Difference Between Engineer & a Scientist

Engineers and scientists are problem solvers. Their professions may overlap in an area of interest, but the approaches to research are different. Engineers work to build a solution while scientists conduct research for understanding.

Comparing an Engineer to a Scientist

General job titles such as engineer and scientist refer to specific skills. Both of these occupations involve analysis of a problem, but the engineer approaches the problem with an eye on designing or building a solution while the scientist focuses on what can be learned from the problem.

Job Title Minimum Education Required* Median Salary (2015-2016)* Job Growth (2014-2024)*
Engineer Bachelor degree $90,060 4%
Scientist Bachelor degree $67,775 7%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of an Engineer vs. a Scientist

Both engineers and scientists collect and analyze data. The result of their analysis is the main difference between the two professions. An engineer uses data analysis to design a product for a particular function. The scientist uses data analysis from experimentation to gain knowledge and revise ideas about how the universe works. Both engineers and scientists work in an office or lab and must be able to coordinate their work with others working on the same problem. Both professions have multiple specialized branches which narrow the scope of the problems investigated.


The tools an engineer uses allows them to construct a product specifically designed to fix a problem that may be mechanical, electrical, technological or even medical in nature. In their design they must consider factors such as cost, efficiency, safety and other parameters defined by the project specifications. They must have good communication skills because the product they design may be commissioned by a company or government organization that has a set of expectations for the product. Often engineers work within an organization so they need to be able to collaborate with other engineers.

Job responsibilities of an engineer include:

  • Designing a product based upon customer needs
  • Testing the product to insure it meets safety and other regulations
  • Evaluating the cost of building the product
  • Communicating with clients and coworkers about product performance


Scientists work to learn about specific physical or natural phenomena. They design experiments to test their ideas and report data to others for replication and verification. This research may be directed at advancing a particular technology or may be in pursuit of knowledge without any particular application in mind. Scientists work in labs but may also work outdoors depending on their specialization. They must be able to conduct tests and then present their results to others.

Job responsibilities of a scientist include:

  • Designing experiments to study a particular phenomenon
  • Conducting tests based on experimental protocols
  • Collaborating with coworkers and other scientists
  • Documenting results in scientific publications

Related Careers

Specific branches of engineering include electrical engineers who design ways to deliver electricity to a variety of machines or structures such as aviation, air conditioning, factories, and cars. A scientist may specialize in physical, life, or social sciences. An example includes an ecologist who studies the natural world and how organisms interact with each other in an environment.

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