what do electrical engineers know?

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by strantor, Jul 19, 2011.

  1. strantor

    Thread Starter AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 3, 2010
    I have read an uncanny amount posts that start out with "I'm an electrical engineer, but...." and end with something like (for example) "how do I use the low current output of a microcontroller to activate a solenoid?"

    Having never been to college, I only have my assumtions of what it's like & how it works. My assumption is that something like this would be taught in electrical engineering 101. I just assume that every electrical engineer knows everything there is to know about how electrical things work. Am I wrong? Is it possible that someone could make it all the way through college and earn the title "Electrical Engineer" and not know how to wire a relay?
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2011
  2. t_n_k

    AAC Fanatic!

    Mar 6, 2009
    How about:

    "I just assume that every doctor knows everything there is to know about how humans work."

    "I just assume that every lawyer knows everything there is to know about how the law works."


    Yes you are wrong.

    It wouldn't surprise me at all if an electrical engineering graduate didn't know how to wire a relay. However, engineering schools have taken steps over the years to overcome the lack of practical experience & knowledge in their graduates.
    strantor likes this.
  3. strantor

    Thread Starter AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 3, 2010
    Ok, I should not have made such a sweeping implication with that one scentence. I understand that there are specialties within engineering, but is there no "core curriculum" in which the basics are taught?

    I'm pretty sure that any doctor, whether gynocologist or pediatrician, etc. knows the different combinations of medicines to not give a patient or risk death (assuming here again) and that every lawyer, whether criminal defense, or bankruptcy, or whatever knows how the judicial system works (also assuming again).

    I guess my thinking is that no matter what end destination you accomplish in electrical engineering, would have inevitably had to have learned the simple stuff first.
  4. praondevou

    AAC Fanatic!

    Jul 9, 2011
    I know several electrical engineers who DON'T know how things work, I know several doctors that made a completely wrong analysis and I know that it is impossible to know everything, even if you concentrate only on one particular area.

    I thought many times, wow, he (the engineer) should have known this or that, but there is simply to much to know these days, and there are, as always, more or less interested people in their area.

    No real interest - no real knowledge.

    But I knew others too, that seem to absorb every knowledge available to them... I think, any formation, technical or the university only gives you the basics... the rest comes with experience, interest, your work etc.
    strantor likes this.
  5. Adjuster

    Late Member

    Dec 26, 2010
    Electrical engineering is a big subject. Only an exceptional individual is likely to have a deep knowledge of all its aspects. Most lesser mortals will have some appreciation in a number of areas, and more detailed knowledge of things they have specialised in.

    As we get older, our ideas will tend to get out of date, and this applies with particular force to any subjects we don't deal with on a regular basis.
  6. t_n_k

    AAC Fanatic!

    Mar 6, 2009
    Actually I'd be more concerned about an electrical engineer who thinks they know everything there is to know about how electrical things work.
  7. #12


    Nov 30, 2010
    I noticed that one, too. I'm an Engineer and I don't know how to design a one transistor current amplifier. I hope he hasn't been working on the space shuttle!

    I've also met engineers that were amazing, but they didn't graduate that year. Apparently it takes years of experience AFTER the diplomas are handed out. Still, I'm as amazed as you at what a college degree does not include.
  8. magnet18

    Senior Member

    Dec 22, 2010
    I think theres a reason that electrical engineers have a higher salary than any other engineer (except chemical), that being it's a giant field that's explosively expanding exponentially. It also may depend on (not trying to step on any toes) the country they get the degree in and/or the school they go to. I have heard of graduates from some foreign colleges who have never used an oscilloscope, and I would think that someone graduating from MIT or Purdue would be better educated than someone from a small community college. But, that's still no excuse for not knowing the basics.
    Aimal likes this.
  9. TBayBoy


    May 25, 2011
    Actually most medical organizations use software to double check both the Dr. and Pharmacist, as one compelling statistic from a few years ago demonstrated that all the medication errors in North America is equivalent of a 747 crash each week
    strantor likes this.
  10. strantor

    Thread Starter AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 3, 2010
    Reminds me of a quote my supervisor in the navy told me once; "you don't have to know everything; you just have to know where to find out. It's ok so say 'I don't know; I'll get back to you' - and then actually follow up"
  11. praondevou

    AAC Fanatic!

