden your education with courses in communications (writing and speaking), arts, humanities, and the social sciences. A detailed description of degree requirements and a semester-by-semester course plan is available here.
Students who enjoy math, physics, and computer programming are likely to do well in E E because many E E areas of specialization build on these basic skills. Although students need a certain level of competence in each of these basic areas, the diversity of electrical engineering allows students to tailor their course work towards their strengths and interests. For example, mathematical models are often used to design or analyze communication systems, control systems, and electronic circuits. Physics plays a key part in the fabrication of various electronic components such as electro-optical devices and semiconductors. Likewise, computer skills are important because much of E E design is done using sophisticated software packages. Computers are also important because new technology is becoming increasingly digital in nature (such as HDTV).
The EE department at Penn State uses numerous laboratory facilities in our undergraduate program. Besides numerous electronics labs, our department houses a control systems lab, a digital signal processing lab, a microwave lab, an electro-optics lab, a machinery and drives lab, and a world-class clean room (used for the fabrication of electronic devices in a sterile environment), to name a few. We are also one of the few educational institutions to have an anechoic chamber, which is used for the testing of antenna radiation patterns. Our departmental computational facilities include a PC lab and UNIX workstation lab.
The College of Engineering's Engineering and Career Resources Center has a cop-op program available for interested E E students. Beginning with the junior year, co-op students alternate semesters (and summers) of electrical engineering-related employment and classes, thus obtaining valuable on-the-job training. Typically, completing the co-op program requires an additional year to earn a BSEE degree. Students who complete the co-op program receive a Certificate in Engineering Cooperative Education along with their diploma.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the professional society of electrical engineering, has an active IEEE student branch at Penn State that sponsors a number of technical presentations, competitions, and social functions. We also have a Computer Society Chapter that specializes in topics related to computers. All electrical engineering students are invited to join IEEE.
Eta Kappa Nu (HKN) Association is the honor society for electrical and computer engineers. Penn State's chapter, founded in 1905, is the fifth oldest in the nation. Its activities include weekly tutoring sessions, a year-end awards banquet, and various seminars on topics such as choosing 400-level electives and planning for graduate school. Membership in HKN is by invitation.
Because the electrical engineering profession is characterized by its diversity, graduates in E E hold a wide variety of jobs. Many graduates work in laboratories where their responsibilities include designing and testing new electronic systems or devices. This design work often utilizes computer programs and test equipment that are first used while in school.
Other graduates have jobs in manufacturing plants where their major responsibility is the interfacing of the electronic equipment with the rest of the plant. A growing employment opportunity within E E is in technical sales/consulting, in which graduates use their E E background as well as people skills to interface with various industrial customers. E E graduates are also found in areas such as law, marketing, finance, technical writing, and government, where they serve as technical experts.
Finally, E E graduates with entrepreneurial skills are often successful by marketing themselves as consultants or starting their own companies. Regardless of which area of specialization within E E a student chooses, the job outlook remains high due to the ever-present and increasing need for electrical power, electronics, communications, and computers in all areas of our society.