Electrician vs. Electrical Engineer

February 3, 2022

Though the names sound similar, there are significant differences in salaries, responsibilities, and the everyday tasks performed by an electrician vs. electrical engineer. To be clear, electricians handle electrical issues and equipment failures. Meanwhile, electrical engineers help design and install large-scale electrical systems by applying engineering principles.

Both electrical engineers and electricians enjoy excellent earning and growth prospects. However, the education and training needed to pursue each title differs. If you’re contemplating a career in the electrical domain, it’s important to understand the difference between the two professions.

Electrician vs. Electrical Engineer: Understanding Each Profession

From their training and education, distinct career paths apply to both electricians and electrical engineering professionals. An electrical engineer usually completes a four-year bachelor’s degree, while an electrician may undergo on-the-job training, apprenticeships, or certificate programs at a trade school. As their education level differs, the scope of work also changes. 

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.

What is an Electrical Engineer?

Electrical engineers design, install and manufacture electrical equipment, control systems, motors, power distribution networks, power generation machines, and other accessories. They typically work with electrical power systems manufacturers, distributors, and project-based companies.

A day in the life of an electrical engineer may include:

  • Designing digital systems
  • Testing electrical equipment
  • Planning and implementing large-scale power systems
  • Troubleshooting and improving the design of existing power supply accessories
  • Conducting feasibility studies
  • Creating layout drawings as per specifications
  • Designing electrical prototypes and models
  • Supervising the installation of electrical systems
  • Cost analysis
Who Is an Electrical Engineer
Electrical engineers may also specialize in power engineering, signal processing, optics, renewable energy, computer sciences, and telecommunications.

What is an Electrician?

Electricians help repair, troubleshoot, and connect electrical systems, accessories, and wiring. Every residential, commercial, or industrial unit that relies on electricity may require the services of an electrician.

The daily responsibilities of an electrician may include:

  • Performing electrical repairs
  • Testing and troubleshooting electric motors, switches, relays, and other auxiliary equipment
  • Installing and repairing electrical wiring
  • Repairing lighting systems
  • Performing corrective and preventive maintenance on manufacturing machinery
  • Troubleshooting faulty electrical equipment
  • Laying electrical cables as per technical drawings and documentation
  • Installing electrical systems
  • Testing existing systems for safe operations
An electrician requires immense technical skills and robust knowledge of safety regulations, building codes, and electrical theory. While some electricians work in industrial settings, many are self-employed and offer on-call services for electricity breakdowns, new equipment installation, and so on.
Who Is an Electrician

Electrician vs. Electrical Engineer: Key Differences

Not only do electricians and electrical engineers differ in their job roles and education requirements, but both these professions also vary significantly in their career paths, salaries, job prospects, and specializations. Let’s compare both professions to get a better understanding of their differences. Here, we’ll look at:

  • How to become an electrician and electrical engineer
  • Professional requirements and licensure
  • Salaries
  • Job outlooks
  • Specializations

Electrician vs. Electrical Engineer: How to Pursue Each Position

If you want to build a rewarding career as an electrician or an electrical engineer, these are the steps you must follow:

How Can You Become an Electrical Engineer?

After completing your high-school diploma/GED, you must enroll in a four-year electrical engineering degree. Ensure that your program has received accreditation from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) or a similar certifying body.

You’ll take classes in advanced math, electronic circuits, electrical products, digital systems, electrical system design, power distribution networks, industrial automation, control systems, and more during your bachelor’s degree. Your coursework will include classroom lectures, lab work, and practical internships. Once you complete the required credit hours, you’ll receive your degree and apply for entry-level engineering positions.

Alternatively, you can enroll in an associate’s degree after high-school, and continue with a bachelor’s in electrical engineering technology.

How Can You Become an Electrician?

You can kickstart your career as an electrician in any one of the following ways:

  • Enroll in an electrician training program at a trade school
  • Apply for an on-the-job apprenticeship through a union such Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (JATC)
  • Apply for electrical apprenticeship positions with independent electrical contractors


Earn your degree in Electrical Technology from NEIT and begin your new career path today!



Every electrician training program includes theory lectures, lab hours, and on-the-job training. However, unlike degree programs, hands-on training constitutes a significant part of your apprenticeship. A typical program may include about 1,000 classroom hours and 9,000 on-the-job work hours.

Once you complete your training, you’re eligible to apply for an electrician’s license. As an entry-level employee you will be able to assist with any project, but you will not be permitted to train apprentices, lead a team, or apply for permits.

Professional Requirements and Licensure

Electrical engineers who want to join the workforce after earning a bachelor’s degree must first pass the Fundamentals of Engineering examination to become engineers-in-training. With four years of work experience, you can apply for the Professional Engineer exam to become fully qualified to pursue any role. If you’re interested in teaching or research, a master’s degree in electrical engineering will help you advance even further.

