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Electrical Engineer vs. Chemical Engineer: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

Electrical engineering and chemical engineering are both complex and rewarding career paths. If you’re interested in pursuing a degree in engineering, it’s important to understand the key differences between these two types of engineering. In this article, we compare and contrast electrical engineering and chemical engineering, highlighting the skills and knowledge required for each. We also provide information on job outlook and earnings potential for each profession.

What is an Electrical Engineer?

Electrical Engineers design, develop, test and supervise the manufacture of electrical equipment, such as electric motors, radar and navigation systems, communications systems and power generation equipment. They work in a variety of industries, including the automotive, aerospace, computer, consumer electronics and telecommunications industries. Electrical Engineers typically have a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. They use their knowledge of physics, math and computer science to complete their projects.

What is a Chemical Engineer?

Chemical Engineers design and oversee the production of chemicals, fuel, pharmaceuticals and other products by using scientific principles. They develop safety procedures to protect workers and the environment from hazardous materials. Chemical Engineers also work on improving manufacturing processes to increase efficiency and decrease waste. They may specialize in a particular area, such as nanomaterials or environmental engineering. Chemical Engineers typically have a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering or a related field.

Electrical Engineer vs. Chemical Engineer

Here are the main differences between an electrical engineer and a chemical engineer.

Job Duties

Electrical and chemical engineers fulfill different roles in their respective fields. Electrical engineers design, develop and test electrical components, such as circuit boards and microprocessors. They also analyze data to determine the best way to implement new products for their companies.

In contrast, chemical engineers research, develop and manage processes related to chemicals and materials. These professionals may work with other engineers and scientists to create innovative products or solve issues related to current products.

Job Requirements

To become an electrical engineer, you need to earn a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering or a related field. Once you have your degree, you can pursue a professional engineering license, which is required in some states. To obtain this license, you must pass the Fundamentals of Engineering exam and, after four years of experience, the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam.

Chemical engineers need to complete a bachelor’s degree program in chemical engineering or a related field. They also need to obtain a professional engineering license, which requires passing the Fundamentals of Engineering exam and, after four years of experience, the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam.

Work Environment

Electrical and chemical engineers typically work in different environments. Electrical engineers often work in offices, where they may use computers to design electrical systems for buildings or vehicles. They also may travel to construction sites to oversee the installation of electrical equipment.

Chemical engineers usually work in laboratories, where they conduct experiments and research new chemicals and processes. Some chemical engineers work in manufacturing facilities, where they oversee production lines that produce products such as pharmaceuticals, food additives or cleaning supplies.


Both electrical engineers and chemical engineers use problem-solving skills in their jobs. For electrical engineers, they typically design products that will solve a problem or address a need facing individuals, families and business owners. For chemical engineers, they develop processes and designs for manufacturing chemicals and other products.

An electrical engineer needs technical skills to perform their job, including circuit design, advanced mathematics, linear systems and analysis and electrical schematics. A chemical engineer also needs technical knowledge, but they need to know more about chemistry and how it applies to the process of manufacturing. Both of these professionals need to have the ability to follow safety protocols because they are often working with dangerous materials.

While an electrical engineer uses communication skills when they are creating reports of their research, corresponding with other engineers and colleagues and developing blueprints for their products, they are not necessarily going to be interacting with customers directly. A chemical engineer is less likely to interact with customers, but they may need to communicate with clients or vendors about the progress of their projects.


Electrical engineers earn an average salary of $94,718 per year, while chemical engineers earn an average salary of $94,244 per year. Both of these average salaries may vary depending on the size of the company at which you work, location of your job and the level of experience you have prior to pursuing either position.


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