What Is the Difference Between Electrical and Electronics Engineering?

Whether you would like to design and build electrical devices or learn the inner workings of electrical devices that are loaded with electronics, you may want to build a career in electrical or electronics engineering. At times, the line is clear between these areas, while at others, it gets a bit fuzzy. Read on to learn how to spot some static differences between electrical engineering and electronics engineering. Schools offering Electrical Engineering degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Distinction Between Electrical and Electronics Engineering

Although a piece of equipment may be riddled with electronic components, it's considered fodder for electronics engineers if power is the focus of its use. To put it more plainly, when you look at a piece of equipment, consider whether it could work without chips or a motherboard. Cell phones couldn't run without these components, so that would be in the realm of electronics engineering. On the other hand, a hydro-electric power plant can be filled with electronic regulatory and monitoring panels, but because it could run without these gadgets, the plant falls into the electrical engineering category.

Electrical Engineers

As an electrical engineer, your job is to research and develop ways of transmitting electrical power through mechanical objects and finding ways of storing the energy, as well. You also work with electrical signals. While cell phones may be developed through electronic engineering, the voice and the visual and text data are sent through electrical signals. The satellites that transmit a signal to another phone is another example of electrical engineering at work. On a larger scale, some of the areas in which electrical engineers work include:

  • Electromagnetics
  • Optics (lasers)
  • Power efficiency
  • Motors
  • Lighting
  • Utility-power transmission

Electronics Engineering

If you work in electronics engineering, you focus on both electronics engineering and computer engineering. College-degree programs may merge these two areas into a single field. The difference between the two areas is that computer engineers only work with computers and computer-related devices. Here are some items that are common to the electronics engineering profession:

  • Portable music devices
  • Global positioning devices
  • Broadcasting systems
  • Telecommunication devices and systems
  • Analog circuitry

Side by Side Employment Comparison

The figures below were taken from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). The salary information comes from a May 2012 report for each of the engineering disciplines. The employment increase projections are for the 2012-2022 decade.

Electrical Engineers Electronics Engineers
Employment Outlook 5% Increase 3% Increase
Median Annual Salary $87,920 $91,820

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