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Electrical Engineer Vs. Mechanical Engineer

Electrical and mechanical engineers work in comparable environments performing similar general tasks, and the primary distinction lies in the types of products they research, design, develop and test. Learn more about their duties, salaries, job growth and education.

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Comparing Electrical Engineers to Mechanical Engineers

Like many other engineering occupations, electrical engineers and mechanical engineers have very similar core duties, but they design and build different types of products. Electrical engineers deal with the manufacture of electrical equipment, communication systems, and navigation systems, in addition to designing electrical systems in vehicles. Mechanical engineering is a broad area in which engineers work on sensors, engines, tools and various types of machines.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Outlook (2016-2026)*
Electrical Engineers Bachelor's degree $94,210 9%
Mechanical Engineers Bachelor's degree $84,190 9%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of Electrical Engineers vs. Mechanical Engineers

Electrical and mechanical engineers use computer design software to produce design plans for new products. They also work on altering existing design plans to improve products or to correct specific issues. This responsibility involves evaluating those products and then reviewing their design specifications to determine the best way to address the issues or improve performance. They monitor the production process of their products and must ensure that regulations are followed and that the final product operates as intended. Mechanical engineers may travel to install equipment or perform repairs on machines that are installed, such as elevators. Electrical engineers may also oversee the installation of the systems they design.

Electrical Engineers

In order to pursue a career as an electrical engineer it's necessary to earn a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering. Employers prefer applicants who have practical experience, so graduating from a program with an internship may improve job prospects. Electrical engineers usually work in an office, although some travel may be required to oversee the installation of equipment. Electrical engineers work with navigational systems and other types of electrical equipment. The cars people drive and aircraft people fly function because of the work electrical engineers do to produce effective electrical systems in vehicles.

Job responsibilities of an electrical engineer include:

  • Establishing production and installation guidelines
  • Working closely with project managers to stay within budget
  • Ensuring safety regulations are followed
  • Writing documents about how to operate or install equipment

Mechanical Engineers

Mechanical engineers use their skills to produce new or improved machines and tools. From the engines in cars to the freezers people store food in, mechanical engineers play a role in providing products people use every day. Mechanical engineers must study mechanical engineering and earn a bachelor's degree to work in this field. A Professional Engineer (PE) license may be required for some positions. Mechanical engineers often work with architects or apply their skills in manufacturing and research careers. They may travel occasionally but spend most of their time working in an office.

Job responsibilities of a mechanical engineer include:

  • Refining design plans to address specific issues
  • Producing prototypes that can be evaluated
  • Running simulations on machines
  • Developing procedures for manufacturing products

Related Careers

Since many engineering fields involve similar duties, those interested in being an electrical or a mechanical engineer may also want to consider becoming an electronics or industrial engineer. Learn more about these career options through the links listed below.

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