Electrical vs. Mechanical Engineering: Which Degree Is Right for You?

View all blog posts under Articles | View all blog posts under Online Master of Science In Electrical Engineering

An engineer wearing a helmet working on a robotic arm in a factory.Almost all new forms of technology hinge on engineering advancements. Engineers are constantly working toward new, better ways to design systems or products and optimize performance.

Electrical and mechanical engineering are at the forefront of these innovations, each contributing to the evolution of science and technology. Whether it’s through more versatile automobile functions or an industrial-level sound system, engineers can make use of their skills to improve on existing tech in nearly endless ways.

Before committing to a career in either discipline, aspiring engineers should understand the differences in electrical vs. mechanical engineering. With this knowledge, they can pursue a field that best aligns with their professional goals. The next course of action is to find the right education to prepare for success in this exciting field, such as a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering program.

Electrical vs. Mechanical Engineering: What’s the Difference?

When comparing electrical and mechanical engineering, distinguishing what each discipline focuses on is important.

Electrical Engineering

In electrical engineering, the design and development of electrical equipment and systems take center stage. Electrical engineers focus on designing and developing electrically powered technology, such as radar technology, global tracking systems, and power generators.

Electrical engineers most commonly work in offices, though their responsibilities may require them to visit a site for inspection, analysis, or repair.

Some duties common to electrical engineers include:

  • Investigating customer complaints and problems pertaining to electrical technology
  • Guiding the manufacturing and installation of electrical equipment
  • Developing or modifying products and techniques that use electrical power
  • Working with peers and managers to ensure projects are within budget and products meet code standards for efficiency and safety

Mechanical Engineering

Mechanical engineers develop the engines, tools, and machines used in daily activities and industrial operations. They prioritize mechanical equipment and devices that allow for smooth performance. They may work in tandem with computer or civil engineers during the creation of infrastructure and computing technology.

Like electrical engineers, most mechanical engineers spend the bulk of the workweek in an office setting, leaving whenever they need to check a product or system.

Common responsibilities for mechanical engineers include:

  • Developing and experimenting with device prototypes
  • Analyzing mechanical and thermal systems and redesigning them for superior performance
  • Ensuring the manufacturing of a newly designed device is accurate and meets security standards
  • Evaluating performance results and improving upon devices as needed

Electrical vs. Mechanical Engineering Degrees: What Will You Learn?

Before pursuing a graduate degree in engineering, prospective students need to understand what they’ll learn in an electrical vs. mechanical engineering master’s program.

Electrical Engineering Degree

The crux of the electrical engineer’s education encompasses communications, computers, navigation systems, and embedded systems. Because of this, an electrical engineering education offers many potential specialties, such as vehicle technology, medical technology, and the complex systems used to run entire buildings. Electrical engineering students learn how to develop test procedures, detail project specifications, research industry practices, interpret data, and write reports.

Graduate students may choose to pursue a variety of subdisciplines based on their interests, including signal processing, power grids, microelectronic technology, and more.

Mechanical Engineering Degree

Students in mechanical engineering programs complete several courses designed to enhance the knowledge and skills they’ll employ in the field, such as designing new systems and devices through the implementation of mechanical processes, mathematical concepts, and creative design principles. Mechanical engineers are trained to recognize a problem in a product or system and design solutions to solve it or mitigate its effects. On a small scale, this could be the slight change in how one operates the gearshift of a car; on a larger scale, it could be the mechanism that pulls up a drawbridge.

Over the course of their mechanical engineering education, students may specialize in a subdiscipline of their choosing, such as thermal science, robotics development, advanced machinery, or vehicle design.

How Electrical and Mechanical Engineering Work Together

In many ways, the relationship between electrical and mechanical engineering is mutually beneficial. Broadly speaking, mechanical engineers are responsible for the structural development of a device or system, while electrical engineers ensure the technological guts of the device or system are operational. This is commonly seen with automobiles and aircraft, neither of which could exist without both types of engineering.

In the case of an airplane, for example, mechanical engineers are responsible for the machine’s frame, joints, moving parts, and aerodynamic integrity, while electrical engineers are chiefly responsible for making all the parts work properly. They handle the lights, communication apparatus, and autopilot, among dozens of other features.

Electrical and mechanical engineering are defined not only by their relationship to each other but also by their cross-disciplinary work with other engineering fields, such as computer engineering or civil engineering.

Pursue a Career in Engineering

As the relationship between science and technology continues to advance, engineers will evolve their practices and refine their skills to improve the modern world.

If you’re considering a career in electrical engineering, explore Ohio University’s online Master of Science in Electrical Engineering. This program can help you evolve your understanding of the concepts and technical skills for a competitive advantage in this fast-growing field.

The electrical engineer is an agent of innovation and connectedness. Some courses featured in Ohio University’s curriculum include Computational Tools for Engineers and Design of Digital Circuits. For students interested in a highly specialized career path, the program offers concentrations such as Autonomous Unmanned Vehicles, Communications and Digital Signal Processing, Computer Engineering, Electronic Navigation Systems, and Micro-Nano Devices and Systems. Explore the program and be a leader in technological advancement with Ohio University.

Recommended Readings

Electrical Engineering Skills for MSEE Graduates

What Is Computer Engineering?

7 Popular Electrical Engineering Careers


Austin Nichols Technical Search, “5 Different Types of Engineers Explained”

Interesting Engineering, “35 Inventions That Changed the World”

NewScientist, “What Does an Electrical Engineer Do?”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Electrical and Electronics Engineers

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Mechanical Engineers