Electrical and electronics engineering are often confused as interchangeable terms. The major reason behind this is the use of electricity as a means of production in both areas of study. However, there is a significant difference between the two.

While electrical engineering deals with products or a combination of products directly associated with electricity, electronics engineering caters to semiconductor devices which use electricity as a tool for functioning.

To make it easier, sample this: A mobile phone, essentially, is an electronic device because it is made up of semiconductors. But it uses electricity just for charging purposes. In fact, the charger is the electrical appliance in this case. In academic cases, electronics engineering is also referred to as electronics and communication engineering.

In general parlance, electrical engineering focuses on providing electrical power to customers through transmission and distribution of electrical energy. Electronics engineering, on the other hand, deals with semiconductor devices such as diodes, bipolar junction transistors, metal oxide semiconductor field-effect transistors, analogue and digital electronics, among others.

Electronics engineering is often classified as a subset of electrical engineering that works with circuits which can interpret signals or instructions and can perform a task based on given parameters or constraints.

Required skills:

Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics (PCM) is the preferred combination of subjects in high school for someone to pursue either electrical or electronics engineering. For both the forms, technological know-how of computer design programmes is a must. As technology advances every nanosecond, engineers must be comfortable with the updates and applications to their work.

The ability to solve complex problems, which involves identifying problems, developing and evaluating options, and implementing solutions is a mandatory prerequisite. Along with this, foresight in scientific knowledge is seen as an advantage. A skilled electrical engineer must be able to predict physical principles and laws, and their applications and effects on the processes related to his or her work.

Most engineering colleges in India offering these two courses ask you to clear the entrance examination following the Class XII boards. The various Indian Institute of Technologies (IITs) and National Institute of Technologies (NITs) are the most sought-after institutions in the country offering these courses. Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT), BITS Pilani are some of the other prominent names. Going abroad, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Princeton University in the US are the best bets.

Tuition fee and job prospects:

The average fees for electrical engineering in most of the India engineering colleges vary from Rs 4 to 10 lakhs. The private ones have a higher tuition fee as compared to their government counterparts. Interestingly, the fees for electronic engineering is around the same range as that of electrical engineering. The reason being the commonality in the subjects of both the courses.

However, the fees shoot up considerably if students apply to universities abroad – mainly because of the difference in the exchange rates. So, scholarships and funds are the most common alternatives to reducing the fees. Also, the cost of living varies as well.

Electrical engineering has very good career opportunities in fields of power generation, transmission; distribution companies can offer them a very good remuneration as per their skills. Apart from them, various private and government sector companies in sectors such as MNCs, IT companies, steel, cement, fertiliser, petrochemical, shipping, traction, automobile, etc can give the best job offers with high salary packages.

Meanwhile, telecom industries, transportation network, IT industries, aeroplane & airspace manufacturing industries, production and the distribution of power are some of the specific fields for an electronic engineer. They can work with the industries which deal in product development, control system, system management, product design, sales, consumer’s electronics, transportation, wireless communication, etc.

Over the past few decades, the demand for both these forms of engineering has seen a steep rise.

Current trends of research:

According to the Asian Journal of Applied Science and Technology (AJAST), control systems engineering holds a lot of scope for research in the field of electrical engineering. It deals with the regulation of dynamical systems in different processes and machines. The objective is to develop a control model that immediately starts a response to any stimuli in an optimum manner and ensures stable operation for a longer duration.

According to the World Economic Forum, the ultimate goal for electronics engineering lies in miniaturisation of circuits. Also known as single-molecule electronics, this is a branch of nanotechnology that uses single molecules or collections of single molecules as electronic building blocks.