The field of electrical engineering is so vast that it can open several doors for you – both in personal development and career advancement. Due to the speed at which technology is updating and developing today, electrical engineers have never been more requested. Therefore, this field is certainly worth studying – but can you do so by yourself?
Self-learning electrical engineering is possible, but it is not easy. You will have to understand your budget, schedule, goal, and way of learning before attempting this project. Also, it is crucial to invest in textbooks and online courses, as well as spend time in a laboratory.
While the road ahead might look rocky, learning electrical engineering can open many doors. Read on and start your learning journey today.
Understand Your Prospects
Electrical engineering – or EE – is a field that has been fascinating an increasing number of students and professionals. Today, most companies and businesses that sell a product or service boast a team of electrical engineers who care for the technical aspects and prototypes’ functioning.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, an electrical engineer’s average salary is $101,250 per year or $48.68 per hour. While the industry growth is set to be at 2% over the next few years, the availability of jobs and high salary expectations for candidates makes it one of the most sought-after careers.
Many young students decide to undertake this kind of career and opt for a university or college degree in this subject. Unsurprisingly, gaining this kind of respectable qualification is one of the easiest ways to ensure a speedy entrance in professional life as an electrical engineer.
At the same time, these courses and qualifications can be extremely pricey, and many students opt to learn electrical engineering while enjoying a full-time job. Ultimately, this strategy is the right one if you are not sure what the job entails.
What Is Electrical Engineering?
Electrical engineering is a discipline that belongs to the much vaster field of engineering. Electrical engineers are those technicians who take care of studying the functioning of new devices. Thanks to their jobs and advancement in research, companies today can create devices, products, and machines that are more efficient and responsive.
Electrical engineers are also involved in the application of devices, systems, and pieces of equipment that use electronics or electromagnetism. While the discipline started in the 19th century with the invention of the electric telegraph, today, this field is what allows many companies and industries to innovate and develop.
Becoming an electrical engineer means that you will have to learn the principles of engineering and electronic systems. However, a spirit of curiosity and research is necessary for you and the company you work to remain competitive in an ever-changing market.
What Can You Do With Electrical Engineering?
As you increase your knowledge and expertise in electrical engineering, you will realize that the opportunities for the professionals in the field are endless. While you can work as an electrician, you can become the one to design systems for spaceships, cars, or ships, depending on your specialization.
Other fields of application in which you can build a thriving career involve any of those systems that use electricity to run. These can include TV, home appliances, commercial systems, or business-related facilities.
Studying electrical engineering can give you the chance to create biomedical systems that can improve many individuals’ quality of life if you have studied medicine or work in the field.
How Long Will It Take to Learn Electrical Engineering?
Considering that university or college degrees require you to study and practice for up to five years, it is unrealistic to believe that you will become an expert in the field in any less than a year of hard work.
However, such timeframes largely depend on the level of your current knowledge. If you have already been working as an electrician and looking at gaining a more specific type of knowledge, you can count on being ready within reduced timeframes.
Oppositely, if you have never studied anything related to this field, learning from scratch can take months or even years. This depends on your study pace.
Understand the Costs and Your Budget
Before deciding to self-learn electrical engineering, it is essential to consider the costs involved in the project. Naturally, the cost of this learning style is much lower than what you would spend on college fees and taxes.
Additionally, the fact that you can study anytime you prefer is a significant advantage. Indeed, this feature allows you to learn all about this new subject without having to give up on your current full-time job.
Therefore, even if you will be facing costs for materials and experience, you can easily replenish the expenditures thanks to your regular incomes.
Costs of Self-Learning Electrical Engineering
If you have decided to alternate learning from a textbook and using YouTube videos or other types of media, costs only relate to the price of the books or subscriptions. However, electrical engineering is a subject so practical that any learners opt to invest in courses and online training material.
While this can suddenly become the single most significant expenditure, they can offer you valuable insights that can help you speed up your career and increase your knowledge level.
