Electrical engineering jobs and Software engineering jobs are two distinct professions that rely on each other’s work. Electrical engineers create the computer hardware used by software engineers and software engineers create programmes that electrical engineers use for a variety of tasks.
Understanding the difference between them is vital in order to make the right decision for your personal and professional goals. In this article, we'll take a look at the differences in each profession in greater depth in terms of their responsibilities, salary and some benefits of in each engineering job. As electrical engineering jobs and software engineering jobs have been on the rise for qualified applicants, we will also explore the qualifications and certifications in each area to help you determine which option is the most suitable for you.
Responsibilities of an Electrical Engineer job vs a Software Engineer job
Electrical Engineering jobs
Electrical engineering is a growing industry that involves using electrical systems to create innovative technology and solve societal problems. This usually encompasses the research, design, development, testing, manufacturing and installation of electrical equipment, components and/or systems.
Here are some specific examples of what an electrical engineer does:
- Develop manufacturing specifications to ensure the electrical components are safe
- Find issues in prototypes by tracing the power back to the offending component
- Supervise the installation of electrical equipment and test it before showing it to clients
- Improve existing products by updating the hardware
What’s the difference between Electrical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering?
Electrical engineering and mechanical engineering are also two areas that many people often get confused. Both electrical engineering and mechanical engineering require mathematical and problem-solving skills as well as leadership and effective communication skills to work alongside their colleagues and stakeholders. However, mechanical engineering is also one of the broadest areas in engineering and probably one of the most populated.
The biggest distinction between electrical engineering and mechanical engineering is how energy is used in each discipline. While electrical engineering focus on power generation — such as electricity — mechanical engineering focus more on power application – getting physical parts, motors, and components to behave or act in a desired manner.
Here are some specific examples of what a mechanical engineer does:
- Design material-handling systems (conveyor belts, pulleys, automated transfer stations)
- Investigate technical glitches with sensors or components and offer solutions for how to overcome them
- Oversee manufacturing processes of state-of-the-art devices
Software Engineering jobs
Software engineers develop applications for smartphones and computers, as well as software to control household appliances and cars. Not only are they expected to do more than just technical work, from programming and software design to fulfilling users' requirements, they are also responsible for a wide range of other tasks.
Here are some specific examples of what a software engineer does:
- Programming work to build systems to run a variety of tools such as computers and mobile phones
- Software design and development
- Providing technical support to users to ensure that their requirements are met
- Error checking
- Leading the software development team
Salary of Electrical Engineering jobs vs Software Engineering jobs
If you're thinking of becoming either an electrical engineer or software engineer, you're probably wondering about your annual salary. To begin with, you should know that the annual salary of engineers abroad is higher than those in Japan. For example, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for engineers in the U.S. is $111,280 (about ¥15,400,000 in 2022). The reason why the salary is higher in the US is because the qualifications required are higher. To become an engineer in the US, you are required to study data science at university. And the more skills you have, the more you can earn.
The annual salary for engineers outside the USA is as follows:
- UK: approx. ¥6,860,000
- Singapore: approx. ¥8,471,000
- South Korea: approx. ¥7,200,000
- Taiwan: approx. ¥5,000,000
To give you a better understanding of salary ranges in Japan, we’ve put together a salary survey to assist you in understanding your market value better and hopefully help you to achieve some of your career goals. This is based on research and past data from Computer Futures Japan.View survey
According to our data, the average annual salary for an electrical engineer is around ¥6,000,000 and the average monthly salary is about ¥400,000. A mechanical engineer, for example, earns approximately ¥5,500,000 a year, which shows us that electrical engineers are relatively well paid for their work.
In addition to the Computer Futures’ salary survey above, a survey conducted by Rikunabi NEXT Tech Research Institute of 2180 engineers in their early 30s showed that the average annual salary for software engineers at the age of 30 was ¥4,650,000. This amount can go up to ¥5,250,000 over the next few years which is higher than the average annual salary of ¥4,290,000 for those in their 30s within the IT or telecommunications industry.
Although this is lower than that of hardware-related occupations at ¥ 4,780,000, the average annual salary of software engineers usually rise up to ¥5,620,000 at the age of 35, which is higher than that of hardware-related occupations at ¥ 5,530,000.
Why choose an Electrical Engineering job
1: Possibility of building up your skills with access to the latest technology
As a digital circuit design engineer, you'll be able to use the latest technology to create products with higher performance, smaller in size and less power consumption. Although it can be challenging to meet the increasing demands of Internet of Things (IoT) and other devices that previously did not require digital circuits, it is very rewarding to be able to learn about the latest technology and its trends.
