Careers in Power Engineering

careers in power engineeringWe may take the conveniences of centralized electrical power for granted, but new technology and management strategies continue to bring dramatic changes to the ways we produce and consume energy. For example, a University of Utah researcher contributed to a study that revealed the potential to meet global demand for power by converting 1% of agricultural land into solar panels. Another team of Utah engineers is investigating ways to capture excess heat from devices and convert that energy into electricity.

By developing reliable, environmentally friendly solutions to harness resources and prevent disruptions in service, engineers pave the way for the future of energy. Professionals can advance their power engineering careers at the forefront of these transformations, building and maintaining the next generation of electrical infrastructure.

Power engineers apply their knowledge and skills to maintain operations for utility providers and other organizations while driving improvements to efficiency and safety. These specialists implement state-of-the-art systems and processes to deliver the reliable energy that enables our regular routines. In a world of fast-paced innovation, power engineers have opportunities to address the complex challenges involved in reimagining how we keep our communities, businesses, and homes running.

What is Power Engineering?

Electrical engineering encompasses the design, development, manufacturing and testing for all types of electrical equipment and systems. What sets the field of power engineering apart from other aspects of the discipline is a focus on the methods and tools to generate, store, transmit, and distribute power. Power engineers may also work with specialized electrical systems, such as those in aircrafts or other vehicles.

Power engineers may work for organizations such as utilities providers, technical services firms, manufacturers of renewable energy equipment, and construction companies. To excel in each of these contexts, professionals need a thorough understanding of the theoretical concepts behind power systems and the hands-on techniques that keep them reliably functioning. For example, a foundational knowledge of electricity distribution helps engineers understand and analyze distribution systems. Practical expertise in optimization modeling can help answer questions such as how to best place capacitor banks and voltage regulators to minimize power loss and costs when a utility wants to expand its network.

Payscale reported that the average power engineer salary is $79,796. Some of the most valuable skills for achieving higher pay in this field include:

  • Applying distributed control systems (DCS) for safe energy production or manufacturing processes
  • Designing, manufacturing, and operating renewable power systems
  • Using computer-assisted drafting (CAD) to create diagrams, schematics, and documentation
  • Managing operations to achieve a high level of efficiency and effectiveness

What Does a Power Engineer Do?

Professionals with the title of power engineer or power systems engineer are tasked with maintaining, testing, and improving an organization’s electrical operations. These experts are responsible for developing safe, efficient systems that generate and deliver electricity on a consistent basis. They may also oversee the manufacture of equipment like wind turbines.

Power engineers commonly take on duties such as:

  • Project future energy needs
  • Plan transmission towers
  • Model the flow of electricity through transmission lines
  • Route distribution lines
  • Perform fault analysis for power generators
  • Monitor distribution systems
  • Set up specialized substations for purposes like circuit breaking
  • Coordinate updates to power systems
  • Address potentially hazardous issues in equipment
  • Complying with all applicable regulations and safety policies

Specialists in power engineering can further strengthen their career prospects by preparing to lead technical teams. That means cultivating the skills in project management, collaboration, and communication to help an organization reach its overall objectives. Engineering leaders can maximize the impact of their teams by keeping multidisciplinary professionals on track toward completing their tasks as well as developing their ability to communicate highly complex, technical information to non-technical stakeholders.

How Do You Start a Career in Power Engineering?

Electrical engineers who want to specialize in power systems engineering may find positions in a variety of organizations that rely on expertise in the devices and techniques for producing and delivering energy. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 9% of electrical engineers work in the electrical power industry while one in five work for firms that provide an array of technical services.

The accelerating transition toward green energy represents one of the most promising areas for power engineers to make a difference. They can boost efficiency and promote more sustainable practices by carefully selecting construction sites for transmission lines, forecasting demand, choosing effective approaches to draw energy from renewable sources, and implementing control systems to keep the grid functioning at its best.

For example, power engineers play a vital role in implementing smart grids, leveraging digital technology to offer insights into power transmission, distribution and use. By constantly gathering data and adjusting output, smart grids have the potential to be an important long-term solution for limiting energy consumption and conserving resources.

Microgrids are another promising technology that engineers can put to work, resulting in power systems that connect to a traditional grid, but also have the ability to function autonomously. That means it’s possible to utilize locally produced renewable energy without the risk of losing power if there’s a shortage. Further, a community, business, or military base can consistently access an energy supply even when the macrogrid is not functioning due to an emergency or blackout.

Pursuing a career as a power engineer can lead to expanding on these innovations and confronting many other energy challenges. To capture the possibilities for improving electrical power generation and distribution professionals must have a sophisticated knowledge of electrical and computer engineering principles. By applying analytical problem-solving capabilities and advanced tools, power engineers can make a lasting impact on how we produce and use electricity.

Elevate Your Job Prospects with the University of Utah’s Online Master of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering

The online MS in Electrical and Computer Engineering (MSECE) degree from the University of Utah equips students with advanced skills in solving engineering problems, building effective systems, and leading multidisciplinary teams. Utah is a tier one research university, listed at No.11 for Best Value in the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education College Rankings and among the nation’s best engineering schools by U.S. News and World Report.

Our faculty offer individualized mentorship and draw insights from their own cutting-edge research to teach the latest methods and tools. You can complete your MSECE entirely online, fitting a world-class education into your schedule while discovering opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship. The University of Utah Career and Development Center helps students achieve their long-term goals with a variety of resources and career coaches who are available for online appointments.

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