What Are the Differences Between Electric and Electronics Engineering?

By John Koehler November 1, 2020

Electrical and electronics engineering are related, yet distinct fields, with some amount of overlap. Electrical engineering is a division of engineering focused on the generation and distribution of power, primarily in the form of electricity. Electrical engineers mainly focus on the transmission of electrical power through mechanical equipment, ensuring power flows properly from one location to another. Electronics engineering may be considered a sub-discipline of electrical engineering. It is focused on the design and proper maintenance of electronic equipment, including components and circuitry in computers and related devices.

A useful example that demonstrates the differences of these two types of engineering is the smartphone. An electronics engineer would create and assemble the components of the phone, while an electrical engineer would focus on transforming digital data generated from the phone into signals that can be transmitted along with satellite relays. Both kinds of professionals design software and equipment, but their tasks differ in scope. Electrical engineering is a broader field, while electronics engineering is more specific.

What Is Electrical Engineering?

Electrical engineers work on large-scale electrical projects, as well as design, test and oversee the manufacturing of specific equipment or systems. This includes engineering power systems, coordinating signal processing and designing radar and navigation systems, power generating equipment, electric motors and the electrical systems found within vehicles and aircraft. Electrical engineers may develop new methods for energy utilization to improve cost or efficiency and optimize processes for infrastructure. They perform detailed calculations to establish production standards and codes, manage project schedules and funds, investigate equipment performance issues, and provide solutions to various problems.

What Is Electronics Engineering?

A subset of electrical engineering, electronics engineering focuses on the construction and optimization of electronics equipment for scientific, medical, commercial, industrial, government and military applications. Electronics engineers work in areas such as computing, manufacturing and transportation. They design the internal circuitry of electronic products, including televisions, satellites, cell phones, GPS devices, audio-visual equipment, broadcast and communication networks, and radar and sonar systems. Electronics engineers analyze customer needs, create electrical system plans, develop maintenance procedures, perform inspections to guarantee safety standards, and recommend modifications for improved performance.

Is There Any Overlap Between the Two?

Electrical and electronics engineers share many primary responsibilities and often work together on the same projects. They both assess and improve existing products, design and create new products, and supervise the construction of various systems and equipment. Both use engineering and design software, perform mathematical calculations and prepare appropriate budgets for clients.

An example of how both types of engineers may work together can be seen in the computer chip. An electronics engineer would build the internal parts of the chip, while an electrical engineer would concentrate on integrating the chip into a larger, connected system. Proper energy utilization of the chip would be the focus of the electrical engineer, while malfunctioning components would be inspected by the electronics engineer. Just as with the cell phone, the difference between the two is a matter of scope. Both professionals are equally valuable, just in different ways.

What Employment Opportunities Available?

Electrical engineers are most commonly employed in the following industries: engineering services, the generation and distribution of electricity, and research and development projects in all types of scientific fields. They may work on electrical power grids, 5G networks and renewable energy systems. Electrical engineers typically work in offices, some focusing on energy production and others on research. They can earn an average yearly salary of $74,785 to start and $97,000 to $106,000 after ten or more years.

Due to the sheer amount of technology being produced, the demand for electronics engineers is at an all-time high and will only continue to grow. Electronics engineers are most commonly employed in the following industries like telecommunications, engineering services and federal government services. They typically work in offices, as well. An average yearly salary is $76, 840 to start, and $95,000 to $108,000 after ten or more years.

The global pandemic has forced us to rely even more heavily on technology, so the demand for innovative products and services will continue to grow. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that positions in electrical engineering, which includes electronics engineering, will expand 9% by 2026, an estimated 16,200 new positions.

UA Grantham students, including electronics engineering grads, have high success and satisfaction rates after graduation. According to our 2019 DEAC Annual Report, 92% of students achieved their learning goals, 95% are satisfied with their studies, and 93% said they would recommend UA Grantham to a friend.

How Much Education Do These Fields Require?

Just as electrical and electronics engineers have similar job responsibilities and salary prospects, they also require similar amounts of education. Both fields require a four-year bachelor’s degree for entry-level positions and often require a Professional Engineer (PE) license to seek promotions or supervisory roles. An electrical engineer will study electrical engineering, while an electronics engineer will study electronics engineering.

Both types of engineers demonstrate improved earning potential with graduate-level study, which offers specialization in areas such as high-performance computing and artificial intelligence, and provides a more personalized course of study. Electrical and electronics engineering are both popular fields of study for online education. Online programs are as academically rigorous as in-person programs, and students show similar advancement opportunities in both educational formats.

While electrical and electronics engineers do include overlapping job responsibilities and involve similar educational requirements, these two fields have unique differences. Electrical engineers focus on the construction and operation of electrical systems, while electronics engineers focus on the specific components and circuitry within these systems. Both fields, however, require specialized knowledge in related areas of engineering and offer extensive job opportunities.

UA Grantham recognizes that amid the COVID-19 pandemic, time management has become a new challenge. Many parents are now responsible for their children while they learn from home, and others are working multiple jobs to make up for lost income. With these new responsibilities, it can be difficult to focus on pursuing your own education. But even during difficult times, UA Grantham makes it easy to start or re-start progress toward your degree. With no set class times and monthly start dates, you can complete coursework whenever it works best for you.

If you’re seeking a promising career in the engineering and technology field, check out UA Grantham’s College of Science, Engineering and Technology, which includes a Bachelor of Science Electronics Engineering Technology degree program accredited by the Engineering Technology Accreditation Commission of ABET. Contact us today for more information and to begin your program.

About the Author

John Koehler
John Koehler is a senior marketing specialist on University of Arkansas Grantham's marketing operations team. John is passionate about enabling education opportunities and a positive experience for prospective students. John holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree with a concentration in Marketing from Rockhurst University.
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