This job is sometimes referred to by alternative titles
Electrical engineers specify, design and supervise the construction or manufacture of systems and equipment that produce, distribute and/or use electricity. They also maintain, operate and manage these systems and equipment.
Electrical engineers with one to five years' experience usually earn
$40K-$60K per year
Experienced electrical engineers usually earn
$60K-$120K per year
Pay for electrical engineers varies depending on their role and experience.
- Newly qualified electrical engineers are likely to earn between $50,000 and $60,000 a year.
- Experienced electrical engineers may earn between $80,000 and $110,000.
- Senior specialised electrical engineers with additional responsibilities can earn more than $120,000.
According to the Institute of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ), the average wage for electrical engineers in 2013 was about $95,000 a year.
What you will do
Electrical engineers may do some or all of the following:
- develop, design or update specifications and designs for electrical systems and equipment
- design methods to generate, distribute and manage electricity
- design automated and computerised methods to control electrical processes
- calculate the cost of projects, and materials needed
- write reports and develop instruction manuals for installing new electricity systems and equipment
- supervise the installation and maintenance of systems and equipment
- oversee electricity system tests and correct any faults.
Skills and knowledge
Electrical engineers need to have:
- knowledge of electronics
- knowledge of circuit theory, heavy current or power electrical engineering and other electrical principles
- an understanding of the equipment and safe practices associated with electrical engineering
- knowledge of the laws, resource management and industry standards that apply to electrical engineering
- design and drawing skills, including knowledge of computer-aided design (CAD) software.
- usually work regular business hours, but may have to be on-call or work irregular hours to meet project deadlines
- usually work in offices, but also work in laboratories, workshops or on-site at power stations or building projects.
What's the job really like?
Rebecca Stewart - Power Systems Engineer
Helping to keep the national grid powered up
Rebecca's work involves designing systems to protect and improve the national electricity grid.
"I help keep the power running smoothly and efficiently. If there's a fault on a power line or if a disaster happens, using the right protection scheme will ensure that large, expensive equipment remains undamaged and can continue to supply power to the country."
What the job involves
For each of Rebecca's projects, she looks for a balance between creating innovative solutions and meeting industry regulations. She creates design drawings based on the current power standards, and modifies existing designs. She also checks work from draughtspeople, does computer modelling on electricity load flows, and analyses the results to identify areas for improvement.
Teamwork important to make sure a job is well done
Rebecca finds that she needs to be motivated and independent, but also able to work in a team.
"One of the major lessons I've learnt is how important your fellow workmates are. When working together on a project, it's imperative that you communicate effectively and co-operate to deliver high quality work that's on time and to budget."
(Story supplied by Futureintech)
Professional engineers work on large complex projects.To become a professional engineer, you need a four-year degree in engineering. This may be:
- a Bachelor of Engineering – BE
- a Bachelor of Engineering Honours – BE(Hons).
Engineering technologists work in more specialised and narrower fields than professional engineers.
To become an engineering technologist, you need a three-year degree in engineering, usually a Bachelor of Engineering Technology – BEngTech.
- Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ) website - information on engineering degrees
- Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ) website - information on different types of engineers (PDF - 1.1MB)
To enter tertiary training, a university entrance qualification (NCEA Level 3) is usually required. Useful subjects include maths with calculus, technology, physics and chemistry.
Electrical engineers need to be:
- good at maths
- practical and able to do hands-on work if required
- able to work well as part of a team
- good project managers.
Useful experience includes work as:
- an electrician
- a mechanic
- an electrical engineering technician.
Electrical engineers must have normal colour vision, as electrical components are often colour-coded.
Professional engineers who meet set requirements may apply to the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ) to become a chartered professional engineer (CPEng).
Engineering technologists who meet set requirements may apply to IPENZ to be registered as currently competent.
Find out more about training
- (04) 473 2023 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.futureintech.org.nz/
- Institution of Professional Engineers NZ (IPENZ)
- (04) 473 9444 - email@example.com - www.ipenz.org.nz/ipenz
What are the chances of getting a job?
According to Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment estimates, the number of electrical engineers rose by about 4% between 2010 and 2012.
Despite the rising number of people in the role, demand for electrical engineers remains high. Because of this, electrical engineer appears on Immigration New Zealand's Long Term Skill Shortage List, which means the government is actively encouraging skilled electrical engineers from overseas to come to New Zealand to work.
Electrical engineer also appears on Immigration New Zealand's Canterbury skill shortage list. The Canterbury skill shortage list highlights occupations in shortage that are needed during the rebuild of Canterbury, following the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes.
Infrastructure investment creating more jobs for electrical engineers
Demand for electrical engineers has grown with increased government spending on the upgrading and replacement of the national grid (the network that distributes electricity around New Zealand).
Power companies have also increased the rate at which they are building new high-voltage substations, in order to cope with increases in the population and the subsequent increased demand for power. This is contributing to demand for electrical engineers who specialise in substations and local power networks.
Types of employers
Most electrical engineers work for major power supply companies.
Electrical engineers can also work for engineering firms, where they design electrical systems for buildings and other projects.
- Bradley, G, 'Transpower spends to beat Murphy's Law', accessed 13 May 2013, (www.nzherald.co.nz)
- Hays Recruitment, 'Hays Quarterly Report, Energy', April 2013, (www.hays.net.nz).
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Canterbury Skill Shortage List' accessed March 2014, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- Immigration New Zealand, ‘Long-term Skill Shortage List’, accessed March 2014, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment, '2003-2012 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2012.
Progression and specialisations
Electrical engineers may move into management or project management positions. They may also become consultants at engineering consulting firms, or set up their own consultancies.
Last updated 9 June 2017