Electrical vs. Mechanical Engineering Comparison | UC Riverside (2023)

Electrical vs. Mechanical Engineering Comparison | UC Riverside (1)

The engineering field is incredibly broad in its reach. From aeronautical to nanotechnology, engineers in these specialties and many more combine mathematical and scientific principles to make the current way of doing something with a particular product, item or service even better than it was before. Whether it’s commercial jetliners that traverse the world or appliances that make dinner preparation faster, engineers have a hand in many aspects of day-to-day life, each very different from the next.

Certain engineering disciplines, however, are quite similar. Case in point: mechanical vs electrical engineers. Both professions are highly rewarding and entail investigation, analysis and design of equipment and devices, but one is slightly broader in its scope than the other.

How do you decide whether electrical vs mechanical engineering is right for you? By better understanding how the two compare and contrast. An online Master of Science in Engineering from the University of California Riverside can supply you with the training, experience and skills you need to excel as an engineer, no matter which specialty you decide to pursue.

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Electrical engineering vs. mechanical engineering: Which should I choose?

To the outside observer, mechanical engineers and electrical engineers may appear as if they’re cut from the same cloth. As detailed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, each position requires a heavy dose of creativity, mathematical and mechanical skills and a discerning ability to identify and solve problems (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018). They’re also employed by many of the same business entities, including but not limited to research and development, computer systems, software, telecommunications and product manufacturing firms.

Perhaps the biggest distinction between electrical engineering and mechanical engineering is how energy is used in each discipline. Whereas electrical engineers focus on power generation — such as electricity — mechanical engineers focus on power application – getting physical parts, motors and components to behave or act in a desired manner. Classic examples of the types of machines mechanical engineers may design or manufacture include internal combustion engines, gas turbines, fans in air conditioning units and rechargeable batteries in handheld devices.

The BLS details several other job functions of mechanical engineers:

  • Design material-handling systems (conveyor belts, pulleys, automated transfer stations).
  • Investigate technical glitches with sensors or components and offer solutions for how to overcome them.
  • Oversee manufacturing processes of state-of-the-art devices.

Electrical engineers, meanwhile, are more “big picture” when it comes to the study of power usage and generation. They may be tasked with developing new or alternative ways of utilizing electricity (e.g., current management) or other energy sources to improve efficiency or cost savings. They may also be responsible for examining issues that are preventing electronic, technological or service-related equipment from performing correctly. The utilization of energy is mainly something that electrical engineers would focus on, whereas issues with equipment due to defective components or chips would fall under the auspices of electronics engineers.

In either case, problems may come up in the development and design phase or after they’ve reached the consumer marketplace. In these instances, electrical and electronics engineers may work with other agencies or entities to assure quality assurance, such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission or ASTM International (formerly known as American Society for Testing and Materials) or federal governing bodies, like the Department of Energy.

Here are a few other responsibilities often held by electrical and electronics engineers:

  • Create computer chips for new computer software or systems.
  • Introduce alternative applications or modifications to enhance technical performance.
  • Evaluate energy systems and offer recommendations for how to modify them so they last longer.

There’s a significant amount of overlap between electrical engineering and mechanical engineering. As such, many of those who specialize in either discipline may work for the same types of organizations, such as semiconductor manufacturers, navigation systems designers or utility service providers.

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As for which specialty you should choose, it all depends on your likes and interests and where you believe your professional strengths lie. The online master’s program at UC Riverside features curriculum that can help you narrow down which discipline is more suited to your career goals. The four-credit courses include Engineering in the Global Environment, Introduction to Systems Engineering, Principles of Engineering Management and Technology Innovation and Strategy for Engineers.

Whichever specialization you select, your coursework will include these programs. Each class is custom designed to supply you with the intellectual and practical skills you need to succeed in the vast field of engineering.

Which degree pays a higher salary: electrical engineering or mechanical engineering?

Another way in which mechanical and electrical engineers are similar is in their potential earnings. According to the most recent figures available from the BLS, an entry-level mechanical engineer in 2018 made approximately $56,270. Electrical engineers earned slightly more at $61,190 (Bureau of Labor Stastistics, 2018).

The median pay for both professions is also relatively similar, per the BLS. Here as well, electrical engineers’ earnings are higher, at $96,640 to mechanical engineers’ $87,370 (Bureau of Labor Stastistics, 2018).

In either case, however, it’s not unusual for mechanical and electrical engineers to eventually earn six-figure salaries. Indeed, the highest 10% of mechanical engineers made a wage of $136,550 in 2018, while electrical engineers earned $162,200 (Bureau of Labor Stastistics, 2018)

Exactly how much you can make in mechanical engineering vs. electric engineering is largely a function of your level of academic experience and how long you’ve been in this line of work. As with most other professions, more seasoned engineers tend to earn more than those still in entry-level positions. However, because advanced degrees are highly sought after by many employers, you stand to potentially earn more money straight out of college with a master’s degree than you would with a bachelor’s degree.

