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Electrical Engineering Vs Instrumentation Engineering (Guide)

Electrical engineering is perhaps the most popular engineering niche in the world, chiefly due to the wide range of opportunities it offers. Conversely, instrumental engineering is a little-known discipline that’s fast gaining traction due to the world’s gradual push towards digitization and automation of processes. 

If you’re looking to join engineering school and can’t decide on which of the two courses to pick,  this article’s got your back.

We have covered everything from the differences and similarities between electrical engineering and instrumental engineering to the average salaries and job descriptions.

What Is The Main Difference Between Electrical and Instrumentation Engineering?

Electrical engineers are involved in the design, testing, manufacture, and maintenance of all types of electrical equipment, while instrumentation engineers typically design, create and manage automated and control systems. 

Some of the things that electrical engineers develop include electric motors and engines, power generation and transmission systems, radar and navigation equipment, and the electric set-ups of homes, vehicles, and aircraft. 

Instrumentation engineers, on the other hand, mostly work in manufacturing plants, where they develop instruments such as dynamometers, circuit breakers, solenoids, and smoke detectors.

They’re also involved, to a great extent, in the crafting of quality and safety standards in the production and manufacturing sectors.

Also read: Electrical Engineering vs. Robotics Engineering

Which is Better?

Well, we can’t really make a pick here. However, we did collate the following table comparing the two majors so you can decide for yourself.

Electrical EngineeringInstrumentation Engineering
Key Roles– Manage the processes of designing, testing, and installation of electrical systems and equipment

– Developing, testing, and deploying new electronic technologies that meet user specifications

– Doing the wiring and circuit in electrical systems in homes, vehicles, phones, and computers
– Configuring and calibrating equipment involved in automated systems and processes

– Designing, testing and maintaining process control systems

– Ensuring that control and automated systems run in the desired way
Average Salary p.a$93,000$96,000
Job FlexibilityHighLow
Career ProspectsModerateLow

Instrumentation engineering is usually taught as a major in electric engineering schools because most instruments studied in instrumentation engineering are electrical in nature.

One needs to have some knowledge of electrical engineering concepts like embedded systems, and electrical measurements to better understand the key elements of Instrumentation. However, the major also focuses on control systems.

It’s thus not a surprise that most instrumentation engineers have a background in electrical engineering.

Is Instrumentation Engineering a Good Career?

From a purely financial perspective, instrumentation engineering is a relatively great career, paying well above the national average.

In terms of job opportunities, the career is not as marketable as electrical or mechanical engineering, with only about 10,000 instrumentation engineers (at the time of writing this post) employed in the US.

The low employment figures are primarily attributed to the decades-long decline of the American manufacturing sector. This has driven skilled instrumentation technicians to either migrate to other countries with strong manufacturing bases or switch to other engineering fields.

However, things will probably change for the better in coming years, as more organizations continue to adopt automated systems in their operations. But even so, career success will mostly be dependent on one’s versatility and willingness to learn new concepts. 

Is Instrumentation Engineering Tough?

Instrumentation engineering isn’t hard to master for someone who has a passion for maths, physics, and problem-solving as it’s an application-oriented course.

Generally, most instrumentation engineering students with undergraduate bachelors in mechanical or electrical engineering say that instrumentation engineering is much easier compared to the other two as it doesn’t contain many mathematical subjects. 

This means the “toughness” of any course is simply a matter of perception. If you have an open mind, a keen eye, and a dedicated spirit, the hardest topics will be a breeze to you. Otherwise, you may find even the simplest concepts, such as pressure measurement and electronic circuits to be extremely taxing. 

What Are The Subjects Covered in Instrumentation Engineering?

Different universities cover different subjects in their instrumental engineering courses depending on their academic philosophies. Nonetheless, some core units are taught across the board, including:

  • Engineering Mathematics
  • C Programming
  • Engineering Physics
  • Material Science
  • Sensors and Transducers
  • Electronic Circuits
  • Process Control 
  • Control Systems
  • Numerical Analysis
  • Digital Electronics
  • Digital Signal Processing
  • Power Electronics

What Does an Instrumentation Engineer Do?

The main role of instrumental engineers is to develop and manage equipment and processes that control automation.

Depending on the industry and organizations they work in, instrumental engineers may also be tasked to:

  • Analyze equipment in use to identify under-performing areas and thereafter develop new instrumentation that meet the desired efficiency levels.
  • Configure automated systems and regularly re-calibrate them to ensure they are running as desired.
  • Ensuring operation standards and equipment safety.
  • Oversee the installation, implementation, and maintenance of new measuring devices and ensure user requirements and safety standards are met.
  • Create user manuals for complex instrumentation.

Where Do Instrumentation Engineers Find Jobs?

Instrumental engineers can work in a wide range of industries, including but not limited to:

  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Oil and gas sector
  • Food and chemical processing plants
  • Government agencies, and the military
  • Energy companies
  • Steel plants

Therefore, the popular belief that instrumental engineering has a very limited scope in terms of job opportunities isn’t true.


Both electrical and instrumentation engineering are relevant and absolutely essential to the growth of any industrialized nation.

It’s therefore not surprising that some students have a hard time choosing which major to specialize in. If you’re in that position, we do hope the above article provides all information you need to make an informed decision.