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

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

A career in engineering can be both exciting and rewarding. If you’re interested in working with computers or electrical systems, then you may want to pursue a career as a software engineer or electrical engineer. Both of these positions require a high level of education and training. In this article, we compare and contrast the job duties, educational requirements and salary expectations for software and electrical engineers.

What is a Software Engineer?

Software Engineers design, develop, test and oversee the creation of computer programs. They work in a variety of industries, including computer systems design, manufacturing, finance, healthcare and government. Software Engineers typically have a bachelor’s degree in computer science and strong computer programming skills. They use their knowledge of mathematics and engineering to design efficient solutions to complex problems. They also write code to create software programs that meet specific customer or business needs. In addition to their technical skills, Software Engineers must be able to effectively communicate with non-technical staff and customers.

What is an Electrical Engineer?

Electrical engineers are responsible for designing, developing, testing and supervising the manufacturing of electrical equipment, systems and components. They work in a variety of industries, including the automotive, aerospace, telecommunications and computer industries. Electrical engineers typically have a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. They use their knowledge of physics, math and computer science to solve problems. Electrical engineers typically work in offices, but they may also travel to worksites to supervise production or install equipment.

Software Engineer vs. Electrical Engineer

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

Job Duties

Software engineers develop and test software, but electrical engineers design and test hardware. This means that an electrical engineer might focus more on the physical components of a project, like designing and building a new type of circuit board for a device. Software engineers might instead focus on the programming language used to build a program or system, like C++ or Java.

Another key difference between the two jobs is that electrical engineers tend to work mostly with devices, while software engineers typically work with computer programs. Since computers are often part of devices, electrical engineers can apply their knowledge of hardware to help them understand how software engineers’ creations affect hardware.

Job Requirements

Software engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in computer science or another related field. They might also pursue a master’s degree to gain more advanced skills and knowledge. Many software engineering programs include coursework on topics like data structures, algorithms and software design. Some employers prefer candidates who have experience with specific programming languages or software development tools.

Electrical engineers usually need at least a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering to enter the profession. However, many employers prefer candidates who have a master’s degree or higher. These programs often include coursework on topics like circuit analysis, electromagnetics and digital signal processing. Electrical engineers might also take classes on more specific subjects, such as microelectronics or power systems.

Work Environment

Electrical and software engineers both work in a variety of environments. Electrical engineers often work in laboratories, where they test new products to ensure that they meet safety standards. They may also work in factories or construction sites, depending on the type of product they’re working with. Software engineers typically work in offices, but they may travel to clients’ locations to help them set up their systems.


Both software engineers and electrical engineers use technical skills to perform their jobs. For software engineers, they typically design and develop software applications that will solve a problem or address a need facing individuals, families and business owners. For electrical engineers, they typically design products that will solve a problem or address a need facing individuals, families and business owners.

An electrical engineer needs circuit design, advanced mathematics, linear systems and analysis and electrical schematics skills to perform their job. A software engineer also needs technical knowledge, but they need to know more about computer programming languages and how to code. 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 software engineer is going to need interpersonal skills because they will most likely be interacting with people on a daily basis while they assist customers with solving issues.


Software engineers earn an average salary of $106,619 per year, while electrical engineers earn an average salary of $94,718 per year. Both of these salaries can vary depending on the size of the company you work for, your location and your level of experience.


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