In this instalment of Go Pro I will venture to offer an overview of the requirements that a person interested in electrical engineering would need to know.
As with other engineering qualifications, namely a full-fledged degree (BSc or BEng), a post diploma degree (BTech) or a National Diploma (ND), once a person with either of these qualifications enters the job market they will be referred to as an Engineer, a Technologist, or a Technician respectively. For the sake of this article I will refer to all of the qualifications as electrical engineers but bear in mind that, in reality, work load and remunerations for each of the qualifications differs drastically.
What does an Electrical Engineer do?
Electrical engineers investigate, design, test and install electrical and electronic equipment. Their work involves the generation, distribution and management of all appliances and installations that generate or use electrical energy.
Electrical power generation and distribution of power involves the sourcing of power via a variety of methods i.e. nuclear, coal power, hydro-electrical, as well as “green” renewable sources such as wind and solar. The movement of the electricity from source to consumer is known as distribution. Distribution uses transmission lines and sub-stations to distribute or move the electrical energy to the end user for power, heating, lighting and other.
Due to there being many types and sources of electricity means that there will inevitably be many areas of specialty in the field of electrical engineering. The specialisation may include research and design of new products, the writing of end user and performance requirements, and the maintenance and preventative requirement schedules. Electrical engineers also perform consultation work whereby they test equipment, solve operating problems and estimate the time and cost of engineering projects.
What is the difference between electrical and electronic engineers? It’s a valid question. Electronic engineering is often referred to as "light current" engineering and electrical engineering as "heavy current" engineering. They differ in terms of the storage, retrieval, transfer and processing of information associated with electronics engineering, versus the application of electrical energy associated with electrical engineering, which is now split into heavy and light current engineering. Electronics engineering is a sub-division of electrical engineering.
Electrical engineers work in offices, design centres or consultancies, and also work outdoors in the project management of large constructions and installations.
What do Electrical Technicians do?
Electrical engineering technicians (National Diploma) get involved with design, installation and testing of motors, generators, alternators, transformers, cables and switchgears. They are often a key go-between the electrical engineer or technologist and the artisan (fitter or N3-N6 electrician).
What do Electrical Engineering Technologists do?
Electrical engineering technologists focus on the heavy or light fields of electrical systems and specialise with the maintenance of advanced equipment or control systems. They are often involved with research projects, complicated designs and the testing of equipment and machines. They usually work in an office, but are also needed at the sites of construction and installation projects.
Qualifications to obtain
• B.Sc. Electrical Engineering or B.Eng (Electrical Engineering)
After obtaining a degree a period of practical training is required before a person may register as a professional engineer with the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA)
• National Diploma in Electrical Engineering degree in collaboration with universities
A newly qualified engineer that knows where he or she wants to go in terms of field of expertise is so much easier to work with and find employment for rather than one who is unsure. By knowing the exact stream of engineering you want to go into, you can expose yourself to those who can teach you from previous years of experience that they have gained.
In part 2 we will discuss the various fields that you as a budding electrical engineer can investigate while studying and I will also give details of bodies that an engineer can be affiliated with.