Doing a PhD in Electrical Engineering

What Does a PhD in Electrical Engineering Focus On?

A PhD in Electrical and Electronic Engineering involves conducting original research that pushes the boundaries of our understanding of electronics. Such a research project can have many applications, from developing novel techniques to transmit and process information at high speeds, to investigating the reliability of control processes in industrial operations.

A research project is ideal for graduate students who wish to become specialists in a given field, and contribute to advances in electrical and computer engineering.

An example of common PhD in Electrical Engineering topics is provided below:

  • Robotics systems, artificial intelligence and automation
  • Resilient energy and multi-energy systems
  • Advanced material science and technology/device development
  • Communication, digital signal processing and radio networks
  • Electronic engineering for agricultural applications
  • Microelectronics and Nanoscale Engineering
  • Sensing devices
  • Photonics and Optical Communications

Of course, these are just a few of the many areas that a PhD research project in Electronic and Electrical Engineering can focus on. Read on for more information on post graduate study, and how a doctoral degree could benefit you.

Entry Requirements for A PhD in Electrical Engineering

An upper second class (2:1) bachelor’s degree in a related subject area, such as Physics, Computer Science or Material Science is usually the entry requirement for an Electronics or Electrical Engineering PhD research programme in the UK. A lower second class (2:2) bachelor’s degree may be accepted if the graduate student has a master’s degree or relevant work experience. Applicants with international equivalent qualifications are also considered.

Universities will expect international students to provide English Level Qualifications as evidence of their English Language ability. This is usually in the form of a IELTS, TOEFL (iBT) or Pearson PTE score. The exact score requirement may be different across institutions.

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How Long Does It Take to Get a PhD in Electrical Engineering?

In the UK, a typical full-time Electrical Engineering research project has a duration of 3 to 4 years. The first 3 years are usually focused on research, with the final year spent on writing the doctoral dissertation and conducting the viva (an oral examination). A part-time Electrical Engineering programme may take students 6 to 7 years to complete. A full-time Electrical Engineering MPhil usually lasts for 1 to 2 years.

To equip you with industrial skills and help you transition into a professional career, many Electrical Engineering doctoral programmes include optional training courses which focus on key ‘transferable skills’. These courses may include academic writing, interpersonal training and management.

Costs and Funding

A UK PhD candidate can expect to pay around £5,000 – £6,000 per year in tuition fees for a 2021/22 PhD programme in Electrical Engineering. Typical tuition fees for EU and overseas students are around £25,000 – £35,000 per academic year. Part-time tuition fees are normally proportioned according to the programme length.

Some Electrical Engineering postgraduate research programmes also have additional costs (bench fees) which cover the cost of specialist equipment, computer upkeep, travel, but these are dependent on the methodology of the research project.

A university’s Electrical or Electronic Engineering faculty may offer postgraduate studentships, doctoral loan schemes, or other funding opportunities which cover the tuition fees for Electrical Engineering doctorate courses.

Additionally, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) organise Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs) and industrial CASE PhD studentships in Electrical Engineering which cover tuition fees and may also provide annual maintenance grants.

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PhD in Electrical Engineering Salary and Career Paths

For many, the career options it unlocks is what makes a PhD project in electrical engineering worth it. Whilst some doctorates stay in academia upon the successful completion of their postgraduate research degree, others look for a career in industry. Examples of popular Electrical Engineering jobs include:

Electrical Engineer – After obtaining a post graduate degree, many opt to become professional electrical engineers. Here, they are responsible for all aspects of the design and installation of electronic equipment in industry and business. This could include such things as designing electrical systems, computer networks, and electrical equipment. As well as being able to design and install wiring, they must also have knowledge of requirements for electrical safety. Average Electrical Engineer salaries are around £50,000 at senior level. Specialist engineers can earn over £80,000 hence the PhD in electrical engineering salary is usually higher than its bachelor’s or master’s student counterpart.

Aerospace Engineer or Aeronautical Engineer – Some PhD holders go into aerospace or aeronautical engineering, where they are responsible for the design, testing, evaluation and improvement of commercial and military aircraft, rockets and missiles, space vehicles and orbital satellites. Electrical and Electronics doctorates in this sector are likely to use computational software, mathematical equations, physics concepts, and data analysis techniques on a daily basis. There is also scope for participation in test flights, and public engagement. Candidates with a PhD in Electrical Engineering are likely to be offered lucrative salaries as they possess expert insight which is fundamental to research centres. The nature of the field means there are employment opportunities outside the UK. Popular destinations for doctoral students include the US and India.

Nuclear Engineer – Some use their postgraduate degree to pursue a career in nuclear engineering. An electrical engineering PhD student can be involved in all stages of nuclear power – from assessing a power plants’ efficiency, to planning the decommissioning of a nuclear facility. Experienced nuclear engineers in the UK can expect a salary around £50,000.

Teaching – A doctoral student may prefer to stay in academia to continue contributing to their research interest directly. Here they can also interview a doctoral candidate, supervise a research student and propose a postgraduate research programme in their research area.



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