Electrical engineer

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Debbie, 25

Debbie works for a consultancy firm designing electrical systems for the power and water industry. She works on power projects, such as power substations, industrial plants and offshore platforms, for a range of national and international clients. Find out more:

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Fact file

Job description: Debbie works on a number of projects at the same time. Her role can include anything from designing electrical systems to undertaking feasibility studies to examining the economic side of projects.

Subjects studied: Maths (Methods), Maths (Specialist), English, Physics, Chemistry, Italian

Further training: Bachelor of Engineering (Electrical)/Bachelor of Science (Computing) 5 years total

Salary: $50,000 to $ 60,000

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Profile

Debbie works for a consultancy firm designing electrical systems for the power and water industry. She works on power projects, such as power substations, industrial plants and offshore platforms, for a range of national and international clients.

After completing a double degree in computing and electrical engineering, Debbie took eight months off to travel the world. She returned to Australia and settled in Perth, where she quickly found employment as an IT consultant in a large French/German company. This role involved working on IT infrastructure projects.

Debbie discovered she was not only good at this work, but she loved working on big engineering projects, so she soon packed up her bags and headed to Melbourne to take up a position as a consultant electrical engineer. Although, as she says, "if you had told me five years ago that this is what I would be doing, I would never have believed you!"

She shouldn't be so surprised, however. Debbie has always loved maths, science and a good challenge, so it is only fitting that she should work in a job that combines all three, with a good dose of excitement as well.

Debbie is currently working on a project that has seen her design the electrical system for three substations is South Australia. But her role doesn't finish once the design is done. During the construction phase of the project, Debbie is hands-on in dealing with any issues that may arise, making amendments to her design in response to problems and creating alternate designs to accommodate what happens at the site.

For example, the equipment they use may be different to the information Debbie was given when she drew up the design. This means she has to trace everything that could be affected by this difference and check if it will still work. If not, she has to come up with a new design that will work with the new equipment.

This means that Debbie has to use all of her specialist technical skills every day. Whether she is working alone or as part of a team, she has to make calculations and assessments looking at all the different scenarios. In other words, a big part of her job is asking "what if?" In her words, "Someone may come to us and say this is what we've designed - can you verify it will work? I then look at all the different scenarios and see if it will. Or I may get someone saying we need this new generator, is it possible? Where should we put it and will it make our system collapse?"

Debbie admits that some aspects of her role can be a little tedious, but says that these are far outnumbered by the exciting parts of the job. As she says, "As an engineer it is exciting to be involved in projects that will be utilised by everyone. Power, electricity, roads and buildings etc. are all essential to our lives and engineers from all disciplines touch all aspects of these."

Debbie is looking forward to getting more experience and progressing through the company and taking on greater responsibility for larger projects. Although she fell into this particular specialisation almost by accident, there is nothing accidental about Debbie's plans for the future. She is currently taking a few engineering subjects at Masters level and thinks she may ultimately undertake an MBA.

So don't be surprised if you see Debbie as the powerhouse of a large corporation in the years to come.

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Job specs

Electrical engineers design, develop and supervise the manufacture, installation, operation and maintenance of electrical systems for the generation, distribution, utilisation and control of electric power or electronic systems used for computer systems, communication systems and other industrial applications.

Duties

Electrical engineers may perform the following tasks:

  • Plan and design power stations and equipment for generators 
  • Supervise construction plans and specifications and draw up contracts 
  • Supervise operating and maintenance staff 
  • Design and produce drawings of electrical systems, using computer-assisted design (CAD) 
  • Decide on the type and arrangement of circuits, transformers, circuit-breakers, transmission lines, and equipment, based on calculations 
  • Make or improve products such as electric motors, parts, equipment and appliances 
  • Prepare and interpret specifications, drawings and regulations for the use of electric power equipment 
  • Work out delivery and installation schedules for machines, switchgear, cables and fittings 
  • Organise and manage staff and materials in the making of electrical parts, machines, appliances and equipment 
  • Make sure that completed works meet specifications and safety standards 
  • Design and install control and signalling devices for road, rail and air traffic 
  • Design telecommunications equipment and networks 
  • Contribute and adhere to the safety requirements of the operation

Personal requirements

  • Able to identify, analyse and solve problems
  • Good oral and written communication skills
  • Enjoy computing and technical design 
  • Practical and creative
  • Able to work independently 
  • Able to accept responsibility.

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Getting started

Find out more about a career in metal fabrication engineering:

Professionals Australia
(Representing professionals across Australia, including scientists and engineers)
GPO Box 1272 Melbourne, VIC 8060
Tel: (03) 9695 8800
Email: info@ProfessionalsAustralia.org.au

Engineers Australia (Victoria Division)
21 Bedford St North Melbourne, VIC 3051
Tel: (03) 9329 8188
Email: vic@engineersaustralia.org.au

Find out more about this career path at myfuture.edu.au (new window) (Note: free registration is required to access the myfuture site).

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