The portion of the country in which you wind up working may also factor into earnings. This goes for mechanical and electrical engineers as well as other engineering disciplines. For example, as noted by the BLS, the median annual wage for professionals in civil engineering in Massachusetts is approximately $84,000 (Bureau of Labor Stastistics, 2018). In California, the median is just shy of $99,800. Factors affecting wages include cost of living, supply and demand and which types of employers are based in each state.

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Which job is more stressful: electrical engineering or mechanical engineering?

Stress is something that just about everyone can attest to experiencing to some degree or another, particularly when it comes to their job. Roughly 80% of Americans say they encounter it frequently, according to polling by Gallup (Gallup, 2017). The biggest stressors include children and work.

That said, it is difficult to qualify which line of work – electrical engineering vs mechanical engineering – is more stressful. Each occupation requires an ability to think critically so problems can be resolved. Some of these issues can have life-altering implications. For example, electronics engineers who work on medical devices may be tasked with coming up with new equipment that can better diagnose and detect serious diseases, like cancer or certain deadly viral strains. They must be sure that the methods they introduce or suggest don’t have side effects.

Mechanical engineers, meanwhile, may be involved with creating a new motor that makes power equipment more effective in terms of handling more work or weight. However, there’s always a chance that a new component may fail, potentially resulting in injury for those using said equipment. Thus, mechanical engineers must walk a delicate balance between improving products so that they work and perform better but without compromising users’ safety.

The engineering discipline is all about making current processes work better or introducing new ones. This requires creativity, inventiveness and the use of time-tested principles to create solutions or solve problems when they happen – or, better yet, before they occur. In short, it’s a performance-oriented business. Relying on your hard and soft skills can help you overcome stressors no matter when or how they present themselves.

Whether your area of interest is machinery and tools or the power and processes that make those machines work, an online Master of Science in Engineering at UC Riverside can energize your future. Apply today to learn more.

Recommended Readings

Where a Master’s in Electrical Engineering May Take You

How Will The Internet of Things Change Mechanical Engineering?

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University of California, Riverside Electrical Engineering Program

University of California, Riverside Mechanical Engineering Program


Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018. Electric and electronics engineers. Retrieved from:


Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018. Mechanical engineers. Retrieved from:


Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016. Employment and wages of engineers. Retrieved from:

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Gallup, 2017. Eight in 10 Americans Afflicted by Stress. Retrieved from:



What pays more electrical or mechanical engineering? ›

The median pay for both professions is also relatively similar, per the BLS. Here as well, electrical engineers' earnings are higher, at $96,640 to mechanical engineers' $87,370 (Bureau of Labor Stastistics, 2018).

Is mechanical engineering tougher than electrical engineering? ›

Mechanical engineering is much more difficult. But not because of the curriculum. In fact, electrical engineering is more theoretical and, as such, is more difficult. The difference is that mechanical engineering students may be distracted by friends.

What type of engineer is Tony Stark? ›

The character Tony Stark dabbles in all fields, from computer science/AI to mechatronics to electrical engineering to mathematics. In the comics, his degree is in electrical engineering.

Should I take electrical or mechanical engineering? ›

Answer. As both are the good and most demanding branches among students, also students should choose the one as per their interest and potential. As Electrical engineering is the bridge between computer science and mechanical engineering.

How do I choose between electrical and mechanical engineering? ›

While mechanical engineering deals with the moving parts of any machine or system, electrical engineering involves the creation and application of equipment that uses (or produces) electricity.

Which engineering has highest salary? ›

Top 10 Highest Paying Engineering Jobs of 2022
  • Systems Engineer. ...
  • Electrical Engineer. ...
  • Chemical Engineer. ...
  • Big Data Engineer. ...
  • Nuclear Engineer. ...
  • Aerospace Engineer. ...
  • Computer Hardware Engineer. ...
  • Petroleum Engineer.
24 Mar 2022

What is the hardest engineering degree? ›

Chemical engineering

What is the easiest engineering degree to get? ›

Easiest Engineering Degrees
  • Structural Engineering.
  • Applied Engineering.
  • Chemical engineering.
  • Mechanical Engineering.
  • Software Engineering.
  • Civil Engineering.
  • Computer Engineering.
  • Biomedical Engineering.

Which type of engineer is Elon Musk? ›

Elon Musk has no formal engineering degree, but he clearly is industrial engineer by profession. His approach to business and problem solving is typical industrial engineering approach. His actual degrees (BS in both economics and physics) have good overlap with undergraduate curriculum in IE.

