2021 Electrical Engineering Research Study

Electrical engineers are some of the most influential professionals in the electronics industry. In order to understand these engineers, we must go beyond the basic assumptions that characterize them. We take a look at how they consume information, make purchasing decisions, and what they buy.

For the past five years, EETech Media has partnered with Wilson Research Group to analyze hard data straight from industry professionals around the globe. We establish valuable year-over-year trends and compare demographics to better define how engineers interact with the market.

Kate Smith
All About Circuits

Electrical/Electronics Engineers (EEs)

A common way to assess the engineering community is to learn which industries they focus on in their work. While respondents to the EETech survey indicated involvement in a wide array of industries, the most common two were consumer electronics and manufacturing.

World Regions

Knowing when engineers design for different global markets can help us understand market needs, as well as how often engineering work is outsourced.

In the graph on the right, select which demographic you’re interested in (engineers based in North America, Europe, Asia/Pacific, or China) to see which markets they design for most. You’ll notice immediately that each demographic is most likely to design for the market in which they’re based (e.g., North American engineers are most likely to design for the North American market).

Next Gen


Career Pro

A Career Pro is a seasoned engineer with 6 or more years of engineering experience. These engineers represent who leads in the industry today. A Next Gen is either a young engineer with 5 or fewer years of experience or a student pursuing an EE degree. These engineers represent where the industry is going next.

Let’s see how they compare.


Career Pro engineers tend to be around 20 years older than their Next Gen counterparts and have a mean of 20 more years of engineering experience, as well. While you may assume that Career Pros command more budget, however, you’ll note that the two demographics are very comparable when it comes to mean expenditures for components for prototyping and BOM per project. Both demographics contact suppliers at equivalent rates, despite these differences in experience.

As can be expected from how we’ve delineated the Career Pro and Next Gen demographics, you’ll find that Career Pro engineers are significantly more likely to hold the title of “Senior Engineer” in their workplace. There is a slight increase in the number of Next Gen respondents who self-identify as “Technicians.”

Which role do you serve in your company?

Our survey respondents design mostly for the North American market, but all markets were represented. Each market has its own governing bodies, regulations, and requirements that dictate design decisions. You’ll notice that there is a larger generational gap between Career Pro and Next Gen engineers designing for the North American and European markets compared to the Chinese market, where there’s nearly equal representation between the two demographics.

What geographical markets are your projects intended for?

(Multiple responses)

The method engineers use to purchase parts can tell us a great deal about supply chains and marketing trends. Both Next Gen and Career Pro engineers prefer using distributors’ websites most, followed by manufacturers’ websites. 

Of particular interest in this data is how Next Gen engineers report that they’re more likely to utilize online marketplaces like Amazon  and even local stores compared to their Career Pro peers.

What are your preferred methods for purchasing parts?

(Multiple responses)

Career Pro engineers reported that they feel pressure to get products to market and express concern about sufficient engineers on staff as their primary challenges. Next Gen engineers also felt these pressures, but reported more concern about staying on budget with their projects and concern about engineering staff lacking necessary skills. 

What are the most pressing challenges you face in your current work?

(Multiple responses)

Interest in pursuing new areas of expertise showed a wide breadth of specialities. Notably, Next Gen engineers broke away from their Career Pro counterparts to express special interest in PCB layout, sensor design, and machine learning/neural networks. 

The areas where Career Pro engineers showed more interest than Next Gens were analog design, test and measurement, digital design, RF design, system design, and algorithm development. All other areas were more popular with Next Gen engineers.

What areas of expertise would you like to pursue?

(Multiple responses)

Top Components
Manufacturers YoY

Hit the play button to see how the top component manufacturers have competed for prominence over the past five years. 

Some companies retain popularity over time, but vie for dominance at the top of the list. Others fluctuate in the ranks more noticeably. An important note is that companies that have been acquired by others are still capable of commanding brand loyalty, even after they’ve been absorbed.

Top Manufacturers by Region

Which component manufacturers do you use or intend to use in your designs? (Multiple responses)


Which of the following distributors do you use the most to purchase electronic components or other related supplies?

(Multiple responses)

The top electronic component distributors are reliably Digi-Key and Mouser. If you hit the play button in this graphic, you’ll see how Amazon has actually decreased in popularity in recent years, making room for Arrow Electronics to rise to the top three. 

Which of the following distributors do you use the most to purchase electronic components or other related supplies?

(Multiple responses)

The key differentiator when considering these data points? Next Gen respondents report a significant preference for Amazon and AliExpress as compared to Career Pro respondents. This will be a trend to watch in the coming years as these Next Gen respondents gain experience and authority in their workplaces.