2: Rewards of circuit design
Circuit design is a fundamental part of manufacturing. It's a rewarding experience, no matter how many times you've succeeded. Let's look at the rewards of circuit design:
You will be at the heart of product development
Circuits are the heart of any electronic device. From everyday household appliances to precision devices such as smartphones and computers, as well as medical, automotive, and aerospace applications, electronic devices would not work without circuits. In addition, circuit design also plays an important role in product development.
Your ideas will be used in the products
In recent years, electronic products have been required to improve their performance, be smaller in size and become more energy efficient. To achieve this, circuit designers needed to be more involved.
For this purpose, circuit designers need to think outside the box and use techniques such as waste elimination and brush-up. One of the most exciting aspects of manufacturing is being able to use these "flashes of inspiration" in design where you get to use your own ideas to make things happen.
Why choose a Software Engineering job
There are three main advantages of becoming a software engineer: a sense of achievement, the possibility of turning freelance, and a relatively high annual salary. Let's look at each of these points in greater detail.
1: Sense of achievement
The first benefit of becoming a software engineer is the sense of achievement. Many software engineers said that they feel a sense of satisfaction and achievement in their current job. When the software you've developed is used in everyday life, or when clients thank you for your innovative development, you naturally feel a sense of achievement for completing a hard job.
2. Possibility of turning freelance
The second advantage is that software engineers can also work as freelancers. Software engineers and other IT engineers can earn an income from their skills, just like craftspeople. Therefore if you have the right skills, you can be active as a freelancer in software engineering. This will give you the freedom of time and projects to take on. According to data released by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW), 22.8% of people working freelance are in IT engineering-related occupations.
3. High annual salary
The third advantage is the relatively high annual salary. According to the same data released by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare above, the average annual salary for IT engineering jobs is ¥5,500,000 while the average annual salary for a typical salaried worker is ¥4,400,000. This is a jarring difference of over ¥1,000,000. Of course, there are also differences depending on the individual's ability, skills and experience in projects.
Qualifications in Electrical Engineering vs Software Engineering
A master’s degree in engineering is a great way to improve your job opportunities in the industry. However, the engineering industry is very large and can be tough to determine which area to specialise in. There are several factors which should be taken into consideration such as programme accessibility and job prospects.
Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering
An electrical engineering master’s programme prepares you to take charge of complex projects and manage teams of various disciplines and objectives. It advances your engineering, scientific and mathematical skills, as well as knowledge. Quality programmes provide hands-on experience using state-of-the-art tools, as well as opportunities for practical application. Foundational coursework covers:
- Linear systems theory
- Stochastic processes
- Signals and transforms
- Computational techniques
- Programme and project management
Job opportunities for candidates with a master’s in electronic engineering include:
- Circuit engineer
- Design engineer
- Instrumentation and electrical reliability engineer (I&E reliability engineer)
- Power systems engineer
Master’s degree in Software Engineering
A master’s degree programme in software engineering combines foundational knowledge with current trends, best practices, and innovations to prepare students for initiating or advancing their careers in this cutting-edge industry.
Courses cover subject material such as:
- Databases and database management
- Designing for the user experience
- Object-oriented programming
- Various programming languages such as C++, Java and Python
- (Cybersecurity, game development and AI / machine learning or web development)
Job opportunities for candidates with a master’s in software engineering include:
- Application developer
- Front-end designer
- Software architect
- Systems engineer
Switching your career from Electrical engineering to Software engineering
If you are currently an electrical engineer but would like to switch your career to be a software engineer, you may be wondering if it’s possible without relevant experience. While every situation is different, many software engineering companies look for employees who have different types of degrees or experiences.
As long as you have the qualifications or understanding of computer science, you should be able to secure a software engineering job with an electrical engineering degree or work experience. Some transferrable skills include problem-solving.
Some tips for those interested in changing jobs from Electrical Engineering to Software Engineering:
- Learn and get a good hold of at least one programming language
- Learn and explore more about current ongoing projects within Software Engineering
- Expand your network and get in touch with someone that works within software engineering (then work under these mentors)
- Take advantage of your electronics’ skills
To get more advice on getting a job in electrical engineering or software engineering, fill in the form and a dedicated specialist consultant from the industry will get in touch with you for a confidential discussion. We’re here to help you every step of the way and our consultative service gives you access to some of the best paying jobs in Japan.