Electrical engineers design, construct and manufacture electrical systems. They also maintain, operate and manage these systems.
Electrical engineers usually earn
$77K-$160K per year
Senior and principal electrical engineers can earn
$150K-$210K per year
Source: careers.govt.nz and Hays, 2023.
Pay for electrical engineers varies depending on skills and experience, and where they work.
- Electrical engineers usually earn $77,000 to $160,000 a year.
- Senior and principal electrical engineers can earn $150,000 to $210,000.
Sources: careers.govt.nz research, 2023; and 'Hays Salary Guide, 23/24', 2023.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Electrical engineers may do some or all of the following:
- develop, design or update engineering plans
- design ways 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 electrical systems and equipment
- oversee electricity system tests and correct any faults.
Skills and knowledge
Electrical engineers need to have:
- knowledge of electronics
- knowledge of key electrical principles such as circuit theory
- an understanding of electrical engineering equipment and safe practices
- 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
- usually work in offices, but may also work in laboratories, workshops or on-site at power stations or building sites.
What's the job really like?
Work Group Manager – Mechanical and Electrical
An international career in electrical engineering
A career in electrical engineering has taken Rishen Maharaj around the world, and given him many memories. He has completed projects in the Middle East, the UK, France, Italy and Australia.
But the job he remembers best is working at the Edgbaston Cricket Ground in Birmingham, England.
"To see the Cricket World Cup this year, and to have been involved in developing the ground they were playing on – it’s a good feeling," says Rishen.
A managerial role in New Zealand
Now back in New Zealand, Rishen works for WSP Opus in a managerial role.
"I’m currently working on a hospital on the West Coast, and a few government contracts are coming up."
Rishen also recently set up Engineering New Zealand’s electrical engineering group.
A career full of opportunity
Rishen's advice to aspiring electrical engineers is to work hard, as it will pay off.
"I’ve done a lot of hard work and tough projects, but it’s a good feeling to leave behind a great legacy.
"If you put the effort into your career, you can get some great opportunities in engineering."
Electrical engineer video
Ben Buckley talks about life as a power systems (electrical) engineer – 2.07 mins.
Up and down the country, New Zealand has a lot of renewable energy sources.
This is in the form of wind farms and hydro dams.
From these wind farms and hydro dams,
the power is moved up and down the country through these huge pylons.
You might have seen them on the side of the road as you're going on a road trip
with massive cables in between them.
These cables end up at substations where they're stepped down in voltage,
and so the electricity is safe to use. We design the substations that step
down the voltage from dangerous levels such as 11 kv upwards,
down to 400 volts. It's quite important to step down the voltage,
otherwise you may die when you turn on your kettle. When we go on site,
there's a lot of hazards around: slips, trips, falls,
and 11 kv and up voltages, which you don't want to touch. For these,
we've got some safety boots, a set of fire retardant overalls. This,
if you ever accidentally catch a zap or something heats up and you touch it,
you do not want to burn. Within these bags, we have safety gloves,
safety glasses. This is one of the designs that I recently completed.
It is a substation out at Coatesville. Our projects, uh,
range all over New Zealand.
Because we are able to do everything we do from our computers,
all we need is one flight down for a site visit and then we can come back and do
the whole design. Back in high school,
I was very much into my maths and sciences, huge on problem solving,
I had 4 years in university getting a Bachelor of Engineering with a minor
in power engineering and then I stayed behind to do a Master's in Engineering
Management as well. All up,
5 years before starting work. So what excites me about the industry is
really the necessity of them.
You can't have modern cities or modern homes without electricity.
So I like the importance of the work that I do and it gives me great
To become an electrical engineer you need to have a Bachelor of Engineering with Honours.
NCEA Level 3 is required to enter tertiary training. Useful subjects include maths with calculus, physics, construction and mechanical technologies, and processing technologies.
Electrical engineers need to be:
- accurate and organised
- good at maths
- able to work well in a team.
Useful experience for electrical engineers includes work as:
- an electrician
- a mechanic
- an electrical engineering technician.
Electrical engineers need to have normal colour vision, as electrical components are often colour-coded.
They also need to be reasonably fit as they may have to walk long distances to work sites, and carry equipment.
Professional engineers who have five to eight years of experience can apply to Engineering New Zealand to become a chartered professional engineer (CPEng).
Find out more about training
- Engineering New Zealand
- (04) 473 9444 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.engineeringnz.org
What are the chances of getting a job?
Shortage of electrical engineers
Opportunities for electrical engineers are good due to a shortage of workers, and high demand for their services.
Electrical engineer appears on Immigration New Zealand's long-term, and construction and infrastructure skill shortage lists. This means the government is actively encouraging skilled electrical engineers from overseas to work in New Zealand.
According to the Census, 3,576 electrical engineers worked in New Zealand in 2018.
Growing population creates demand for electrical engineers
New Zealand's growing population means demand for electrical engineers is expected to remain strong. They are needed to work on:
- new housing developments and substations
- upgrades of the the national grid – the high-voltage network that carries electricity around the country.
Types of employers varied
Electrical engineers often work for power supply companies.
They may also work for:
- regional lines companies, which carry electricity from the national grid to homes and businesses
- engineering consultancies
- engineering firms.
- Adriaansen, R, recruitment consultant, RobLawMax Recruitment, careers.govt.nz interview, July 2019.
- Hays Recruitment, 'Hays Job Report', accessed July 2019, (www.hays.net.nz).
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Construction and Infrastructure Skill Shortage List', 27 May 2019, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Long Term Skill Shortage List', 27 May 2019, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
- Wikipedia, 'National Grid (New Zealand)', accessed July 2019, (www.wikipedia.org).
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Electrical engineers may progress to work:
- as managers
- for engineering consulting firms
- their own consultancies.
Last updated 24 July 2023