Which is correct:

  • Electric power engineering student
  • Electrical power engineering student

4 Answers 4


When you are describing a task or job the normal usage is "electrical". Let's take out the other words and you would be an Electrical Engineer not an Electric Engineer.


electric (adjective) :

  • worked by electricity

  • charged with electricity

  • generating electricity

electrical (adjective) :

  • relative to electricity

  • of the nature of electricity

  • operating by electricity

We say electric fence, guitar, heater, organ, razor, shock, storm.

Definitely "electric power" then.


The standard academic term is Electrical Engineering (not Electric Engineering).

These are traditional subjects of specialization under Electrical Engineering (besides some newer ones)

  • Dynamical and Control Systems Engineering
  • Information and Systems Engineering
  • Computer Engineering
  • Electronic Engineering
  • Electrical Power Engineering

The adjective Electrical is on the word Power rather than the student:

Electrical-Power Engineering student.

As opposed to

Political-Power Social Studies.

Using Electric, as in Electric Power Engineering, would be an inadequate adjective. As being electric, could mean mesmerizingly electric. The subject of study being electrical power.

For equipment, we normally say electrically-powered grinder or electric grinder, for example.

  • electrically powered car or electric car, rather than electrical car.

There is a sub-field of Electrical Power Engineering called Electronic Power Engineering, which involves the use of electronic components to regulate Electrical Power. But we don't call it "Electronical" Power Engineering. Perhaps because the power is not "electronical" but electrical, but electronically controlled. 2ndly, "electronical" is not a usually acceptable word.

Electrical has come to be accepted as having electrons or the induced effect of electrons as a means to transport and execute work-enabling power with a non-quantum perspective. Whereas, the term electronic involves the same need for electrons or induced effect of electrons but with a quantum perspective.

We say Dynamical Systems Engineering, not Dynamic Systems Engineering, since it is a field of engineering involving dynamical systems that sometimes are not dynamic or are laggardly dynamic, but dynamical nonetheless.

So, we are involved in a profession of electrical power, where the flow of such power may be less than electric.

  • But a related Ngram hints strongly that the pairing 'electric power' is more common than the pairing 'electrical power' overall. I think it's the pull of 'Electrical Engineering' rather than 'Electric/al Power' that influences the choice here, probably perversely, because, as you say, "The adjective 'Electrical' [modifies] the word 'Power' rather than 'the student.' " Commented Oct 15, 2013 at 8:14
  • Fortunately or otherwise, frequency of use is unable to dethrone the traditionally set academic terms. Commented Oct 15, 2013 at 8:58
  • @Edwin Ashworth ~ Of course 'electric power' is a common phrase. It is the stuff that comes out of electric power points. If you get an Ngram for electric engineer -v- electrical engineer you get a very different result. books.google.com/ngrams/… Commented Oct 15, 2013 at 13:28
  • @Roaring Fish I'm addressing Blessed Geek's 'The adjective Electrical is on [I assume meaning 'modifies'] the word Power rather than the student' – which might be expected to lead to 'Electric' being preferred here – and suggesting a reason why this is not the case. Commented Oct 15, 2013 at 22:42

"Electric" is better in this context as "power" is defined as "electric" (compound noun)- not described as "electrical" (adjective).

  • 1
    An electric power engineer would need to be plugged in, like an electric fan or an electric blanket... Commented Oct 15, 2013 at 5:39

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