Top Distributors by Region

Which of the following distributors do you use the most to purchase electronic components or other related supplies? (Multiple responses)

How EEs Prefer to Interact

It’s no surprise that engineers of all ages prefer to contact suppliers via email. Career Pros are more likely to interact with the traditional FAE/Sales Engineering contact whereas Next Gens are more inclined to utilize web chat boxes and webinars. This generational difference reflects increasing comfort with digital mediums over time.

Respondents by region show comparable preferences for all contact methods, though there is a slight increase in preference for phone calls and FAE/Sales Engineer contacts from North Americans.

Engaging with New Products

On the left, you can flip the card to reveal how often respondents are willing to branch out and try a new product. What we learn from this is that engineers as a whole are conservative and tend to prefer sticking to products they’re familiar with. 

On the right, you can flip the card to explore why respondents choose to branch out in the first place. One third of respondents report that they try new products because design requirements have changed in their project. One quarter report that they’ll try a new product based on finding an alternative product that suits their needs better.

Global Chip Shortage

EEs were asked, “How has the global chip shortage affected your work?” and we see that a staggering 72% of respondents were affected in some way by the global chip shortage.

The most common effects were the need to find alternative components, the need to delay project timelines, and the need to do redesigns. Fewer than one in five respondents said they were not impacted by the chip shortage at all.

Who Makes Purchasing Decisions?

When it comes to making purchasing decisions, Career Pros were most likely to report that they are the primary decision maker. On the other hand, Next Gens were more likely to report that they’re involved in decision-making in the context of a team or that their immediate supervisor made decisions on their behalf. It’s notable, however, that over 25% of Next Gen respondents over the last two years have reported that they do, in fact, have sole decision-making power. All told, Next Gen engineers, despite having less engineering experience, are still valuable decision makers in the industry.

Informational Content

Which types of info do you rely on most during the design process?

(Multiple responses)

The types of information engineers rely on tells us what kinds of content is important for industry companies to develop. Both Career Pros and Next Gens highly value datasheets and spec sheets, as well as technical articles. The two demographics diverge, however, on their reliance on several key content types. For example, Career Pro respondents value application notes noticeably more than Next Gen respondents do. Another important example is video. Next Gens place significantly more value on video compared to Career Pros.

What kinds of informational content would you like to see more of?

(Multiple responses)

We asked our respondents to identify what content types they would actively like to see provided more often. Overall, respondents would like to see more tutorials, walkthroughs, technical articles, product comparisons, and coverage of research developments. Note that Next Gen respondents, however, prioritized video tutorials and walkthroughs by a significant margin. Next Gen respondents also expressed interest in a wider range of content types across the board. This tells us that the next wave of engineers will be interested in consuming a wider variety of content types as compared to their predecessors.

Which of the following sources of info do you utilize most during the design process?

(Multiple responses)

Assessing sources of information tells us how respondents access the types of information they value. For both demographics, search engines are the most common selection. This indicates that search-optimized resources remain a sound investment. 

Data suggests that Career Pro respondents are more likely to turn to distributor and manufacturer website searches to find information. Next Gen respondents comparatively accessed multiple information sources beyond distributor and manufacturer websites. Top Next Gen results included printed textbooks, social media, news sites, and maker blogs.

Both demographics expressed interest in consulting with fellow engineers by accessing co-workers/colleagues and engineering forums and communities, with a preference for both expressed by Next Gen respondents.


When asked which websites respondents frequent the most, stark differences between Next Gen and Career Pro demographics emerged. Next Gen respondents indicated interest in a range of site types. Notable standouts include IEEE Spectrum and Circuit Digest (news-oriented sites), EDAboard.com (an electronics forum), Electronics Tutorials (a static educational resource), EEVblog (an opinion-focused site), and Hackaday and Hackster (maker sites). 

When including EETech websites in the options listed, All About Circuits dominated among both Next Gens and Career Pros, with a slightly higher representation of Next Gens. We also asked how likely respondents would be to recommend EETech websites to their peers, which showed All About Circuits as the most popular site. These results also revealed that Next Gen respondents were more likely to recommend all sites compared to Career Pro respondents. This may be due to changing attitudes regarding content sharing over generational lines.

IC Designers

IC (integrated circuit) designers represent a crucial yet small part of the engineering field. ICs are found in practically all modern electronic devices, and yet there are comparatively few engineers who have the expertise to design them.

Which types of IC do you have significant experience designing?

(Multiple responses)

The majority of IC designer respondents reported either digital or mixed signal experience. Only 40% of respondents reported significant experience designing for analog ICs and only 19% reported significant experience designing for RF (radio frequency) ICs.

On which part of the IC Design Process do you primarily work on?