    Jul 9, 2011
    Some people are not able to do this, they send you in the wrong direction if you ask the way, they sell you phototransistors for infrared diodes and so on.

    This is something that irritates me. But it seems there is no room for doubts or assuming a "I don't know" position...
  12. VoodooMojo

    Active Member

    Nov 28, 2009
    the old saying is that behind every great engineer and his design there is a team of spectacular technicians that actually make the damn thing work!
  13. magnet18

    Senior Member

    Dec 22, 2010
    That's why when my dad managed programs he would always pull the bench techs and line workers into meetings and talk to them about what worked and what didn't.
    All his co-workers hated it because they were usually dirty and cussed a lot, but my dads team won the JD power award that year, and everyone who worked for him loved it.

    Also kinda funny, if my dad ever went to the line or shop and asked for a favor they would be more than willing to help him out (I have a few parts that I've gotten that way, really useful)
    If any of the other managers, who looked down on the line workers/technicians, asked for a favor, they would get blown off, ignored, or shunned. :D
  14. Georacer


    Nov 25, 2009
    If there's one thing I know in my fourth (out of five) years in the university, is that I don't know jack **** about solving real life scenarios. For now I 'm living in my bubble built by the educational system.
    And to think that the government allows me to sign for a two storey building on graduation... Monstrous!
  15. sharke45

    New Member

    Jul 19, 2011
    Engineers learn all electronic theory in school. It's a lot of math and not much else. There's not much practical electronics taught in schools. I actually have both a Bachelor's and a Master's in Electrical Engineering from a major (think Top 10) university. They taught me how to do triple integrals, curls, and all kinds of transforms, but I never actually learned about relays in any class I've ever taken.

    I learned about relays, solenoids, etc. on the job or at home. In my experience, school was more or a less a waste of time and money. The new engineers that I see can't do basic skills such as soldering or crimping (These are rarely taught in a 4-year engineering program). It'd be better if engineers had to be technicians before they became engineers.
  16. Wendy


    Mar 24, 2008
    I don't think you can blame the educational system. If a person has the knack and willingness, they will learn, and learn well. Mostly you have to love the profession, and not think of it as a 9-5 job.
    PackratKing and shortbus like this.
  17. Robin Mitchell

    Distinguished Member

    Oct 25, 2009
    Strantor i think that is impossible. The basics of electronics are needed to be an engineer. So they are NOT engineers and are just hobbyists who want to pretend or are really lazy thick people.

    A doctor needs not to know of the entire body, but he should know the bloody basics. He most certainly knows the organ layout of a body etc...

    EVERY REAL E Engineer knows about the basics like relays, transistors etc...
  18. Markd77

    Senior Member

    Sep 7, 2009
    Maybe in these days of overinflated job titles, an electrician's job title might be Electrical Engineer. That could explain it.
  19. shortbus

    AAC Fanatic!

    Sep 30, 2009

    This holds true in any profession or trade. While not an electrical engineer, I was a skilled tradesman(die maker). Some of the people I worked with didn't really have a clue. The only reason they wanted the job was that it was the highest paid none salary job in the plant!
  20. RiJoRI

    Well-Known Member

    Aug 15, 2007
    I do not agree. My opinion is that they should get the tech schooling after the engineering. Better yet would be the tech part with the engineering part -- you know the theory of how it works, now see it in real life.

    Of course, I may be biased, insofar as that was how my tech school worked: theory on Monday and Wednesday, Lab on Tuesday and Thursday, and quiz on Friday.