Electronics and communication engineering (ECE) is a branch of engineering that deals with the design and development of electronic products and communication equipment. As an electronic and communication engineer, you work on products and concepts like circuits, transmitters, microprocessors, microwaves, electromagnetic signals and data transmission. Getting a basic understanding of this engineering discipline can help you plan a career in this direction. In this article, we discuss the meaning of electronics and communication engineering, roles and responsibilities of an electronics and communication engineer and the types of jobs you can find in this field.
What is electronics and communication engineering?
Electronics and communication engineering is a stream of engineering that focuses on communication with the knowledge of electronics. It mainly deals with the transmission of information through electronic channels. Most of the engineering and technology colleges offer ECE as part of the four-year BTech and two-year MTech courses.
As an electronics and communication engineer, you would research, test, design and develop electronic equipment and components used in the communication and broadcasting systems. The ECE stream teaches you the concepts of analogue transmission, digital communication, integrated circuits, satellite communication and wave progression.
Many modern technologies that have become a part of our everyday life, such as smart phones, computers, WiFi and Bluetooth, come under the purview of electronics and communication engineering. Some of the industries that widely use electronics and communication engineering include telecommunications, space research, television, smart home appliances and military.
What does an electronics and communication engineer do?
An electronics and communication engineer conceptualises, designs, develops and tests electronic equipment, gadgets and systems, usually meant for transmission of data. Following are some of the broad categories of functions an electronics and communication engineer performs:
1. Performs research on electronic communication technology
Electronics and communication engineers perform research on different areas of electronic technology, such as signal processing, VLSI (very large scale integration), embedded systems and data communication. For example, research in signal processing may relate to biomedical signal processing (e.g., analysing EEG or electroencephalograph), speech recognition software or brain-computer interface. Similarly, VLSI research may relate to developing algorithms for high speed serial links, while embedded system research may involve working on robotics and wireless network systems. Data communication research usually requires you to work on coding, wavelets, microelectronics, semiconductors, sensors and low power circuits.
2. Plans and executes communication projects
Electronics and communication engineers work on the preliminary stages of electronic projects and plan the strategies for their successful execution. This includes estimating the material, logistic, manpower and financial resources required for the project. The planning process also requires the engineers to consider the specific requirements of their client and the safety regulations applicable to the project.
3. Designs and develops electronic products
Electronics and communication engineers design and develop products like smart phones, televisions, computers and video conferencing systems. They may also manufacture such products as per given design and plans, developed by other engineers. Many electronics and communication engineers work as a team to create individual components and then assemble them to build a larger system. While doing so, they need to work as per the specifications of the project and the applicable safety framework.
4. Tests and evaluates electronic products
After an electronic product is designed or manufactured, electronics and communication engineers test the product to ensure that it works safely and efficiently. In most of the electronic industries, the product is released in the market only after it passes the testing. The testing and evaluation responsibilities of electronics and communication engineers may vary depending on the specific industry they are working in. Usually, the responsibilities include ensuring that the product works as intended and in the case of failure, the product fails on the safe side without causing any risk to the user.
Sometimes, they may also perform durability tests and suggest the areas for improvement. The concerned authority then evaluates the proposed changes in the product or its components and carries out cost-benefit analysis. If the changes are approved, the company incorporates them in the next version of the product.
5. Repairs and maintains electronic systems
Electronics and communication engineers perform regular maintenance and repairs of electronic systems like satellites, telephone networks, internet services and industrial machinery. Regular maintenance may be essential in certain equipment and infrastructure for timely detection and rectification of issues. This prevents minor issue from becoming a major problem. Electronics and communication engineers detect the faults and suggest or perform corrective measures including replacing of components like circuit boards and power supplies.
6. Writes user manuals for electronic products
Most of the electronic products today come with a user manual that includes technical specifications of the product and tells the user how to operate it correctly. Many electronics and communication engineers work as technical writers and prepare such user manuals. They make recommendations on how to handle the product safely and how to troubleshoot it in case of any problem. The instructions may also include the method for proper maintenance of the product in order to maximise its lifespan and efficiency.
7. Supervises, guides and collaborates with other engineers
In a typical corporate setup, electronics and communication engineers need to collaborate with others within and outside the company they work in. For example, they may need to coordinate with the client to understand the project requirements or to explain the functionalities of the project they are implementing. Similarly, they may need to coordinate with other team members and colleagues working on the same project. They may have to report to the project manager or guide other engineers working in their team.
Based on the exact position and job role, electronics and communication engineers may also need to coordinate with the vendors to source the components required for their project. They often use face-to-face meetings, email communication and videoconferencing to collaborate their efforts. They may also need to prepare status update reports.
What are the top employment areas of electronics and communication engineers?
Top employment areas of electronics and communication engineers include research and development, software development, data communication, system support and VLSI design. A wide variety of industries employ electronics and communication engineers, including telecommunication, broadcasting, entertainment, automobile, healthcare, defence, railways, civil aviation and home appliances.
You would find electronics and communication engineers commonly working in the following job titles:
1. Electronics engineer
Primary duties: Electronics engineers design and create electronic devices like computers, mobile phones, music systems, motors and navigators. They also design and operate equipment for controlling and monitoring systems and processes in various industries. They are often responsible for developing new ideas and innovating new products.
Skills: Analytical mind, problem-solving skills and keen interest in technology
Qualifications: Bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, electronics engineering, electronics and communication or a related field.
2. Desktop support technician
Primary duties: Desktop support technicians are mainly responsible for troubleshooting computers and resolving server issues. They also look into security concerns of the IT infrastructure of an organisation. They often attend to technical support tickets raised by individual workers and ensure smooth flow of business operations.
Qualifications: Bachelor’s degree in computers, electronics, information technology or a related discipline
Skills: Interpersonal skills, good communication skills, multitasking capability, problem-solving skills, helpful nature, customer-oriented attitude, knowledge of system network and security practices
3. Service engineer
Primary duties: Service engineers provide maintenance, repair and technical support services for electronic equipment and appliances sold by a company. They interact with customers and resolve their queries within the framework of the company’s after-sales service policy. They may also demonstrate how a product functions and provide training to customers.
Qualifications: Bachelor’s degree in engineering and technology
Skills: Problem-solving skills, good verbal communication, helpful attitude
4. Communications engineer
Primary duties: Communications engineers design and maintain electrical communication systems. They test and evaluate existing networks and upgrade them for enhanced performance. They also offer technical expertise.
Qualifications: Bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, electronic engineering, communications engineering, information technology or a related discipline
Skills: Good understanding of networks, problem-solving skills, ability to learn new skills, keeping themselves up-to-date with the latest technical developments
5. Technical director
Primary duties: Technical directors oversee a project’s lifecycle from the start to completion. They focus on the technical quality of the end product and look for ways to efficiently use the resources. Technical directors supervise technical operations and implement quality control procedures in an organisation.
Qualifications: At least bachelor’s degree in technology with several years of experience in the the related field. Master’s degree preferable.
Skills: Technical bent of mind, strong managerial skills, leadership qualities, team skills, good communication skills
6. Electronics design engineer
Primary duties: Electronics design engineers design and develop electronic systems and formulate procedures for their testing. They perform research on the latest technologies and conduct feasibility studies in order to determine the design parameters as per company standards. They also study the issues in a given design and develop effective solutions.
Qualifications: Bachelor’s in electronics, electrical, systems, communication or a similar stream of engineering
Skills: Sound knowledge of maths, attention to detail, analytical thinking, design skills, teamwork skills