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Electrical Engineer Vs. Electrician

Electrical engineers and electricians both work with electrical systems but their tasks differ. This article explores the different duties they perform, the training requirements and the income levels for these professionals in greater detail.

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Comparing Electrical Engineers to Electricians

Electrical engineers make things that use electricity to operate. Electricians install systems that use electricity and ensure those systems access electrical power safely through the wiring they install. Electrical engineers are required to earn a degree and have a notably higher income level than electricians, although the job growth rate is the same for both of these careers.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Outlook (2016-2026)*
Electrical Engineers Bachelor's degree $94,210 9%
Electricians High school diploma or GED, apprenticeship, license $52,720 9%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of Electrical Engineers vs. Electricians

Electrical engineers are responsible for creating products that operate on electricity. They can be involved with everything from designing a new product to determining how to revise a design plan for an existing product. They may also oversee the installation of products they design. Electricians install electrical systems and the wiring that connects them to a power source. While they ensure the electrical systems they install work properly they do not create those electrical systems; that's what electrical engineers do. Electricians also repair existing electrical systems that are outdated or damaged.

Electrical Engineers

Electrical engineers produce electrical equipment. They are involved with all stages of the production of this type of equipment and use a combination of design and technical skills in their work. The most common fields of study for electrical engineers are electrical or electronics engineering and they are required to have a bachelor's degree. A Professional Engineer (PE) license may be needed to pursue managerial roles but is not required for entry-level work in this field. It's common for electrical engineers to work in power production, research and manufacturing. They may produce things such as electric motors or generators.

Job responsibilities of an electrical engineer include:

  • Using computer design software to produce product design plans
  • Evaluating existing products
  • Identifying ways to improve the design or production of existing products
  • Assessing consumer complaints about products
  • Overseeing product manufacturing
  • Evaluate products to ensure they operate properly

Electricians

Electricians ensure that the electrical systems in houses, buildings and outdoor areas are installed and work properly. It's possible to start out in this field with a high school diploma or GED and learn on the job through an apprenticeship program. Once a combination of apprenticeship hours and classroom training is complete or an electrician graduates from technical school, they can earn their electrician's license; the specific requirements for an electrician's license may vary from state to state so it's important to check local training requirements for this career. Electricians often travel to work sites and it's common for them to work evenings and weekends.

Job responsibilities of an electrician include:

  • Wiring houses and buildings
  • Connecting electrical systems to the power supply
  • Inspecting existing wiring and electrical systems
  • Locating electrical issues and conducting repairs
  • Following blueprints and building codes when installing systems
  • Operating power tools

Related Careers

The links listed here connect to information about careers that share some common duties or objectives as the ones discussed in this article. Follow the links to learn more about what aerospace engineers and elevator technicians do.

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