Aspiring electricians often think that electrical engineering and electrical technology are the same.
But that’s not the case.
That’s why we’ll explore what each degree is about so you can know what type of electrician you want to pursue as a career.
Electrical Engineering Programs
These programs prepare students for jobs in the design and development of electrical systems.
Here, you’ll learn to develop, test, and supervise the production and installation of these systems.
It focuses on high-voltage systems where you’ll get involved in distribution systems and power engineering in civil and industrial projects.
In addition, it has overlapping fields with other related degree programs such as electronics engineering.
Upon completing this, some jurisdictions will allow you to substitute a number of years or hours of experience to obtain a master electrician license.
Electrical Technology Programs
These programs prepare students to work on everyday wiring, maintenance, and repair of electrical systems in buildings.
You’ll learn manual skills for front-line jobs as commercial, residential, industrial, and construction electricians.
These skills include installing, maintaining, repairing, and upgrading electrical systems.
Completing this degree can partially substitute the required experience for a journeyman electrician license in many jurisdictions.
Differences and Similarities Between Electrical Engineering and Electrical Technology
In the Course Curriculum
Some coursework overlaps between the two degrees since both prepare students to become electricians in the construction industry.
Some of the common subjects they share are producing and reading blueprints, working in CAD, and drafting programs.
However, there are two significant differences between these degrees as discussed below.
Electrical Engineering Programs Teach Electrical Theory and Systems Design
Electrical engineering programs focus mostly on math and science.
You’re required to understand and make calculations based on physics governing electrical interactions.
You’ll do a lot of math modeling work that teaches you the needed skills to design and simulate new electrical circuitry and systems.
The courses of these programs usually include:
- Microprocessor design
- Electrical circuit design
- Linear devices
- Technical writing
- Interfaces and instrumentation
Electrical Technology Programs Teach Hands-on Skills Related to Wiring Buildings
Programs in electrical technology are more hands-on.
They focus on the application of electrical principles to solve issues in electrical systems.
That’s why they mostly focus on providing you with hands-on training in the lab or shop environment.
Some of the courses you’ll take include:
- OSHA safety standards
- Power generation
- Wiring, raceways, and conduits for residential, commercial, and industrial construction projects
- National Electrical Code (NEC)
- Motor controls
- Industrial controls
In the Real Work Setting
Both programs focus on safety principles while working with electricity and related equipment.
In other words, both will simulate actual job site situations where you’ll ensure personal protection while performing the best methods of installation.
Also, you’re expected to update construction documentation for accountability and transparency.
Meanwhile, here are their differences:
Electricians Build Electrical Systems and Infrastructure
Being graduates of electrical technology programs, electricians are responsible for bringing all the grand engineering plans to life.
They are the ones who take blueprints to build systems that generate and distribute light, power, and heat to the world.
Because of this, they have to travel occasionally to the job site to perform the electrical work.
There, they work with specialized tools to solder, crimp, and pull wiring in place.
They’ll read blueprints and interpret them to put together the electrical wiring systems.
Electrical Engineers Design It
Electrical engineers make sure that homes and buildings have efficient electrical systems to run the operation.
So they design, test, and supervise the construction and installation of electrical systems, products, and components.
They do a lot of drafting and paperwork, translating ideas into schematics and blueprints.
Electrician Licensing for Electrical Engineering and Electrical Technology Graduates
Students in electrical technology programs are heading for careers in the electrical trade.
The education you get from this program is roughly equal to what you would learn in an apprenticeship.
So some states allow you to sit for the exam for a journeyman electrician license.
In this case, you won’t need as much on-the-job experience.
A journeyman electrician license usually requires 4 years or 8,000 hours of supervised experience as an apprentice.
Some jurisdictions allow candidates to substitute a year (2,000 hours) of this experience with a two-year AAS in Electrical Technology.
Meanwhile, an electrical engineering degree isn’t usually a direct path to the electrical trade.
These students are eligible to use their school time to meet the experience requirements.
But commonly, they would either have to sit for the state engineering exam or could progress to the master electrician level in the states allowing that.
For example, in New York, electrical engineers can substitute up to 7.5 years of experience with 2.5 years of schooling.
Some people take both paths during their careers.
They earn an associate’s degree in electrical technology to qualify for a journeyman exam.
Then, they go back to school to earn a bachelor’s in electrical engineering to meet some requirements for master electrician.
With either option, you can be prepared for a job as a professional electrician.
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