Why Engineering? How I Became an Electronics Geek

Getting into the field of Electrical Engineering (EE) requires a special passion and aptitude for the topic. Engineering degrees require an intensive course study that is heavy on math and science. It is not a good fit for everyone, but people with the specific interest who have the necessary skill sets are already well on their way to becoming EE geeks.

There are a variety of reasons that people decide to pursue EE. Some people have been tinkering with electronics ever since they were little kids and couldn't imagine going into any other field. Other people enjoy the engineering field as a whole and appreciate the wide range of job options that come with EE. If you've been thinking about applying to an EE program, the following stories from working electrical engineers may assist you with your decision.

Karl D. Stephan has experience in both the EE industry and as a consulting engineer. Currently he teaches college-level engineering courses at Texas State University in San Marcos, TX. He has an engineering ethics blog. Karl attributes three key factors to his decision to pursue EE.

First was PopulKarl D Stephanar Electronics magazine. When I saw a picture of a Tesla coil on the cover of that magazine in 1964, I begged my mother to buy it for me, and she did, even though she probably had doubts about what an eleven-year-old boy would do with it. The second was Radio Shack, which opened its first store outside of Boston in my home town of Fort Worth around the same time. And the third was my father, who encouraged my electronic tinkering because it reminded him of his own father, who was a self-taught electrical engineer. While my first engineering job began in 1978, I had known I would follow a technical career for at least a decade already.

While Popular Electronics magazine has inspired many young individuals to pursue EE, some people simply get into the field because of their interest in learning how things work. The next engineer, David, started working with electronics while he was still in elementary school.

David L. Jones is an electronics design engineer based in Sydney, Australia. He got his start in hobby electronics more than 30 years ago. Since then, he has worked in a wide range of fields from underwater acoustics to production engineering to embedded firmware and software application design. He has been published in a number of magazines including Everyday Practical Electronics, Electronic Today International, and Electronics Australia.

David maintains the Electronics Engineering Video Blog (EEVBlog) in which he shares his two decades of electronics design industry experience in a non-scripted, passionate, and overly enthusiastic style. David believes that he did not choose electronics engineering but that the field chose him because he got hooked on taking things apart to see how they work at such an early age.

David L JonesI did not chose electronics engineering, electronics engineering chose me. When you are five or six years old and start taking stuff apart to see how it works, you get hooked. I had my own electronics lab before I turned ten. All my pocket money would go into electronics tools, books and magazines (this was before the internet & communications revolution, so books and magazine were where you got your info). And before the whole internet and computer/gadget/consumer revolution, there were very few other paths to take or distractions when you were a curious tinkering kind of kid, so you naturally ended up in electronics engineering. By the time high school was finished, and you had to go study something, there was no choice to make, it was engineering. That decision had already been unwittingly made back in that lab in my bedroom when I was 10 years old.

If you are interested in pursuing EE because of the wide range of job options, you will enjoy reading about Cammen's background and work experience. He stresses the importance of learning the basics of the field so that you can take advantage of the wide range of opportunities in the always expanding electronics industry.

Cammen Chan has been working in the electronics industry since 1996. He has a master's degree in electrical engineering, holds patents, and has worked in integrated circuit (IC) design. He has been an adjunct faculty member at seven colleges and universities in the United States where he has taught electrical engineering, IT, math, and emerging technologies. He has always worked at a number of the leading electronics companies in the country. Currently he trains embedded system engineers, does research, and writes technical materials.

He is the author of the All-in-One Electronics Guide and has an Electrical Engineering, Education, and Technology blog. In his electronics guide, he enhances basic electronic theory understanding while presenting practical EE applications and the latest EE technologies. Cammen believes that people should study and practice engineering, particularly EE, because the electronic industry is so extensive and has so many different opportunities.

Cammen ChanThe reasons why you should study, and practice engineering, esp. electrical engineering are that the electronic industry is immense with so many opportunities. There will never be a lack of jobs in engineering because the electronics industry is always growing. With increasing use of electronic devices in consumer, commercial, industrial products, and systems, multitudes of electronics professionals are needed just to keep pace with the increasing demands of electronic products and services now and into the future. Ideally, you would want to work in a field that is growing or, at least, is not predicted to become obsolete within your lifetime. It's a simple theory of demand and supply. Other than financial incentives, the high level of satisfaction from reaching engineering achievements can't be underestimated.

The bright engineers I worked with at IBM Microelectronics influenced me the most. Not only they strengthened my belief of everything is possible through scientific research, they also reinforce the importance of understanding basic electronic principle, and theories. Higher level of engineering milestone can only be reached through good understanding of basic engineering knowledge. This is the main driving force of my book, to enhance basic understanding of electronic theory while presenting practical applications and the most latest technologies to the readers.

Are you thinking about pursuing EE because of your math and/or science abilities? If you have teachers who have broached the topic of EE with you, due to your success in their courses, you may be able to relate to Peter's background.

Pete Christensen describes himself as a typical wannabe professional athlete trapped in an electrical engineer's body. He is a 26 year old from rural Minnesota who now lives and works in Minneapolis as electrical engineer. He enjoys sharing his opinions and insight about sports, engineering, current events, politics, Christianity, pop culture, and personal experiences on his blog. Pete has excelled in math since he was a little kid.

Peter ChristensenFrom an early age, math was my best subject, which was probably due to my father teaching me addition and subtraction before I entered kindergarten. I took a greater interest in physics and especially learning about electricity in the 9th grade thanks to my teacher Mike Pelto, and so when my childhood dream of making the NBA died, I decided studying engineering would be the career path for me. At freshman orientation at the University of Minnesota I officially declared electrical engineering because it sounded like it had the best job outlook of the engineering disciplines I had interest in, and plus I remembered that 9th grade physical science class that I enjoyed so much. And since that day 8 years ago I have been pursuing a career in electrical engineering.

Finally, females thinking about EE careers will appreciate Simil Raghavan's story. In a male dominated field, it is always refreshing to learn that there are successful females among the mix. Also, if you find yourself thinking about switching to EE in the middle of college, this story may give you the courage to make the leap.

Simil did her undergraduate work at Oral Roberts University and has her Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering / Auditory Neuroscience from John Hopkins School of Medicine. She has extensive work in research including the areas of behavior, auditory neurophysiology, and histology. Currently she manages the EngineerGirl and Online Ethics Center websites. Simil didn't decide to pursue a career in EE until she was in college.

Simil RaghavanI transferred into engineering in my junior year of college, when I finally admitted I wouldn’t be happy as a social worker. In fact, I had no idea what an engineer was. Luckily a friend gently nudged me toward the engineering department when I asked if I could do anything with math other than teach. Switching meant an additional two years to finish my degree, but it was probably the best choice I made in college. Why engineering? Because you get the chance to explore your creativity and to spend your time solving puzzles in the name of work, because you can have a career that actually pays well enough to support a family, and because it gives you the opportunity to become the type of leader that can actually make a difference in the world.

Are you still interested in becoming an EE geek and learning more about the field after reading all of these stories from EE professionals? If so, take the time to learn more about the possible job options. From working as a chemical engineer for a small company to being a top tier quality manager for a large corporation, there are a wide range of choices.