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Best area of specialization in EE (in terms of career prospects, industry growth, etc.)
2

Best area of specialization in EE (in terms of career prospects, industry growth, etc.)

Best area of specialization in EE (in terms of career prospects, industry growth, etc.)

(OP)
From what I've seen, Master's programs in EE generally ask you to specialize in a particular field (circuit design, optics, semiconductor devices, signal processing, etc.).

For those with industry experience and insight into current trends, which of these areas do you think has the most promise for future growth and career prospects? What specialization is going to be in greatest demand? In what fields do you think there will be the most important breakthroughs?

RE: Best area of specialization in EE (in terms of career prospects, industry growth, etc.)

How about a decent Light Bulb!!!

RE: Best area of specialization in EE (in terms of career prospects, industry growth, etc.)

The power side is more balanced than many of the other EE professions. And I mean that the industry dosen't have as wide of ups and downs. It is also well established, and changes happen much slower than other parts of EE design. We also don't have as wide changes in pay checks.

RE: Best area of specialization in EE (in terms of career prospects, industry growth, etc.)

2
The most zoomy specialties pretty much didn't exist when I got out of school 45+ years ago.

If you can't reliably predict the future, and nobody can, just try to be prepared for it, e.g. with a good handle on the basics and an attitude that allows you to keep learning.

Mike Halloran
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA

RE: Best area of specialization in EE (in terms of career prospects, industry growth, etc.)

Mike nailed it.

Any industry sector can quickly become obsolete for any number of reasons. ie watchmakers are in small demand due to the cost of throw away watches. Land line telephones are all but obsolete. Draughtsmen have been replaced with CAD jocks and typists evaporated with the widespread adoption of the PC.

Be versatile to ensure a continuing relevance.

Regards
Pat
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RE: Best area of specialization in EE (in terms of career prospects, industry growth, etc.)

(OP)

Quote:

The most zoomy specialties pretty much didn't exist when I got out of school 45+ years ago.

If you can't reliably predict the future, and nobody can, just try to be prepared for it, e.g. with a good handle on the basics and an attitude that allows you to keep learning.

Yeah I'm not talking about making predictions 20-30 years into the future. I'm pretty new to the industry so I just wanted to get a sense of where the fastest growing sectors and the most exciting innovations are happening right now. I've heard about thing like MEMS, embedded systems, etc. What area of study would those fall under?

RE: Best area of specialization in EE (in terms of career prospects, industry growth, etc.)

Frankly, none. ... at least not for the two examples you used.

MEMS originated in university labs, and showed great hope, for a while, for making microscopic steam engines and such. But in the meantime, MEMS accelerometers went into production big time for protecting hard disk drives from gravity damage. I.e., it looked like MEMS was going to be a mechanical specialty for a while, but the fabs still think of their customers as EEs. The EEs will do okay until they run afoul of small angle approximations in beam theory and mess up. ... and somebody will make a fortune if they can solve the bearing problem.

Embedded systems are not a niche anymore; they're everywhere; in cell phones, in cars, in toasters, and even in sneakers. Production numbers for embedded systems now far exceed anything else electronic. ... but nobody teaches it. There is no curriculum, because EE profs and CS profs don't know squat about real world software. There is some discussion of a proposed curriculum in the latest, and last, printed issue of Embedded Systems Programming, which will henceforth be digital only, at embedded.com.



Mike Halloran
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA

RE: Best area of specialization in EE (in terms of career prospects, industry growth, etc.)

Embedded is near and dear to me. ... but let me back up a bit.

My school had _a_ computer for engineering student's use. I think it might have had as much as 4k of core, and was programmed with pinboards and punch cards. The backlog of decks to run was stable at a month or six. So we freshmen learned Fortran the Elbonian way; never touched the computer or even a keypunch. I didn't think very highly of any of it.

Five years out of school, I got trained in timeshare BASIC, but didn't have a project to bill the time to, so I didn't do anything with it.

