Although the titles sound similar, there are significant differences in pay, responsibilities, and the day-to-day tasks that an electrician performs versus an electrical engineer. To be clear, electricians deal with electrical problems and equipment malfunctions. Meanwhile, electrical engineers help design and install large-scale electrical systems by applying engineering principles.
Is an electrical engineer the same as an electrician:
An electrical engineer is different from an electrician. Let’s take a closer look at what it means to become an electrical engineer and what they do.
An electrical engineer:
Electrical engineers design, install and manufacture electrical equipment, control systems, motors, power grids, power generation machines, and other accessories. They usually work with electrical system manufacturers, distributors, and project companies.
A day in the life of an electrical engineer can include:
- Designing digital systems
- Testing electrical equipment
- Planning and implementation of large energy systems
- Troubleshooting and improving the design of existing power supply accessories
- Carrying out feasibility studies
- Creating layout drawings to specifications
- Designing electrical prototypes and models
- Supervision of the installation of electrical installations
- Cost analysis
Electricians help with repairs, troubleshooting, and connecting electrical systems, accessories, and wiring. Any residential, commercial, or industrial unit that depends on electricity may require the services of an electrician.
An electrician’s day-to-day duties may include:
- Carrying out electrical repairs
- Testing and troubleshooting of electric motors, switches, relays, and other auxiliary devices
- Installation and repair of electrical wiring
- Repairs of lighting systems
- Performing corrective and preventive maintenance on production machines
- Troubleshooting electrical equipment
- Laying of electrical cables according to technical drawings and documentation
- Installation of electrical systems
- Testing existing systems for safe operation.
Electrician vs. Electrical Engineer: Key Differences
Not only do electricians and electrical technicians differ in their job roles and educational requirements, but the two professions also differ significantly in their career paths, salaries, job prospects, and specializations. Let’s compare both professions to better understand their differences. Here we look at:
How to become an electrician and electrical engineer
- Professional requirements and licenses
- Job prospects
After completing your high school diploma/GED, you must enroll in a four-year electrical engineering program. Make sure your program is accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) or a similar certifying body.
During your undergraduate degree, you will take courses in advanced mathematics, electronic circuits, electrical products, digital systems, electrical system design, distribution networks, industrial automation, control systems, and more.
You can start your career as an electrician in one of the following ways:
Enroll in a trade school electrician training program:
Apply for an on-the-job apprenticeship through a trade union such as the Joint Apprenticeships and Training Committee (JATC)
Apply for electrical apprenticeships with independent electrical contractors:
Each electrician training program includes theoretical lectures, laboratory hours, and on-the-job training. However, unlike degree programs, practical training forms a significant part of your learning. A typical program may include about 1,000 hours in the classroom and 9,000 hours of on-site work.
Once you’ve completed your training, you can apply for an electrician’s license. As an entry-level employee, you’ll be able to help with any project, but you won’t be able to train apprentices, lead a team, or ask for permission.
Professional requirements and licenses:
Electrical engineers looking to enter the workforce after earning a bachelor’s degree must first pass the Fundamentals of Engineering exam to become engineers-in-training. With four years of work experience, you can apply for the Professional Engineer exam to become fully qualified to perform any role. If you are interested in teaching or research, a master’s degree in electrical engineering will help you take things further.
Similarly, most states require you to pass a certification exam after training to become a licensed electrician or journeyman. The National Electrical Contractors Association certification test is one of the certification exams that most states accept. Electricians must answer questions related to the National Electrical Code, building regulations, and safe electrical equipment and wiring installation.
After two years of experience as a journeyman, you can apply for a master electrician certification. With Master Electrician status, you can progress to higher roles in your field. You can then take on apprentices, apply for permits and lead teams of junior electricians.