Similarly, most states require you to pass a certification exam post apprenticeship to become a licensed electrician or journeyman. The National Electrical Contractors Association‘s certification test is one certification exam that most states accept. Electricians must answer questions related to the National Electrical Code, building codes, and safe electrical equipment and wiring installation.

After two years of experience as a journeyman, you can apply for the master electrician certification. With the master electrician status, you can advance to higher roles in your field. You can then take apprentices, apply for permits, and lead teams of junior electricians.

Professional Requirements and Licensure

Salary – Do Electrical Engineers Earn More than Electricians?

According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), electricians earned median pay of $56,900 per year or about $27.36 per hour in May 2020. The top 10 percent of electricians in the field earned salaries upwards of $98,720, annually. During the same period, electrical engineers made an average of $105,990 per year.

Job Outlook

The BLS predicts that the number of jobs for electricians will increase by 9 percent annually from 2020-30, adding about 66,100 new jobs for electricians. Similarly, the employment of electrical engineers will grow by 7 percent, creating 12,700 new electrical engineering positions.


Electrician specialties include domestic installers, instrumentation electricians, machine repair, maintenance electricians, and highway electrical systems repair. Additional certifications like solar photovoltaics, power production, electronic equipment repair, or lighting systems can help electricians advance their careers.

Similarly, engineering professionals can take advanced certificate courses in coding, embedded systems, computer design software, radio and communication devices, non-renewable systems, energy management, etc., to work in specific domains.

Electrician Vs. Electrical Engineer: Understanding the Pros and Cons

Let’s begin by looking into the advantages both fields offer.

Pros of Becoming an Electrical Engineer

Electrical engineers typically enjoy higher salaries and a safer work environment than electricians do. Additionally, electrical engineering jobs offer more opportunities for innovation and development.

Pros of Becoming an Electrician

Electricians don’t typically have to spend as much on their education, allowing them to walk away with less student debt. You can also earn a decent income early into your career without a college education. Since most of their training is hands-on and practical-oriented, aspirants don’t need to learn complex subjects and advanced topics. Electricians can also work independently and offer on-call services, allowing them to enjoy higher flexibility.

What Are the Disadvantages of Becoming an Electrical Engineer?

As electrical engineers work in high-stake environments, they may face intense job pressure. They may also spend more hours at work meeting deadlines and completing their projects.

Although electrical engineers may have excellent salary prospects, they often receive limited job growth. Additionally, there’s high competition for entry-level positions in electrical engineering. Therefore, even after obtaining your degree, you may have to spend time upskilling, getting certifications, or applying for higher education to get decent entry-level jobs.

What Are the Disadvantages of Becoming an Electrician?

While attending a technical school is not as expensive as obtaining a degree, an apprenticeship program can be pretty time-consuming. Some training programs may require 4-5 years of practice after receiving a high-school diploma.

Electricians may perform physically-demanding and risky electrical work. The lack of safety measures can lead to electric shock or injuries. As the job requires physical labor, it isn’t easy to maintain with age. If you’re working with a contractor, you may have to attend breakdowns at odd hours of the day. You may also receive less in benefits like a 401k than electrical engineers.

Pros and cons of Becoming an Electrician

Can an Electrician Become an Electrical Engineer?

While technical training will only allow you to pursue jobs as an electrician, an associate degree in electrical technology can help prepare electricians for a bachelor’s degree in electrical technology. After completing their degree, a former electrician can go on to work as an electrical engineer.

An associate’s degree offers you more than typical electrical apprenticeship and “journeyman electrical” training programs. The training provided will also help you develop a basic understanding of the science of electricity across a wide variety of industrial applications. During your degree, you will learn advanced industrial and manufacturing concepts with a two-year degree and gain valuable practical experience in these fields.


A career as an electrician or an electrical engineer can be a rewarding career option for students. If you love working hands-on in a dynamic environment, you may want to pursue work as an electrician. Alternatively, if you love the science behind electricity and aspire to develop complex electrical systems, you can look into becoming an electrical engineer.

The New England Institute of Technology offers a comprehensive associate’s and bachelor’s program in electrical engineering technology to help you launch a fulfilling career in the electrical industry.


Earn your degree in Electrical Technology from NEIT and begin your new career path today!




Are Electrical Engineers Better Than Electricians?

Both electricians and electrical engineers are equally rewarding career options, depending on what you envision for your career. While electrical engineers have better prospects of a higher salary, electricians can start their careers with relatively lower student debt and gain entry-level employment than graduate degree holders.

Is an Electrician a Good Career?

An electrician is an excellent career option if you love working with your hands and intend to start working with lower education debt. Electricians can also pursue advanced job roles with additional education and work experience.

Can an Electrical Engineer Become an Electrician?

If an electrical engineer wants to become an electrician, they must undergo intensive practical training and learn building codes, electrical wiring, and safety installations. Additionally, they must also pass a certification test like the National Electrical Contractors Association’s exam to obtain licensure as an electrician.

Apply to our electrician program and graduate in less than 2 years.