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What is Electrical Engineering

It's hard to imagine a world without electricity, but electrical engineers do more than just power your cell phone and make sure your lights come on. Electricity binds our world together, helping people connect with one another as it transmits both power and information.

As an electrical engineer, you could work with many different kinds of electromagnetic fields, such as digital signals that send information to your cell phone, microwaves that can help detect breast cancer and the light waves used by night vision technology. You could help maintain and expand the networks that send information over the internet, control navigation of airplanes and ships, and power medical devices like MRI scanners. With a degree in electrical engineering, you could work in many different fields, including biomedicine, communications and the defense industry. Graduates from the University of Arkansas's EE program have gone on to work for Sprint, Boeing, Intel, Texas Instruments and Northrop-Grumman.

The way we generate and use electricity is changing: becoming faster, more efficient and safer for the environment. As an electrical engineer, you could be at the center of this energy revolution, designing smart electrical grids that can help us conserve energy, finding new sources of sustaninable power and creating products that use electricity in ways that Thomas Edison never imagined. Electricity transforms and improves our world, and it connects people to one another. It is the job of electrical engineers to maintain this vital resource.

Mission of the Electrical Engineering Department

The University of Arkansas, the state land grant university, is a nationally competitive, student-centered, teaching and research university serving Arkansas and the world. As such, our mission encompasses education, research, and service (

The educational mission of the department is conducted through both the undergraduate and graduate programs ( The program educational objectives for the undergraduate program, which leads to a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering, are to produce graduates who:

  1. Are recruited in a competitive market and valued as reliable and competent employees by a wide variety of industries, in particular electrical engineering industries;
  2. Succeed, if pursued, in graduate studies such as, engineering, science, law, medicine, business, and other professions;
  3. Understand the need for life-long learning and continued professional development for a successful and rewarding career; and
  4. Accept responsibility for leadership roles, in their profession, in their communities, and in the global society.

Electrical Engineering at the University of Arkansas

  • Lab Experience - The U of A EE education involves hands-on laboratory experience that enhances the ideas and concepts taught in the classroom.
  • Design Projects - In a two-semester senior design project, you will move from the initial design stage to the finished working product, using what you have learned in the EE program.
  • Undergraduate Research - You will have the opportunity tocollaborate with leading research professors in state-of-the-art laboratories and often get paid for your work.
  • Accreditation - Our EE program has offered a BSEE degree for over 100 years and has been contiuously accredited by ABET since 1936.
  • Study Abroad - As an EE student, you will have many opportunities to expand your education through study abroad in India, Iceland, France, Italy and many other countries.
  • Student Organizations - As an EE student, you can become involved in several organizations. Examples include IEEE, Eta Kappa Nu, Tau Beta Pi, Arkansas Robotics Club, and Solar Boat.

Specialty Areas in Electrical Engineering

Electrical engineering is a diverse field that embraces many specialty areas. The main specialty areas in electrical engineering are the following (in alphabetical order):


This includes biomedical instrumentation, biomedical imaging, and neural interfaces for diagnosis, research, artificial retinas, and control of prosthetics. It also includes the use of micro-fluidic & micro-electromechanical (MEMs) systems for biological research and the development of new medicines.


Communications includes wireless communications for cell phones & wireless internet, optical communication over optical fibers for very high speed internet, the design of internet routers, and the design of internet protocols with associated hardware & software. It also includes radio and television.

Computers and Digital Circuit Design

This includes the design of computers, and the design of the embedded computers, digital circuitry, and software that control appliances, entertainment devices, and factory equipment everywhere. It also includes the design of the digital circuitry that powers the internet. Most of the circuitry in a high definition television is digital. Most of the circuitry in a cell phone is digital, although crucial parts are analog. Nearly everything electronic has a digital component.

Control Systems

Control systems is the study of algorithms and mathematics for robustly controlling all manner of devices. Examples of control systems are image stabilization in video cameras, auto-focusing in cameras, anti-lock brakes, stability control and cruise control in automobiles, and the control of equipment and even chemical plants in industry.

Electronic Circuit Design

This is the transistor level design of the circuitry which is at the heart of all electronic devices. A circuit designer designs at the level of transistors and passive components like resistors and capacitors, designing the circuits that are the building blocks for most of the other specialties.

NanoTechnology & MEMs

The dimensions of transistors and other electronic components have been shrinking by a factor of two every three or four years for the last 40 years. The transistors inside a microprocessor in a P.C. are now ten times too small to see with a visible light microscope. Nanotechnology is the study of very small structures. The goal is to eventually be able to build electronic devices at the molecular level, using single molecules as components with atomically precise connections. MEMs is the design of micro-electromechanical devices and micro-fluidic devices using the same techniques that have been invented for creating very small electronic components. A DLP television uses a MEMs mirror chip with millions of movable mirrors on it.


Cell phones and other portable electronic devices need to be as small as possible. This is achieved by packaging many silicon chips (which contain the actual circuitry) together in a single package and wiring them together inside the package. Improvements in packaging allow more and more circuitry to be packed into smaller and smaller devices. Effective packaging can also enhance the speed of electronics. The University of Arkansas Hidec Center is devoted to packaging research.

Pattern Recognition & Artificial Intelligence

Machines are now able to read hand printed materials and understand spoken English to a limited degree. They are also able, to a limited extent, to recognize objects in the everyday world. This is called pattern recognition. The military recently sponsored a race (the DARPA Grand Challenge) in which robotic vehicles drove themselves across 132 miles of mountainous desert terrain. The main challenge here was to recognize the road and stay on it. Pattern recognition and artificial intelligence are the study of how to design machines that can do many of the things that only people can do at present.


The power area in electrical engineering consists of the design of motors, generators, and the electrical distribution grid that distributes electricity to homes and businesses around the country. It also includes the design of electronic circuitry for controlling power and motors. Motor and generator design are important issues in the design of electric and hybrid cars. Improving the stability and reliability of our electricity distribution grid is an important topic.

RF & Microwaves

This is the study of the behavior of radar, microwaves, and radio waves, and the design of the equipment that uses them. Applications include radar, cell phones, medical imaging, security, and antenna design.

Semiconductor Devices & Integrated Circuits

Integrated circuit chips are at the heart of most electronic devices. An integrated circuit chip is a small square piece of silicon with tens of millions of transistors in it connected together by several layers of microscopic wiring into a complex circuit. The microprocessor that powers a P.C. is an integrated circuit chip. The memory chips in cameras, ipods, and flash drives are integrated circuit chips. The circuitry in a cell phone, television set, or computer is mostly made of integrated circuit chips. Some integrated circuit chips have as many as 8,000,000,000 transistors on one chip less than a centimeter square.

Jobs and Salaries

Link for typical jobs and salaries for electrical engineers