What engineering did Elon Musk study? ›

Musk doesn't have an engineering degree – and kind of has a science degree. He began the first in physics at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, after he moved to Canada from his native South Africa.

Is mechanical engineering hardest? ›

The field of mechanical engineering ranks as one of the hardest majors in part because of its technical requirements. Students must take advanced mathematics and science courses as part of their training.

Which engineering is best for future? ›

Here are the best engineering branches and courses for the future:
  • Aerospace Engineering.
  • Chemical Engineering.
  • Electrical and Electronics Engineering.
  • Petroleum Engineering.
  • Telecommunication Engineering.
  • Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.
  • Robotics Engineering.
  • Biochemical Engineering.

Is electrical engineering a stressful job? ›

Stress. While working as an electrical engineer can be rewarding, it can also be challenging. Electrical engineers are responsible for troubleshooting and resolving issues to ensure each system, device and component they work on operates effectively.

Are electrical engineers happy? ›

As it turns out, electrical engineers rate their career happiness 3.1 out of 5 stars which puts them in the bottom 40% of careers.

Are electrical engineers more in demand than mechanical engineers? ›

The demand for mechanical engineers is higher than for electrical engineers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, electrical engineers with additional expertise in electronics and computer hardware engineering are in greater demand than mechanical engineers.

Are mechanical engineers happy? ›

On average, people in the role rate their job satisfaction 3.7 out of 5, based on data from 4,496 mechanical engineers provided by PayScale. Payscale classifies a 3.7 score as "highly satisfied."

Can I switch from mechanical to electrical engineering? ›

Yes. Absolutely! If you are uninhibited, you can work in any engineering field, learned various ways. Recommend you study mechanical engineering (ME) first.

Which engineer is most in demand? ›

The Most In Demand Engineering Jobs For 2022
  • Automation and robotics engineer. ...
  • Data science & data analytics engineer. ...
  • Project engineer. ...
  • Renewable energy engineer. ...
  • Civil engineer. ...
  • Environmental engineer. ...
  • Biomedical engineer. ...
  • Software systems engineer.
14 Feb 2022

Which engineering is easy and highest salary? ›

Petroleum engineering, aerospace engineers, computer science engineering are few of the highest paying engineering branches in India.

Is electrical engineering hard? ›

The electrical engineering major is considered one of the most difficult majors in the field, and these are the common reasons students list to explain why it is hard: There is a lot of abstract thinking involved.

Do Electrical engineers make a lot of money? ›

An Electrical Engineer Salary can exceed $254k per year. Some of the highest paying careers in the world are in the field of electrical engineering. Electrical engineering jobs are among the most profitable jobs out there, an electrical engineer salary can exceed $254,000 per year.

Why is mechanical engineering so hard? ›

Mechanical engineers work with challenging concepts and complex formulae. Mechanical engineering is mathematically rigorous and you must have a sound understanding of algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus to succeed in this field. There are numerous resources you can use to improve your math skills.

Is an electrical engineering degree worth it? ›

Computer and electrical engineers are among the highest paying job roles in the engineering field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for electrical engineers in 2019 was $98,530, with higher salaries exceeding $155,000.

How do you know if engineering is for you? ›

10 Things to Do to Decide if Engineering Is Right for You
  • Do you like to solve problems?
  • Do you like to think of new ways to do things?
  • Do you like puzzles and other mind challenging games?
  • Do you like working with computers?
  • Do you enjoy a challenge?
  • Do you wonder how things work?
9 May 2018

What type of engineer is Mark Zuckerberg? ›

Meet Mark Zuckerberg, an impressive and talented Microsoft engineer.

What type of engineer is Jeff Bezos? ›

He holds a degree in electrical engineering and computer science. He worked on Wall Street in a variety of related fields from 1986 to early 1994. Bezos founded Amazon in late 1994 on a road trip from New York City to Seattle.

Which is better physicist or engineer? ›

While the difference is subtle, it is important to not confuse the two. Simply put, a physicist studies the way the universe works, while an engineer applies the information gathered from these studies to solve problems and improve life for others.

Is Bill Gates an engineer? ›

Yet, many successful company founders and/or CEOs started their careers as engineers: Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Sundar Pichai, Steve Wozniak, Jeff Bezos, Alexander Graham Bell and Henry Ford, to name a few.

Which is better scientist or engineer? ›

Scientists observe the world, while engineers focus on creating. Both field require observation and analysis, though engineering deals with creating and working on already existing creations. Engineering is more specific than science.

Is mechanical engineer a stressful job? ›

Yes, mechanical engineering is a stressful job.

This is because mechanical engineers are always busy designing, developing, and testing mechanical and thermal devices. According to the Bureau of Labor Studies, more than one-third of mechanical engineers work over 40 hours a week.