What Does the Cost Depend On
The influential factors on the cost of your self-teaching studies include:
- Lengths of the course
- Quality of the course
- Availability of qualifications, accreditations, or certificates at the end of the course
- The level of your present knowledge
- The level of knowledge, experience, and expertise that you wish to achieve
- Associated costs such as rent, petrol, car maintenance, and class attendance
- Extra practical training sessions and laboratory access
Know What Your Goal Is
One of the main steps before attempting to self-learn electrical engineering is to understand your reasons for learning this subject.
In some cases, professionals that already work as electricians or technicians decide to undertake a specialistic course to improve their career prospects. In this case, you will have to invest more in lab access and on-the-job training. This is because you might already know the theory behind certain concepts but not the application in an industry that is not the one you have been working in.
Others decide to self-learn electrical engineering because they seek a drastic change in career, and they understand the possibilities behind this discipline. In this case, networking is paramount, but only after you have become confident about the job’s basics.
Lastly, some students decide to study electrical engineering out of curiosity or to follow a passion. If you find yourself in this situation, extensively reading about the subject, visiting museums, and spending time exploring the journals with the latest innovations in the field can keep your interest alive.
If you are self-learning out of curiosity, you might not even be after financial goals. In this case, taking more time to explore the discipline allows you to understand the aspects and branches that interest you the most.
Consider the Way You Learn
Undoubtedly, one of the first actions learners take when approaching a new subject is buying books about it and watching videos that explain certain concepts.
However, not everybody learns in the same way, and understanding what the method that can help you gain and retain certain notions is essential.
As the VARK model explains, there are four types of learners, which are:
- Kinesthetic (practical or hands-on learners)
- Reading and writing
The difference between them is in the media types and formats that these learners prefer when it comes down to retaining large amounts of information. Understanding which type is the closest to your characteristics is essential to pick some sources and information types that can help you speed up the process of learning.
Visuals prefer formats that include some media and diagrams and graphs. Auditory learners prefer to listen and repeat, while writers and readers rely on the power of the written word. Lastly, kinesthetic learners are the ones who need to put their knowledge into practice to truly make it their own.
It is also crucial to notice that some learners can jump between a model and another depending on the learning process stage. Some individuals are writers and readers for the first phases, just to become kinesthetic learners at the end.
In the case of learning electrical engineering, there will always be a moment when you will need to put your knowledge into concrete, practice-based projects to ensure you have understood the concept, and you can now apply it.
However, you can decide to learn the majority of the notions in different ways – don’t be afraid to try or discard several different learning strategies. This will help you find out what is the method to follow in the long run.
Consider Your Schedule
While you might be ready to dedicate your new passion several hours of your day at first, it might not always be like this. As we have seen, learning electrical engineering might require you to commit for months or years to studying and practicing.
During the first approaches with the discipline, you could manage to study for hours at a time. However, other, pre-existing responsibilities such as family or a full-time job could demand a portion of your time.
Working on a balance between the two and understanding that it is more of a marathon than a sprint can help you keep up your effort and achieve concrete results.
Invest in the Best Textbooks
If you have opted for a self-learning path rather than a college course, textbooks will be the meat and potatoes of your student life. Thinking that these manuals are cheap or easily affordable is a mistake that many students make, just to find themselves intimidated by their price.
On a positive note, today, a large amount of research and huge accessibility of sources and research allows you to take advantage of these books for a much lower price than in the past.
Some tips to save on your textbooks and benefits from high-quality sources and information on electrical engineering are:
- Ask one of your EE friends or acquaintances who have attended electrical engineering subjects at university to borrow them.
- Find second-hand textbooks and training material.
- Research the typical learning schedule of a university student in the same field.
- Use online resources and eBooks (you might need to adapt to the unusual format, but it is a sustainable option – both financially and environmentally).
- Get a membership at your town’s library.
- Borrow the book for a shorter timeframe and take notes of the most important notions.
- If you know somebody else interested in the same subject, propose paying half of the book each.
