Electrical engineers are involved in the design

Electrical engineers are involved in the design


Electrical engineers are involved in the design, development and testing of electrical devices, for instance, electric motors, power generators, telecommunication systems and radar equipment (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014a). On the other hand, software engineers design, develop, test, maintain and evaluate application and system software in the computing field (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014b).  This work discusses the topic: today’s world needs more electrical engineers than software engineers. Then, it compares the topic with respect to USA and UK.

Today’s world needs more electrical engineers than software engineers

Electrical engineers

Today, there are millions of things that use power, whether mains, water/wind power, petrol, motor, solar, or even batteries (Duderstadt 2010). Electrical engineers are involved in the design and development of different devices that require varying amounts of power, for example, large devices such as electric vehicles, power stations and industrial plants require huge quantities of power generated from the grid or large-scale use of renewable sources of energy; while small devices such as mobile phones, laptops and tablets require small quantities of power generated from batteries (Sebitosi & Pillay 2008). Duderstadt (2010) asserts that in all issues concerning power and associated things, an electrical engineer was involved, because electrical engineering entails the generation of power alongside its use and storage.

What about the overall impact of electrical engineers to today’s world? Electrical engineers are involved in a number of critical areas, which include:

  • Environmental preservation and sustainability: they help preserve the environment and natural resources through use of fuel efficient and environmental friendly sources of energy. This entails enhanced energy efficiency in home and industrial appliances, and reduced reliance on fossil fuels (such as electric cars) thus help overcome challenges posed by global oil and gas crisis. Electrical engineers are involved in devising small-scale and large-scale generation of alternative power from renewable energy such as wind and water currents, solar and wood (Sebitosi & Pillay 2008).
  • Nanotechnology and everyday consumer devices: electrical engineers are involved in the design of nano-devices like solar cells (Duderstadt 2010).
  • Telecommunication: electrical engineers help keep telecommunication devices reliably interconnected through the internet, cell-based technologies, satellites, radios among others. They also take part in installing emergency communication systems and embedded communications in expansive infrastructures, such as large buildings or metros (Duderstadt 2010).
  • Biomedical and signal sensory technologies: electrical engineers promote safety and health by designing better medical equipment like scanners. These equipment include: magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, computing devices for visually impaired people, and mammogram work. The design for smoke, flood and other sensory technologies also involve electrical engineers (Shiavi 2010).

Software engineers

Software engineers are involved in the invention of technologies that we use in our daily lives. Today’s computing systems run under a set of instructions, which are coded by software engineers. In addition, software engineers design and develop mobile apps for entertainment or business purposes. In offices, those computers and software systems which we use for business-critical missions or for personal errands such as social networking, listening to music or personal calendaring involve some aspect software engineering effort (Astrom & Wittenmark 2011).  However, Anderson (2015) argues that, today, there are many tools for software design and development, thus the incidents where software engineers may be required to add true benefit or functionality to software systems have decreased.

According to Astrom & Wittenmark (2011), software engineers undertake highly risky projects, because a small mistake in a mission-critical software system may result to far-reaching impacts on the society. What is the role of software engineers in remedying today’s substantial societal challenges? Today’s grand challenges include: climate change, security and safety, energy, livable cities, transportation, environmental sustainability, and healthcare. Resolving these challenges require software engineers to design complex systems to serve the society in multiple dimensions (eds Gruia‐Catalin & Sullivan 2010). Anderson (2015) points out that software alone may not remedy these societal issues because they tend to lack the desired level of understanding into hardware entities of computing systems, but they play a critical role in catalysing resolution endeavours.

Comparison between USA and UK

The employment rate for software engineers is expected to grow by 22% between 2012 and 2022 (from 1,018,000 to 1,240,600) due to the rapidly increasing demand for software systems. Notably, this is higher than for all other occupations (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014b). The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2014a) states that there were 174,550 electrical engineers in 2014 representing a 1.4% increase from 2012. The growth can be attributed to emerging technologies in the field. In the UK, based on a survey carried out between April and June 2014, estimates showed that there were 43,497 electrical engineers compared to 274, 160 software developers and programmers (Office for National Statistics 2014).


It is apparent that in the world of computing and its role in our daily life, software engineers are the geniuses behind the innovations we now cannot imagine to live without. However, it is apparent that, today, there are many tools to help develop software projects without actually seeking the services of a software engineer.  The same applies to electrical engineering since engineers in this area may not be required to practically implement wiring projects for individual structures.  

Electrical engineers are actively involved in assessment, design and development of a wide       array of systems, including electrical projects that deliver invaluable benefits in the areas of environmental preservation and sustainability; nanotechnology and everyday consumer devices; telecommunication; and biomedical and signal sensory technologies. Therefore, notably, these accomplishments are far much beyond software engineers’ reach. Most strikingly, electrical engineering extends beyond electrical devices to perform programming logic. Therefore, electrical engineering is a more well-established discipline compared to software engineering with respect to coverage of both hardware and software; therefore, electrical engineers are more required to add true value to an engineering project than software engineers.  On another dimension, if we think about the number of things in our daily life that uses a variant of power, then the critical role played by electrical engineers in today’s world becomes self-evident

The bottom line: it is apparent that there are more software engineers employed than electrical engineers in the U.S. and UK markets. However, software engineers have insufficient skills about underlying hardware elements compared to electrical engineers who are well-versed with the big picture since they possess a stronger understanding of hardware, software, and firmware. The dual purpose capability with respect to a solid understanding of both hardware and software elements is very critical to remediation of our day-to-day challenges based on the foundation of real engineering principles as opposed to singly software programming. Therefore, it can be concluded that today’s world needs more electrical engineers than software engineers despite the fact that the employed software engineers are more than the electrical counterparts.


Anderson, R 2015, Software Engineering, Like Electrical Engineering, Communications of the ACM, vol. 58, no. 2, pp. 8-9.

Astrom, KJ, & Wittenmark, B 2011, Computer-controlled systems: theory and design, Courier Corporation.

Duderstadt, JJ 2010, ‘Engineering for a changing world’, in Holistic Engineering Education, Springer, pp. 17-35.

Gruia‐Catalin, R, & Sullivan, KJ (eds) 2010, Proceedings of the 18th at the 18th ACM SIGSOFT International Symposium on Foundations of Software Engineering, November 711, 2010:  Workshop on Future of Software Engineering Research, FoSER. Santa Fe, NM, USA.

Office for National Statistics 2014, Labour Force Survey Employment status by occupation, Office for National Statistics, viewed 27 May 2015, <http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/lms/labour-force-survey-employment-status-by-occupation/index.html>

Sebitosi, AB, & Pillay, P 2008, ‘Grappling with a half-hearted policy: The case of renewable energy and the environment in South Africa’, Energy Policy, vol. 36, no. 7, pp. 2513-2516.

Shiavi, R 2010, Introduction to applied statistical signal analysis: Guide to biomedical and electrical engineering applications, Academic Press.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014a, Electrical and Electrical Engineers: Occupational Outlook Handbook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, viewed 27 May 2015, <http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/electrical-and-electronics-engineers.htm>

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014b, Software Developers: Occupational Outlook Handbook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, viewed 27 May 2015, <http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/software-developers.htm>

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