The main responsibility of an electrical reliability engineer is to test an electrical component's reliability over a period of time and in various conditions. Electrical systems are found just about everywhere in the modern world, and it's the job of an electrical reliability engineer to ensure that these systems do not fail. These engineers analyze failure by breaking electrical components in order to find out how much abuse they can take. Experience in electrical equipment design, power systems, and reliability prediction modeling techniques allow an experienced electrical reliability engineer to predict the longevity and ensure the dependability of electrical systems and components. An electrical reliability engineer may also consider the possible effects of various forces and substances on the life span of electrical components.
Most electrical and electronic components or systems do not wear out as quickly as typical mechanical devices because they tend to have few or no moving parts. Electrical reliability engineers test the reliability of components, sub-systems, and entire systems to establish a level of reliability for each system. They do this by applying pressure or stress to certain parts to determine the point at which a component will break and an electrical system will fail. This information is then used by the electrical reliability engineer to make better parts.
Specific experience designing electrical equipment and power distribution systems allows electrical reliability engineers to use reliability prediction modeling techniques to predict how long a particular electrical component or system will last. There are many outside or environmental forces likely to cause failure. Some of those outside forces include humidity, extreme temperatures, corrosion, vibration, and electromagnetic interference (EMI). Since most electrical components and systems are essentially made up of very few moving parts, the engineer will often use methods different from those used by mechanical engineers. These engineers make it their business to know the various failure points of electrical systems and then develop solutions to deal with the problems specific to this particular discipline of engineering.
Most electrical reliability engineers have a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering or a related discipline. They may work in just about any industry that uses electrical components and typically remain in a single industry. Some engineers may move into other closely related industries throughout their career. For example, an electrical reliability engineer working for an aircraft manufacturer may also work in a closely related field, such as the aerospace industry.