An electrician wiring a switch

Electricians and Electrical Engineers might appear like similar roles in the electrical industry, but there are significant differences between them. Find out more about what is involved in each job, the skills needed and how much you can earn as an electrician and electrical engineer.


What is an Electrician?

An electrician is qualified to install, repair and maintain electrical systems in residential and commercial buildings. They are employed in most construction and engineering projects, ensuring that electrical systems are safe and working as they should.  


What is an Electrical Engineer?

An electrical engineer is someone who designs, develops and maintains electrical systems for buildings, transport systems and power distribution networks. They work across multiple industries, including construction, manufacturing and transport.


So, what are the differences between an Electrician and an Electrical Engineer?

While there is some overlap between the two roles, the main difference between an Electrician and an Electrical Engineer is that electricians install electrical systems, while electrical engineers design them.

Job Duties


An electrician is primarily responsible for ensuring that electrical systems in a building are safe and working correctly. This could involve repairing faults, testing and inspecting wiring and equipment, laying cables, connecting sockets, switches, light fittings and appliances.

Electrical Engineer

The main duties of an electrical engineer are to develop and design electrical systems. They could also be managing power generation, transmission and distribution, and ensuring the smooth running of services such as lighting, heating and ventilation.


Electricians should be good with their hands, have excellent problem-solving skills and have a reasonable level of maths knowledge. Attention to detail is paramount for an electrician. Many of these skills are shared by electrical engineers, who should also have design skills, knowledge of engineering science and technology, and understand how to use computer operating systems.  

Education and qualifications

To become an electrician you should take the City and Guilds Diploma in Electrical Installations, as part of a college course or apprenticeship. To become a fully qualified electrician you need to pass the AM2 assessment after the Level 3 Diploma. Electricians also need an ECS card to work on a construction site. Electrical engineers could complete a degree in electrical or electronic engineering, take a Level 4 or 5 National Diploma or undertake an apprenticeship.


Electrical engineers can command higher salaries than electricians. Newly trained electrical engineers earn between £20,000-£25,000, while senior or master electrical engineers might earn up to £60,000. A wage for an apprentice electrician in England starts from £11,000 but can rise to £20,000; qualified electricians can earn in the region of £44,000.


3 things to take into consideration when choosing between being an Electrician or an Electrical Engineer

1. What environment do you like to work in?

Electricians work on site all of the time, or in people’s houses on repair or installation jobs. Electrical engineers usually work in an office at a computer, although they will spend some time on site inspecting or in a supervisory role.

2. Do you like working with people?

Electricians need to have good people skills because they will be working alongside other electricians or tradespeople on construction sites, as well as visiting customers in their homes. Electrical engineers have less direct contact with the public, but spend much of their time liaising with clients, overseeing technicians and conducting technical training.

3. Do you have a passion for Innovation?

Electrical engineers must have an interest in developing electrical systems or electrical products so that they make a difference to people’s lives. All the gadgets and electronic devices we use today – from smartphones to electric vehicles – have been the work of electrical engineers. So if you have that passion for innovation, then a career as an electrical engineer could be for you.

Find out more about becoming an Electrician or Electrical Engineer