Is mechanical engineering math heavy? ›

The physical laws governing engineering are heavily mathematical, and so is the training for mechanical engineers. The field requires proficiency in algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics and differential equations.

Is mechanical engineering worth it 2022? ›

Mechanical engineers are and will be in demand in 2022 and beyond. Mechanical engineering is very versatile and central to many occupations in industry. The demand is driven by technological innovation that is happening in areas such as energy transition among many others.

Which engineering has highest salary? ›

Top 10 Highest Paying Engineering Jobs of 2022
  • Systems Engineer. ...
  • Electrical Engineer. ...
  • Chemical Engineer. ...
  • Big Data Engineer. ...
  • Nuclear Engineer. ...
  • Aerospace Engineer. ...
  • Computer Hardware Engineer. ...
  • Petroleum Engineer.
24 Mar 2022

Do Electrical engineers make a lot of money? ›

An Electrical Engineer Salary can exceed $254k per year. Some of the highest paying careers in the world are in the field of electrical engineering. Electrical engineering jobs are among the most profitable jobs out there, an electrical engineer salary can exceed $254,000 per year.

Why are mechanical engineers underpaid? ›

Everyone is of the opinion that the primary reason why mechanical engineer is less paid because the equipments, instruments, tools and machineries used for on board production are 10 times expansive than using in IT industry. Simply it says that the setup cost in core industry is higher.

Which engineer is most in demand? ›

The Most In Demand Engineering Jobs For 2022
  • Automation and robotics engineer. ...
  • Data science & data analytics engineer. ...
  • Project engineer. ...
  • Renewable energy engineer. ...
  • Civil engineer. ...
  • Environmental engineer. ...
  • Biomedical engineer. ...
  • Software systems engineer.
14 Feb 2022

Which engineering is hardest? ›

What Is the Hardest Engineering Major?
Top 3 Hardest Engineering MajorsTop 3 Easiest Engineering Majors
1. Chemical engineering (19.66 hours)1. Industrial engineering (15.68 hours)
2. Aero and astronautical engineering (19.24 hours)2. Computer engineering and technology (16.46 hours)
1 more row

Which engineer is best for future? ›

15 best engineering jobs for the future
  • Civil engineer.
  • Chemical engineer.
  • Environmental engineer.
  • Biomedical engineer.
  • Safety engineer.
  • Hardware engineers.
  • Aeronautical engineer.
  • Engineering managers.

Can electrical engineers make 500k? ›


They can specialize and work in fields such as aerospace, biomedical, nuclear, electrical, chemical and petroleum, all of which can pay well over half a million dollars per year. Engineers who think of and develop new technologies or products can profit off those ideas and patents significantly.

Which field in electrical engineer is best? ›

Here are some of the top job options that involve electrical engineering:
  • Electrical technician.
  • Electrician.
  • Controls engineer.
  • Test engineer.
  • Electrical project manager.
  • Electrical designer.
  • Sustainability engineer.
  • Electrical engineer.

Which engineering can make you a millionaire? ›

Computer Science

This makes it one of the degrees that makes the most millionaires. The average starting salary for graduates in computer science degrees is roughly $61,000, which is second only to engineering graduates. That is incredibly high for a first job, and things can really take off from there.

Is there no future for mechanical engineering? ›

In the coming months and years, there will undoubtedly be a rise in demand for renewable energy and sustainable technologies, and this shift will dramatically affect the future of mechanical engineering. The future for the industry is bright – but it has to be green. It'll be interesting to see what 2022 holds.

Why there is no job in mechanical engineering? ›

There are so many reasons behind the joblessness of mechanical engineers (include other engineers too) in India: Lack of skills : Today, every 3 candidates among 5 are engineers. But still, if we search for a skilled one, it's very difficult to find a skilled engineer.

Why is IT so hard to find a mechanical engineering job? ›

This is mostly due to the technical aspects of an engineer's position. There are many interviews, screenings, and deliberations to conduct before committing to the right candidate. However, taking so long to find and hire the right mechanical engineer just makes it more difficult to fill open positions.

Which field is best in mechanical engineering? ›

Top 10 Mechanical Engineering jobs for Freshers
  • Defense Engineers: ...
  • Research and Development Engineer: ...
  • Product Design Engineer: ...
  • Sales and Marketing Engineer: ...
  • Tool Engineer: ...
  • Production Engineer: ...
  • Maintenance Engineer: ...
  • Quality Assurance:

Are mechanical engineers in demand? ›


The Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected Mechanical Engineers employment rate will go up by 9% by 2026. Driving this growth are innovations within the automation, medical device, biotechnology and aerospace industries.

Can mechanical engineers make 6 figures? ›

The BLS may have reported mean annual wages of nearly $93,000 (and a median wage of $87,370), but more experienced and higher-up mechanical engineers can make quite a bit more than that, and well into six figures.


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