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Electronic Engineer

What does an Electronic Engineer do?

Electronic engineering encompasses the generation and processing of information and includes computers, software, transmission networks, telephones, radio, television, signal processing and optics. Electronic engineering differs from electrical engineering in that electrical engineering deals with the large-scale production of electricity, while electronic engineering involves electronic circuits like those found inside a cellphone or laptop. Electronic engineering is often paired with studies in computer science. Some electronic engineers manage manufacturing processes, while others may even be responsible for the marketing of products.

Once qualified, an electronic engineer has many potential career opportunities. They could work on designing electronic components and software, or they might be involved in creating computer hardware or robotics systems. As the world moves forward technologically, electronic engineers will increasingly work with robotics, electric vehicles or avionics.

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What qualifications do I need?

To become an electronic engineer, you have three options. Firstly, you could study for a degree. The four-year BEng degree in Electronic Engineering consists of theoretical lectures that are supplemented by tutorial classes and practical sessions. Your second option is to study for the three-year NDip diploma, which can be obtained at a university of technology. These universities of technology now also offer a degree in Engineering in collaboration with universities. Your third option is a National Diploma in Engineering, which can be achieved at a TVET (Technical Vocational Education and Training) College. 

Note that, gaining practical experience is vital for engineering students to bridge the gap between theory and real-world application. Many universities in South Africa have established partnerships with industries, offering internship and cooperative education (co-op) programmes. These programmes provide students with valuable industry exposure, hands-on training and networking opportunities.

What subjects do I need?

Mathematics
Physical Science 
Engineering
Graphic Design 

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Where can I study?

Durban University of Technology 
NDip Engineering: Electrical Power - National Diploma Engineering: Electrical Power

Tshwane University of Technology
B Engineering Technology in Electrical Engineering - Bachelor Engineering Technology in Electrical Engineering

Stellenbosch University
BEng (Electrical and Electronic) - Bachelor of Engineering (Electrical and Electronic)

University of the Witwatersrand
BEngSc Biomedical Engineering - Bachelor of Engineering Science in Biomedical Engineering

Nkangala TVET College
Nated National Certificate (Electrical Engineering N4-6)

Where can I get more info?

Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) - www.ecsa.co.za
South African Institute of Electrical Engineers - www.saiee.org.za
Electrical Contractors Association of SA - www.ecasa.co.za

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Interview with an Electronic Engineer

Ulika Naidoo | ELECTRONIC HARDWARE ENGINEER | Conlog (Pty) Ltd

Ulika Naidoo | ELECTRONIC HARDWARE ENGINEER | Conlog (Pty) Ltd

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Why did you choose this profession? 
Growing up, my dad repaired computers: watching a computer being taken apart, seeing the “intelligent” pieces in my hands, and trying to understand how all the parts fit together to form a computer intrigued me. I had the need to understand how it worked, sparking an interest in engineering. 

What did you study?
I studied Electronic Engineering at UKZN, and I am currently completing my Master’s in Engineering. My master’s degree is focused on fully optimising a building’s energy usage using renewable energy. 

Is there a type of personality best suited to this work?
Anyone with a passion to learn, who has a strong, creative yet curious mind, and will not give up at the first failure. 

Is experience as important as formal training?
Yes, understanding the theory is as important as being able to implement the theory into a practical setting. 

Describe a typical day on the job
Firstly, nothing is typical in engineering!! A somewhat normal day starts with a quick team catch-up, checking if anyone needs assistance, if their task is more urgent. Following that, a day can range from developing new products, to investigating improvements of existing products. Checking on component orders, circuit design reviews, building Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs - those green boards you find in computers), and testing the PCBs.

What do you like the most about working in the engineering field?
I learn something new every day! The collective knowledge in my team cannot be found in books or online searches, a conversation about why a resistor is chosen can snowball into why a circuit was designed in a particular way. 

Which aspects are you least enthusiastic about?
Report writing of documents.

What’s been the highlight?
Fault finding on a PCB (Printed Circuit Board) and actually finding the fault! The feeling of being able to see and hold something in your hands that you helped develop is indescribable.

What advice would you give someone starting out?
Learn as much as you can, listen and ask lots of questions. Within every engineering branch: chemical, computer, electronic, mechanical, and so on, there are many splits. Be sure to explore your options and try to “engineer” at home. 

Your job in three words
Interesting • Challenging • Satisfying 

Interview date: May 2021

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