Seven years out of school, my mechanical part of a major project was done and working, but usable software was two years away, at least. The company had one computer, programmed with punch cards, and was so modern that it had a tape drive, which was a big deal. I tried programming; hated it, got laid off.

Twelve+ years out of school, as a project leader, I needed an embedded motor control. My people could put the hardware together, but programmers were not available except by royal decree. So I learned how to program an 8080, then an 8086, then an 8741, then a few more chips, and gradually became the department's eXtreme Programmer, before anybody called it that. I don't want to say I was self-taught, because that outfit had a cadre of really smart people from whom one could learn a lot merely by getting them talking.

Embedded has changed since then. Chip counts are way down, processors are often just blocks of IP in a huge custom chip, and MBA managers have been sucked into mandating C and its descendants by the siren song of cheap people and free reusable code (neither of which actually exist), code bloat runs rampant, and the world now tolerates systems that have, and need, a reset button, thanks mostly to Billy.

To sort of answer your original question, embedded now requires some mix of programming, electronic hardware design, and systems design, all happening at once. Universities are not equipped to teach anything like that. The other part of the problem, assuming you can find a way to acquire the skills you need, is that the breakthrough ideas often get started in small companies that don't want to pay a wage appropriate to the skillset required to implement the ideas.

... There's the core of a career, maybe. If you can position yourself to be the goto guy who reliably cleans up the messes made by idiot MBAs and inexperienced kids, you might be able to make a living at it.





Mike Halloran
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA

RE: Best area of specialization in EE (in terms of career prospects, industry growth, etc.)

Power generation is a pretty good market to be entering right now. It's an old industry, i.e. the workforce are on average older than in many other industries, and some companies are realising that they are going to lose most of their engineering staff to retirement within the next decade. In the UK at least there was a massive shortfall in recruitment which lasted nearly 20 years while the old nationalised industries were de-manned down to bare minimum numbers, and the current situation is the inevitable outcome of failure to bring new blood in previous years.

For anyone who is relatively young and has industry experience, or even the right educational background, the power industry is a good place to be looking for work. In the UK getting the educational background has become harder as the 'old' subjects like electrical machines have become displaced by fashionable stuff. It's a while since I was at university and even then the machines class was down to only five or six of us, while other subjects saw numbers in the sixties and seventies.

----------------------------------

If we learn from our mistakes I'm getting a great education!

RE: Best area of specialization in EE (in terms of career prospects, industry growth, etc.)

...which of these areas do you think has the most promise for future growth and career prospects

I think what many are trying to indicate in their replies is - "future growth" and "career prospects" may be somewhat mutually exclusive sets. Also, when older EEs think 'career prospects', we frequently think in terms of "how do I remain gainfully employed until I retire while minimizing dealing with [insert long list of everything from age discrimination to dysfunctional company]".

Now, for someone just getting out of school you're thinking in terms of 'riding the wave' - working with the neatest cutting-edge technology that will be changing the world the next 20 years. After a few decades, you look back and realize all the 'next-greatest-ever' technologies that came, fizzled, and disappeared to the point that even finding a reference in Wikipedia is now hard.

But to answer your question, I think the 'next wave' will probably take the form of either carbon nanotubes or graphene semiconductors. These are in the academic research area right now, and working with them would require a PhD. Regular silicon and other semiconductors are reaching multiple fundamental limits. The EE field is ready for the next equivalent of changing from vacuum tubes to semiconductors. Something that has begun to reach practical use that may be big in the power semiconductor area is Silicon Carbide.

RE: Best area of specialization in EE (in terms of career prospects, industry growth, etc.)

Personally I'd specialise in stuff that interested me.

Cheers

Greg Locock


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RE: Best area of specialization in EE (in terms of career prospects, industry growth, etc.)

I agree with GregLocock, do what you are interested in. If you are really interested in something you might even create the next totally new area that "has the most promise for future growth and career prospects."

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