(Multiple responses)

The most common portions of the IC design process that respondents reported being involved in were digital design/simulation, IC-level layout, and verification. The least represented process was the niche area of RF design and simulation.

Do you/your team primarily utilize EDA tools from vendors or EDA tools developed internally by your company?

The majority of IC designers reported that they rely on third-party EDA tools to complete their work. A sliver, however, reported that they have in-house tools they rely on instead and another sliver reported use of both third-party and in-house tools.

Which EDA tools do you use or intend to use in your IC design work?

(Multiple responses)

Among those third-party tool vendors, Cadence was selected the most often, followed by Synopsys and then Siemens EDA (formerly Mentor Graphics). This data illustrates the dominance of specific companies and tools in the IC design space which underpins so much of the electronics industry as a whole.

How Does China Compare?

When talking about the following applications, which manufacturer do you think of first?

(Multiple responses)

We asked Chinese respondents to identify which companies they most correlate with given applications. While there were data points across the board, Texas Instruments was most commonly associated with power, STMicroelectronics with IoT applications, and Infineon with automotive. Note that this information is tempered by the fact that the top companies (i.e., Texas Instruments, STMicroelectronics, Analog Devices, NXP, and Infineon) were the most common selections overall, indicating that familiarity with major brands impacts how they’re perceived in the context of given applications. 

Which industry do you primarily work in?

Chinese respondents indicated that they work in several of the same industries common to global respondents, namely control/automation, consumer electronics, IoT, and automotive. There was notably less representation among Chinese respondents in the military/aerospace industry compared to global respondents.

What are your preferred methods for purchasing parts?

(Multiple responses)

Chinese respondents reported a significant preference for utilizing online marketplaces as compared to global averages. Overall, the only method through which Chinese respondents select parts less than global averages was distributor websites. This points to a slightly more varied range of purchasing methods that Chinese engineers are willing to utilize as compared to the average engineer from elsewhere.

How often do you use a new product on the market that you’ve never used before?

Chinese respondents reported that they are significantly more conservative in choosing when to branch out to try new products they’ve never used before. This indicates that marketers may have a harder time convincing Chinese engineers to try new products as compared to the typical global engineer.

Percentage of acquired technical knowledge that comes from WeChat, WeChat moments, and other SNS?

WeChat is one of the most dominant social media platforms in China. Chinese engineer respondents reported that they acquire technical knowledge from WeChat and other SMS platforms extremely often, with over 40% of respondents saying they got 50% or more of their technical knowledge in this fashion.

Which types of info do you rely on most for your designs?

(Multiple responses)

Chinese engineer respondents indicated notably less reliance on spec sheets, application notes, reference designs, online design tools, company documentation, videos, and FAEs for gathering information for their designs compared to global averages. The preferred technical articles, whitepapers, webinars, product brochures, press releases, and eNewsletters. This indicates trust in content types that are commonly supplied by companies as marketing materials as compared to spec-heavy resources that provide information more than context.

Will you acquire professional technical knowledge from the following emerging communication channels?

We asked respondents to identify which emerging communication channels they used to acquire technical knowledge. The top response was Bilibili, a video-sharing platform comparable to YouTube. In second place was Zhihu, which is a question-and-answer platform which requires a login, comparable to Quora, Stack Exchange, and other such forums.

A smaller group identified Douyin as a resource, which is the Chinese name for TikTok, a short-form video-sharing platform. These responses indicate an interest in video content, as well as user-generated information from peers.

How often do you participate in professional and technical live broadcasts?

When asked how often Chinese respondents participate in technical broadcasts intended for professional audiences, 79% indicated that they participate in at least one broadcast every three months. Breaking that down, around 18% indicated that they participate in such broadcasts once per week. 

This data suggests that live broadcasts are a good investment for companies looking to reach Chinese engineering audiences.

In which of the following ways do you learn about technical live broadcasts?

When determining which technical live broadcasts to attend, respondents indicated that they most often learn about upcoming events via WeChat. Website promotion was also cited as a common method of learning about upcoming broadcasts, indicating consistent engagement with the websites in question. To a lesser degree, email campaigns were also cited as a method of learning about broadcasts.

What kind of technical activities do you prefer to participate in?

We asked respondents to indicate which technical activities they preferred to participate in. By a wide margin, downloading technical documentation was the most popular choice, followed by attendance of online seminars and dev board evaluations. 

Given how many respondents indicated vested interest in participation in technical live broadcasts, the data suggests that content types that are not dependent on live attendance are even more popular. This indicates that content designed to be consumed at any time is more highly desired than content that requires attendance at a specific time.

Can’t Get Enough Data?

The data presented here is only the tip of the iceberg. If you are interested in more data, particular insights, or would just like to use our data in your marketing materials, please reach out to us. We’re happy to share!

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