What does an Electronics Engineer do?

Thread Starter

luca290799

Joined Apr 4, 2022
53
I am attending a 5-year university course in Electronic Engineering (in English) in Italy and I have always thought that at university there is a lot of theory and little practice, so I am scared of this gap between the working world and the university world.

I would like to ask, according to your experience, which jobs/tasks/topics are mainly required by an electronic engineer. I know that the number one skill is 'strive', but still it takes both theoretical and practical knowledge.

For example, an employer told me that many companies now require embedded programmers .. so to start I took an advanced course on STM32. Another example, I saw on LinkedIn that in several job offers from companies near my home, they asked me to work with converters... so I attended a course on DC-DC converters on Simulink.
(obviously these two are topics that were already covered in my university course of study, but which I went into a bit more detail)
 

Ian0

Joined Aug 7, 2020
6,286
Electronics engineering is a wide field. Pursue whatever part of it interests you most. If it’s good old-fashioned analogue audio design your choices of employer might be restricted, but you could choose switched-mode power supply design which requires a knowledge of power semiconductors, magnetics and Bode plots; you could choose embedded control which would require knowledge of microcontrollers, C and assembler; you could choose RF, as there is always a need for someone to design the next generation of mobile telephones; you could choose digital audio, or DSP for data acquisition.
One note on microcontrollers: there is always a need to interface to the real world, which is an almost entirely analogue place, so a digital designer who really knows analogue will have an advantage. I have seen so many posts on these fora from engineers who know how to use a microcontroller but haven’t a clue how to interface it to a real external voltage.
 

DickCappels

Joined Aug 21, 2008
9,297
You can do more than one thing at a time, such as designing an analog product and the microcontroller that makes it work.

The most important thing you will do in your job is strive to make/keep your boss a success. Do whatever you can to make their life easier and help them deliver their deliverables.
 

MrSalts

Joined Apr 2, 2020
2,350
An engineering degree is a "ticket to the show". Once you get in, you can be asked to do anything. You can also identify a problem and propose a solution and that may become your job for the next few years. You may also be asked to visit customers, understand their problems you may get into supply chain, procurement, sales, design, manufacturing, quality, market research, publicity and promotion, Who knows? I have done many of these and I know other engineers (electrical, mechanical, industrial, computer, chemical who have done many things outside of their studies).

Ultimately, to an employer, "engineer" means "problem solver" and someone who can teach themselves what needs to be done, knows who to call for help, how to justify spending money to make more money (or to insure the company keeps making money).

don't worry, as a new graduate, nobody expects you to walk in the door of your employer and start "working". You'll be given some background, some specific training and eventually, you'll be told what to do. In time, your job will evolve.

also, the smaller the company you work for, the more different types of things you will do in a week. In a large company, there are more clearly defined specific roles. In a small company, you may be involved in design, manufacture, quality and some technical customer contact. In a large company, you may be responsible for one quality test in a manufacturing facility and never see the other departments. Sounds boring to work at a large company but they pay better. On the down side, someone doing one job in one department is easily replaced (at least in the US - employment rules are different in Europe.
 
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ronsimpson

Joined Oct 7, 2019
2,385
so I am scared of this gap between the working world and the university world.
There is a gap.
An engineer can do anything. Soon your boss will ask "Can you do _________." Your answer is "by morning I will know how." As an engineer you must know how to find the answer. I have spent all night reading books, searching the internet, looking at data sheets so I can do that thing. First think out of school you know very little, but most important is you know how to learn.

While going to school I built radio stations and recording studios. While other students partied, I soldered resistors and transistors. I did not have a gap because I had 6 years of experience. Then I took night school for the next two years. I think no one does what I did. Go to the Professors and ask about the gap and ask for help. It is common for Professors to have an engineering project they are working on the side. They get help from special students. Some companies hire part time workers from school.

An engineer can see a problem. Find the answer and fix the problem. (and maybe fail but will try again)
 

Ian0

Joined Aug 7, 2020
6,286
@ronsimpson is absolutely correct when he says ”Soon your boss will ask ’Can you do _________.’”.
You many not immediately know the answer, but your job is to know who to ask.
For instance, I admit that I don’t know a damn thing about radio, but I know someone who does. You need to build up a repertoire of contacts and companies who can provide the component that does __________.
Keep in touch with friends from university. Those who go into different branches of engineering will help you out when their bosses ask for the impossible, just as you can help them when their bosses want something they can’t do, and if you’re in a small firm where there are no other engineers, you’ll need someone to talk to about technical stuff, just because it’s interesting.
 
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dl324

Joined Mar 30, 2015
15,098
I have always thought that at university there is a lot of theory and little practice, so I am scared of this gap between the working world and the university world.
Your school education teaches you theory (hopefully a good foundation to build upon) and how to think logically. You'll have labs and homework intended to reinforce what you're supposed to be learning. They might not seem very complicated, but do them and pay attention (lest you be in a bored/ignoring mode when something important that you don't know is presented). On the other hand, you may seem so lost that you don't even know what questions to ask (I was there a time or two). Don't be afraid to ask questions because you won't be the first who didn't "get" something the first time.
which jobs/tasks/topics are mainly required by an electronic engineer
That depends on the job and the person.

