For an average person not familiar with the world of engineering, deciphering the difference between Mechanical and Electrical engineering would be a tough nut to crack. However, if you ever had the pleasure of indulging in any engineering-related services, you have probably realized the massive difference between the two and exactly how pivotal their importance is to the world.
The confusion around Electrical and Mechanical engineering stems from the fact that often these skills are required by the same industry. The engineers may even have to collaborate on certain fronts. Coupled with the fact that both require expert mathematical skills and exceptional problem-solving abilities makes it almost impossible for an average person to discern one from the other.
Albeit the similarities, there are plenty of essential differences between the two types of engineering that can help you understand them better. In this article, we will compare Electrical and Mechanical engineering, discussing the differences in fieldwork, pay, and much more.
Mechanical engineering covers the broad designing and maintenance of power, energy, weapons systems, aviation and transportation products, and other essential equipment that follows the laws of mechanics. The field gained strength during the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century. Eventually, as technology progressed, it became much more diverse and rich than anyone could have imagined.
As of today, mechanical engineering is made up of many formidable sub-disciplines, opening up a way to many career paths. This diversity and richness also mean that mechanical engineering can be found in many other fields and, in some cases, go hand-in-hand with them, e.g., electrical engineering. These engineers may work on different parts of the same project, hence delivering a collaborative piece of work.
The following are some sub-disciplines of mechanical engineering:
Covers the study of forces and how they affect an object.
Is the study of objects and systems in motion.
Mechatronics and Robotics
Involve designing, creating, and maintaining hybrid machines and robots.
Structural and Failure Analysis
Helps determine faults in systems and how to fix them.
The study of energy and its transfer.
Technical drawing (Drafting) and CNC
The design and creation of products.
Deals with the creation of microscopic devices.
Mechanical engineering relies on these sub-disciplines to analyze, design, manufacture, and maintain systems and devices efficiently.
Electrical Engineering and its Disciplines
Electrical engineering has been around as early back as the early 16th century. Exceptional physicists like George Ohm, Michael Faraday, and James Clark Maxwell boosted the field with their work. Their work was fundamental in the development of electrical engineering and forms the basis for many vital concepts that are taught to this date.
As the name suggests, the field is associated with the usage of electricity and drawing energy from it. Electrical engineering may also include electronic engineering since that too is based around power and motor control.
Just like mechanical engineering, electrical engineering has many sub-disciplines. Here are some of them:
Covers the generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity across systems.
Includes modeling and designing dynamic systems and controllers.
Is the design and testing of electronic circuits.
Works on microcircuit components and their applications.
It is used to control signals by analyzing and manipulating them.
Is responsible for transferring messages and ensuring communication through various channels.
As its name suggests, it involves designing instruments that work on pressure, flow, and temperature.
Covers the mechanics and design of computer systems.
Differences in Field-work Between Mechanical Engineering & Electrical Engineering:
1. Mechanical Engineering:
The work of a mechanical engineer varies depending on the requirements and details of the project they are working on. Most commonly, they can be found working on providing products that are used daily.
Since the field heavily focuses on the physical production of systems and machines, engineers in a mechanical engineering company can be seen working on designing, producing, and improving highly valuable machines and tools. However, their work is not limited to physical aspects only.
Mechanical engineers can also work as consultants in offices and offer services by overlooking and managing projects where machines are built, broken down, or improved.
Most mechanical engineers also work closely with the construction industry and extend their skills in helping with architecture. They work alongside architects and provide their manufacturing and research skills to help create formidable structures or make repairs.
Commonly, mechanical engineers work in a company to research, design, develop, create and test the mechanical components of machines, devices, and tools. Their work description may include the following:
- Analysing and figuring out problems in mechanical devices.
- Looking for the most efficient and effective ways to solve these problems.
- Helping in figuring out a layout and design for systems based on principles of mechanics and thermodynamics.
- Using CADs to develop these designs from analytics.
- Working on prototypes by testing and improving them.
- Performing diagnosis of equipment failure.
- Making the required changes in devices and systems with the help of analysis to prevent any failure.
- Overlooking, managing, and supervising the process of production.
Companies offering mechanical engineering services often compile this with other services, thus offering a full package. For instance, SANA ME, a mechanical engineering company in Nigeria, offers as many as seven unique services, including mechanical and electrical engineering, industrial plumbing, building management systems, among others.
2. Electrical Engineering:
Since electrical engineers go through a rigorous and extensive program to earn their degrees, like mechanical engineers, they are qualified for a wide range of jobs in many industries.
Generally, an electrical engineer’s job description consists of a large number of skills, such as project management and circuit theory. In real life, their work can be as simple as using a voltmeter to perform a task or as sophisticated as being a top-end analyzer for designing and manufacturing software.
Electrical engineers, like any other engineer, work on designing, developing, and testing products and processes. In an electrical engineering services company, they particularly work on electrical components and systems. Their work can be extended to many other industries, for example, designing electrical systems for automobiles and aircraft. The electric equipment found in communication and broadcast systems like music players, GPA systems, etc., are designed and produced by an electrical engineer.
Other job roles based on their work description include:
- Creating new leases which can improve the quality, functionality, and efficiency of electrical components and systems.
- Working on creating extensive standards and requirements for the design, production, manufacture, and testing of electrical devices and systems through complicated calculations.
- Overlooking and managing projects involving installation, testing, and the usage of electrical components to ensure workers are following the industry standards and client’s requirements.
- Finding failures in components and analyzing the client’s demands to create plans for solving problems and satisfying requirements.
- Working together with other project managers to ensure the requirements are followed and products are tested properly.
Differences in Pay Between Mechanical Engineering and Electrical Engineering:
While there is no definite way of figuring out which field earns more money, we can rely on statistics to get an idea of how much the two fields earn. There are a lot of factors that can affect your salary. Depending on your job description, work requirement, country, state, the company you are working for, and your position within the company, your salary may differ. According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics in 2018, an entry-level mechanical engineer made approximately $56,270 in 2018.
Comparing this with the $61,190 earned by an entry-level electrical engineer, we can note that electrical engineers made slightly more. The study also tells us the median pay, which is as follows: electrical engineers’ earnings are higher, at $96,640 to mechanical engineers’ $87,370 (Bureau of Labour Statistics, 2018).
Despite these odds, it is quite common for an engineer with years of experience to cross the 6-digits salary mark. The BLS so states that the highest 10% of mechanical engineers made a wage of $136,550 in 2018, while electrical engineers earned $162,200.
The two engineering fields heavily depend on academic requirements. In fact, an engineering degree is a necessity if you want a job in the field. Due to the intensity of the degree, an engineer is likely to get a higher salary than most jobs with little to no experience. An entry-level engineer with a bachelor’s degree will get a decent job with no experience. An engineer with a master’s degree will make even more. Needless to say, the more experience you have, the higher your salary will be.
The Bottom Line
In the end, it all boils down to the interest of the person. Both mechanical and electrical engineering are rewarding jobs with high demands and salaries. Many engineering universities offer both courses, and it can take 4-5 years to get a degree. Students can then further their knowledge by pursuing a master’s or Ph.D. in the field of their choice. We hope you can use the knowledge in this article to decide what works best for you.