Although electricians and electrical engineers both work to manage and harness electricity, the jobs are wildly different. While each requires specific training and education in the electricity field, the aspects in which each position focuses are on opposite ends of the spectrum.
What is an electrician?
Electricians work with pre-existing electrical devices. They install, maintain, and repair any number of electric systems in myriad environments. They install all the wires that let you turn on the lights and television, maintain the poles outside that bring that energy into a house or business, set up lighting systems, and make sure the main controls of any systems operated by electricity are running at top notch.
Electricians must be able to read blueprints and be prepared to advise clients about the best products to purchase and ways to install whatever necessities are appropriate for the home or business. Their presence is necessary in virtually every kind of building imaginable, both to make the electricity therein work at all and to keep it working when something goes wrong. They run the risk daily of being shocked or burned, and have to be prepared to go into everything from small, dark areas to the top of an electric pole.
What is an electrical engineer?
Electrical engineers, on the other hand, create all the systems and devices electricians install and fix. Despite the “electrical” prefix, these professionals are closer to an engineer than an electrician. Their job consists of the conception and birth of everything from radar to electric motors to new ways to communicate. They may design something someone else requests, or they may come up with their own inventions. These engineers are responsible not only for the creation, but for the testing, building, and manufacturing of these devices.
Electrical engineers often work in offices and research facilities, but must be prepared to visit particularly complex or large devices wherever they might be, especially during the conception period. They have to understand how to solve problems - both mathematically and practically, using complex electric theories. There are several branches of different types of electrical engineer, allowing for many subspecialties within the profession.
What’s the difference?
An electrical engineer’s medium yearly income is nearly double that of an electrician, but it also takes more education to become an engineer. While an electrician only needs to take enough courses to pass a state test, engineers need a bachelor’s degree - and that’s just to start with. Many places require their engineers to have previous experience, often through cooperative engineering programs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The rate of growth for electrician positions is considerably higher than that of electrical engineers.
Similar to the way that an author writes a book and a publisher provides it to the public, electrical engineers create electric motors, systems, communication devices, or power generators, and electricians install and repair them. Both are absolutely necessary to the public’s use of electricity, and while either might be capable of doing the other’s job, it would require considerable additional testing, training, and licensing to be both.