My background was electrical engineering, but I spent most of my career doing software development. Since I only had 3 programming classes in high school (2) and college (1), I had a lot of CS theory to pick up on-the-job. The programming class I took in college didn't teach me anything new (other than a Fortran version that was older and on a computer less capable than the one I used for Fortran IV at a community college while I was in high school).

I spent 4-5 years doing mostly electronics, but decided that my interests were more aligned with semiconductor design. On the job over a 3 decade career, I learned about DRAM, SRAM, EPROM, EEPROM, FLASH, microprocessors (and peripherals), process technology, layout verification/synthesis, reliability verification, performance verification, etc.

I didn't use all of what I learned in school, but I don't consider much of it useless (history came close). I thought English and history were a waste of time, but they weren't. Speech came in handy when I was giving presentations in front of hundreds of people. History was helpful, but not for work.
 

MaxHeadRoom

Joined Jul 18, 2013
25,977
It is one thing to acquire the recognized degree, another to apply it, see my quote below by A. Einstein. ;)
I call it the ability to conceptualize !
I have met 'one or two' engineers that failed in this area. :rolleyes:
 

Thread Starter

luca290799

Joined Apr 4, 2022
53
@ronsimpson is absolutely correct when he says ”Soon your boss will ask ’Can you do _________.’”.
You many not immediately know the answer, but your job is to know who to ask.
For instance, I admit that I don’t know a damn thing about radio, but I know someone who does. You need to build up a repertoire of contacts and companies who can provide the component that does __________.
Keep in touch with friends from university. Those who go into different branches of engineering will help you out when their bosses ask for the impossible, just as you can help them when their bosses want something they can’t do, and if you’re in a small firm where there are no other engineers, you’ll need someone to talk to about technical stuff, just because it’s interesting.
I agree when you say 'ask someone' and I have done so several times (even in this wonderful forum).

I spoke some time ago with a chief engineer of a medium-sized biomedical company and he said "if I assign you a problem to solve and you ask someone else for the solution or look it up on the Internet .. then I should hire the person who proposes you the solution and not you".

He is partly right but partly not, I think I have learnt more from asking on Internet forums and from my university colleagues than from reading school books.

I was born in the '99, which is the "digital age", and it is frustrating how I spontaneously open up the Internet when faced with a problem, rather than flicking through every single page of the datasheet of the microcontroller I am working on.

What do you think?:(
 

dl324

Joined Mar 30, 2015
15,098
I was born in the '99, which is the "digital age", and it is frustrating how I spontaneously open up the Internet when faced with a problem, rather than flicking through every single page of the datasheet of the microcontroller I am working on.

What do you think?:(
I think someone who couldn't do things themselves from what they knew wouldn't make it to my list of people to consider.
 

Ian0

Joined Aug 7, 2020
6,286
.. then I should hire the person who proposes you the solution and not you".
Without you, how would he have met that person?
What about the next job? Would that person be the right person for the next job?
I was born in the '99, which is the "digital age", and it is frustrating how I spontaneously open up the Internet when faced with a problem, rather than flicking through every single page of the datasheet of the microcontroller I am working on.
There are probably just one or two errors in a microcontroller datasheet. . . .
 

DickCappels

Joined Aug 21, 2008
9,297
There are places for people who don't know very much about technology. At one company one of the highest paid engineers in our division could not design the simplest op amp circuit but he could play golf with the vendors and get great cooperation from them.

Others with his job description were able to instantly come up with technical solutions themselves, often on factory floors or labs at remote locations.

There is room for all kinds of people in engineering.
 

bidrohini

Joined Jul 29, 2022
93
It depends on which sector he/she works in. Electronics has different sectors. Such as-Embedded electronics, Power electronics, Consumer electronics, Industrial electronics etc.
Embedded system engineers basically do microcontroller-related work. They make microcontroller-based devices and solutions.
Power electronics engineers design and test circuits to use in power electronics systems. They may develop prototypes, find solutions for known flaws in mechanical designs.
Consumer electronics engineers are those who make home appliances.
Industrial electronics mostly consist of PLC and automation.
So, there are varieties of tasks that electronics engineers do.
 

Reloadron

Joined Jan 15, 2015
6,954
An engineering degree is a "ticket to the show". Once you get in, you can be asked to do anything. You can also identify a problem and propose a solution and that may become your job for the next few years. You may also be asked to visit customers, understand their problems you may get into supply chain, procurement, sales, design, manufacturing, quality, market research, publicity and promotion, Who knows? I have done many of these and I know other engineers (electrical, mechanical, industrial, computer, chemical who have done many things outside of their studies).
That covers it as well as possible and is right on target. When we looked for new engineers right out of school we looked for abilities.

Ron
 
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