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What is the Difference Between Electrical versus Electronics Engineers?New


Most people might venture that electrical engineers deal with power generation and distribution for big things, like electrical networks for cities or buildings. Electronics engineers, on the other hand, work with power usage on a smaller scale, like computers or cell phones. Others might say that electrical engineers usually work with alternating current (AC) in the 220V to kilovolt (kV) range. Or that electronics engineers usually operate in the direct current (DC) area, from microvolts to low voltage.

And both groups would be almost right. Many people use the terms electrical and electronics interchangeably, particularly as even in more concise definitions, there are overlaps and confusion. However, electrical engineering is a wide field of work that can encompass many sub-functions, including electrical engineer, electronics engineer, and microelectronics engineer. Today, we’ll discuss some of the differences between electrical and electronics engineering.

electrical vs electronics

What is Electrical Engineering?

Electrical engineering is the design and application of products and systems that take an electrical current and convert it into another form of energy to do work, like motion, light, or heat. Electrical engineers typically work with systems and machinery on a large scale or modify electricity for radio frequency transmissions. They need to know the basics of electricity that flows through things like power networks, machinery, or systems controls such as in industrial or robotics applications.

What is Electronics Engineering?

Electronics engineering is the design and application of circuits that use components (transistors, capacitors, etc.) to add information to a current and make it perform a useful function. Electrical engineers usually design small electrical paths on circuit boards, linking parts that manipulate or use data to complete a task, like in computers or embedded systems.

Another way to state the difference between electrical and electronics engineering is that a system that uses electricity merely as energy is electrical. If a system uses energy to manipulate information, then it is electronic. It is important to remember that all electronic devices are also electrical devices, but not all electrical devices are electronic.

And since we mentioned it earlier, microelectronics engineering is a sub-function of electronics engineering that deals with the design of electronic devices that incorporate many components on a single chip (solid state). Electronics engineers typically use microelectronic devices in their circuits, but not all electronics engineers design at the micro level.

The Overlap of Electrical and Electronic Engineering

Electrical and electronics engineers often collaborate on design projects to develop new products or improve existing ones. Both types of engineers may work together on an industrial control product, for example, that includes designing the circuit and integrating it into a larger electrical system. This crossover between functions has increased as products and systems that use electricity become increasingly complicated.

Our friends at onlinecomponents.com work with both electrical and electronics engineers on a daily basis to design and develop products and systems with many applications and in many industries. You can access useful information about design solutions on their blog at www.onlinecomponents.com/en/blog/. On top of that, if you want to read some more crucial differences between an electrical and an electronics engineer, check out what our friends have to say: What is the difference between an electronics engineer and an electrical engineer?

Training Needs

If you aspire to be either an electrical or an electronics engineer, the foundation is the same, and you’ll need to understand the basics of electricity, like current, voltage, resistance, etc. As an electrical engineer, you’ll also have to have an understanding of things like machinery, motors, controls, and sensors. To be an electronics engineer, you’ll also have to have a good understanding of the digital world, including embedded systems, networking, and design software tools. In fact, both electrical and electronics engineers will need to master certain software tools for design, testing, and verification.


People will continue to use the terms electrical engineering and electronics engineering interchangeably, especially when they shorten the function to the acronym “EE”. Hopefully, now you have a better understanding of what the difference is between them which will also help you in your decision to know what you want your focus to be.

Authored By

Josh Bishop

Interested in embedded systems, hiking, cooking, and reading, Josh got his bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering from Boise State University. After a few years as a CEC Officer (Seabee) in the US Navy, Josh separated and eventually started working on CircuitBread with a bunch of awesome people. Josh currently lives in southern Idaho with his wife and four kids.

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