Careers in the Electronics Industry

Article excerpt

Over the past few years, the job prospects for technical people have been soft at best, and disastrous at worst, depending on the view assessed. With the aerospace industry all but drying up, displacing tens of thousands of seasoned engineers and scientists in the process, it's understandable why many high school and college students who set their hearts on careers in engineering were having second thoughts.

The good news is that those who chose electronics stuck it out, and are now nearing graduation. They will find a robust but not fully recovered job market, one that offers many and varied opportunities for the right candidates.

Astute students able to wade through the avalanche of "information super highway" public relations hype will discover that there are indeed work opportunities for those with the right kinds of technical skills and training.

"I would say that overall, if you work in electronics, information and computers, the opportunities - well, it's like a gold rush, "exclaims George Davis, Vice President of West Coast Operations for Keystone Communications, the giant satellite transmission provider for domestic and international programmers, cable networks and sportscasters. "I think it's wide open. Not wide open in the traditional sense where people like Northrop are just going to be hiring 100,000 engineers as fast as the schools can churn them out, but opportunities are available, Davis insists.

Billy Dexter, manager University Relations for Motorola Land Mobile Products Sector, concurs. "I can speak from the wireless communications perspectives. In terms of the industry that Motorola is in as it relates to telecommunications and all that, career opportunities are outstanding," reports Dexter. "Wireless communications is a field growing tremendously, particularly in the areas of software development, where theory software develops, where there are lots of opportunities for electrical engineers," he says.

As Dexter sees it, the three main disciplines that fall under the general umbrella of the electronics industry are electrical engineering, computer engineering, and computer science.

While he concedes that computer engineering tends to be more hardware oriented, and computer science more focused on software development, Dick Ellis, director of Research for the American Association of Engineering Societies, feels the division between all three disciplines has become "very fuzzy."

It's partly a matter of local turf and how it's divided among warring academic departments," claims Ellis. "Some people use these terms and some don't. So we caution students when looking at this area that if they want to get a take on it, what they have to do is look at computer science, computer engineering and electrical engineering all combined."

According to Ellis, there are a number of distinct and degreed subfields within these three general disciplines that you may specialize in. These include control engineering, for instance, which is used to control feedback systems. An elementary example of a central system is your typical thermostat.

"Communications engineering is another one," Ellis adds, "dealing with general communications systems like radio, antenna development, which is sometimes classified as a radiation system, meaning microwave radiation. Circuits and systems is another recurring specialty we get. Solid State electronics is another, that whole field of chip development - that's effectively molecular engineering."

Another possibility, Ellis notes, is the arena of engineering technology, a four-year degreed discipline that has a whole range of similarly subdivided fields, including electromechanical, an area that deals with a combination of electrical and mechanical devises. On the downside, says Ellis, "engineering technology doesn't have the kind of salary track attached to it that engineering does, though the starting salaries are very close to those in engineering. …