• Question: What is the difference between electronic engineering, electrical engineering and an electrician?

    Asked by HarryA on 1 Jul 2020.
    • Photo: David Linsell

      David Linsell answered on 1 Jul 2020:


      Caveat. I am a Marine and Mechanical Engineer but have done a lot of work with Electrical/Electronic colleagues.
      Let’s start with the Electrician. They will have some theoretical understanding but for the most part is installing and maintaining systems that other people have designed. Even where the Electrician is putting in a new circuit, he may be doing his ‘design’ from off-the-shelf solutions, rather than designing from first principles. There is nothing wrong with being an Electrician.
      Engineers, in the true form, are people who can develop new schemes and systems from scratch. Generally they require a more in depth theoretical knowledge, e.g. a Degree or something similar.
      Now for Electrical and Electronic Engineering. This I think can be divided broadly by Voltage.
      Electronics Engineers are generally concerned with transistor (now old technology) and microprocessor systems which operate at very low Volts, say <9V. These may ultimately be controlling something much larger.
      Electrical Engineers are dealing with Power. Voltages from 9V to 400,000kV and perhaps more. The UK main grid distribution runs at 400,000kV. So they are dealing with power generators, high voltage transformers, grid distribution systems, step-down transformers, regional and local distribution systems, factory and house systems, motors, pumps fans etc. These systems may often be monitored or controlled by a micro-processor system.

    • Photo: Marcus Kay

      Marcus Kay answered on 1 Jul 2020:


      I’m not an electronic engineer, electrical engineer or electrician but my understanding is that an electronic engineer and electrical engineer are designers of electrical systems, while an electrician is responsible for installation.
      In terms of the team I work within, an electrical/electronic engineer would design the signalling system/electronics for a lift for example, while an electrician would install the signalling system/electronics for the lift.
      The difference between electronic engineer and electrical engineer is a bit more difficult, but my understanding is that an electronic engineer works on more small scale items – like phones for example – while an electrical engineer works on large scale systems and distribution of the electricity – like wiring electricity for a building for example. However, I would guess that the degree and training courses for both would be similar.
      In some cases, an electrician might have a degree in electronic/electrical engineering but it might not be required to get the job – they might have gained the training to be an electrician via an apprenticeship or by guidance from a mentor.

    • Photo: Kimberly Bartlett

      Kimberly Bartlett answered on 1 Jul 2020:


      The answers below are pretty accurate. The basic gist is that electronic engineering is design of small scale and typically (but not always) uses low voltage. There are two types, analogue and digital; the digital is things like microprocessors, chips etc. that create outcomes through digital gates and analogue doesn’t, rather it uses the electricity itself. Things like capacitors are analogue – they store electricity until they can’t anymore then discharge it back in to the circuit when needed.

      Electrical engineering covers the design of larger circuits and is usually used in cabling and protecting power distribution such as houses and street lights. This again is usually split in to High Voltage (HV) and Low Voltage (LV). The HV is typically what you see on the pylons across the countryside but is also present underground so do watch where you dig if you are planning to go deeply. Low voltage is typically what you see in everyday plugs and road lighting circuits.

      Often if you study engineering you actually study both Electrical and Electronic Engineering at college then branch off in to your specialism over time.

      An electrician is a job where a person builds, installs, tests and dismantles electrical equipment.

      If you are hands on, perhaps Electrician is the way for you. If not, perhaps engineering is a better fit. These are largely interchangeable though so you won’t end up stuck. Many engineers also install and many electricians also design.

    • Photo: Amber Villegas - Williamson

      Amber Villegas - Williamson answered on 1 Jul 2020: last edited 1 Jul 2020 4:03 pm


      Hiya, I graduated with a degree in Electrical & Electronic Engineering and now specialise in the Design Analysis of Electrical, Mechanical and Control Systems in Data Centers.

      All the above answers are correct.

      The only thing that I need to highlight is that there are Electrical Engineers, Electronic Engineers and Electricians who are WOMEN (and/or non-binary individuals).

      For my engineering colleague above (David Linsell) it is important to understand that our messaging to these youngsters on this platform needs to reinforce the positive messaging that no matter your gender you are welcome in the industry.

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