- Compromise for an older version of the most recent textbook
Textbooks must be considered as an investment necessary to refine your knowledge and access all the information needed.
Leverage Technology and Online Courses
If you have decided to study electrical engineering, the chances are that you are confident in the potential of technology. So, why not think about starting to harness that power now?
Especially due to the current pandemic, an increasing number of companies have launched state-of-the-art online courses and training sessions that you can benefit from anywhere.
Some of these courses might require you to pay a monthly fee or an overall price. However, you can use it to deepen your knowledge of the subject and achieve a valid accreditation or qualifications that can fit your CV well.
In turn, such additions to your resume can attract an increasing number of employers and companies interested in your achievements.
Best Courses to Self-Learn Engineering
If you have decided to implement your self-learning journey with online courses and training sessions, you will soon discover that there are thousands of options. Indeed, depending on your level of knowledge, time, schedule, goal, and interest, you can find a course that fits best your expectations.
Among the best ones to obtain concrete, valuable, and respected accreditation, check out the Electrical Engineering Courses offered by edX. Within the collection of topics, you will find exclusive subcategories such as:
- Innovation Strategies for Electric Mobility: The StreetScooter Case
- Electrical, Optical & Magnetic Materials and Devices
- Electric Cars: Introduction
- xMinor in Materials for Electronic, Optical, and
- Circuits and Electronics 1, 2, 3
The majority of these courses are accredited by prestigious universities such as Harvard and MIT.
Practice What You Have Learned
At the beginning of your EE learning path, you might be happy with theoretical notions. However, if you wish to move your knowledge into a more practical application and use it to achieve your career goal, you need to start implementing what you have learned.
To do so, you can use the necessary materials and devices. However, this is one of the main advantages of learning electrical engineering through a university course – access to a lab. Practice EE as much as you can at home before investing in lab access.
Specialize in a Subcategory
Once you have started to put your knowledge into practice, it is time to understand what truly interests you. As we have seen, engineering is a discipline so vast that it easily covers most aspects of our lives and the markets around us.
Electrical engineering is already a smaller sub-section in the field, but still quite extensive. Once you have understood EE basics and pillar concepts, you might decide to deepen your knowledge in only one aspect.
Besides limiting the amount of general study you will have to do, this choice also gives you a better understanding of the systems and dynamics within a specific topic.
Lastly, since certain specializations are rare, this choice will increase your chances of being selected by an employer.
If you have been studying EE for months or years, it is time to gain or request a valid accreditation to showcase your skills and knowledge. While it might require you to spend more on a course with available qualifications, this is an essential step to turn your efforts into concrete, profitable moves.
It is also important to note that if you are learning electrical engineering to work in the field, you will have to pass the exam to be granted access to the Order of Engineers. Each country has its order, but entering it is essential to work in the field.
Network With EE Students and Professionals
Once you are in the professional world of engineers, you will have to deal with the effect that qualifications such as bachelor’s or master’s degree of others have on employers. You will have to fight hard to gain momentum at the beginning of your new career.
If this is just a specialization of the job you had been doing for a while, your colleagues might already be ready to help you. However, if you are completely new to the field, you should know that the competition among candidates can be fierce.
Therefore, networking with students and professionals is essential. And, don’t miss out on dinners and events in the sector!
Self-learning electrical engineering is not the easiest choice for anybody. However, this strategy boasts some unique benefits that are hard to ignore. For example, you can now study while you work or from the comfort of your sofa. Textbooks, videos, and online training courses are often self-paced and fitting with anybody’s lifestyle.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Electrical Engineer
- University of Nebraska-Lincoln: What is Electrical Engineering?
- UNSW – School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications: What do Electrical Engineers do?
- Rasmussen College: Different Types of Learners: What College Students Should Know
- ECU: 10 tips to Balance Work, Study and Family Life
- edX: Electrical Engineering Courses
- UNSW – School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications: Types of Electrical Engineering
- ASCE: Order of the Engineer