Electrical engineers and electricians both work with electrical circuits. In ways, both careers overlap each other as in parts to work with (such as wires, switches, AC power, comon to both). However, though both are similar, there are also many drastic differences between the two which could lead to completely different fulfillment in careers.
In this article, we will go over the differences between an electrical engineer and an electrician so you can get a feel of the different paths of the two.
An electrical engineer is seen in many ways as being a step above an electrician (though this is really accurate because they’re very different fields.) The reason why it’s seen as this is because the educational requirements to become an electrical engineer are much more rigorous than becoming an electrician. An electrical engineer must go to a 4-year university or college in order to obtain a degree as an engineer. An electrical engineer does much more advanced things than an electrician. While an electrician deals primarily with just wiring and lighting, an electrical engineer goes more into depth, many times dealing with electronics and electronic boards, which encompasses a whole, more specialized realm than just providing light to a house. An electrical engineer deal with electronic circuits, which utilize RF waves, microwave circuits, electromagnetics, and many sophisticated physics concepts which require many types of advanced mathematics, such as advanced calculus. Therefore, more theory and overall schooling needs to be applied. This is why electrical engineers must enroll in universities, in which he will spend many years taking calculus courses and other mathematics, such as differential equations and linear algebra. He will also take many theory classes in electrical engineering to learn the theory of all of these engineering principles and have classes such as Electromagnetics, Communication Theory, etc. This is all to equip the engineer to learn about engineering principles and the math that govern them.
The educational requirements to become an electrician is far less rigorous. The work that an electrican does is also far less rigorous. An electrician will be involved in simply wiring buildings so that electricity supplied from plants can be fed into homes and buildings. This does not require any knowledge of the electrical theory which an engineer needs to learn. An electrician’s education is much more practical. He needs to know about fuse boxes, wiring, open circuits, short circuits, switches, voltage, and current. Therefore, an electrician is more hands on.
Life on the Job Field
An electrical engineer, unlike an electrician, still lacks the ability (and most likely, the tools) to do the job of an electrician. An electrical engineer’s job is so much more specialized that it’s much harder than an electrician to find practical work. Therefore, electrical engineers, for the most part, find work with engineering companies seeking engineers for specialized roles. Electrical engineers, for the most part, are employed by companies. Given the specialized nature of the work, electrical engineers have a much more difficult time being self-employed than electricians. Engineers most of the time will work 9-5 shifts, Monday-Friday, and do most work in an office setting. However, there are field engineering positions, which can allow an engineer to travel and work at different sites rather than just an office all the time.
Electricians, on the other hand, do much more practical, less specialized roles than engineers. Electricians can work for others, such as the government or companies, or they can be self employed and set their own hours and prices per job. It’s much easier for an electrician to be self-employed because he does practical work which can be used in a variety of settings, including residential areas. People may have something wrong with their lighting. They can then call an electrician, who will investigate the problem.
Therefore, electrical engineers and electricians have total different paths. Electrical engineers do more sophisticated, specialized work. Electricians do more practical work. Though electrical engineers have more thorough education, they usually have less flexibility, as self employment is harder to obtain. However, the salary one can make as an electrical engineer is usually much greater than an electrician, as more rigorous education is required. An electrician is a simpler path, but offers more flexibility, as self employment is easier to follow, which allows one to open up his own business and set his own prices and hours.