What Can You Expect from a Job as an Electrician?

Many electricians gain expertise in various types of electrical work to expand their job opportunities.

Electricians are skilled tradespeople who design, install, repair, and maintain electrical systems used in residences, factories, and businesses.

Electricians work both inside and outside buildings making sure that lights, appliances, and industrial equipment operate reliably and safely.

There are many types of electricians, including those who install and maintain electricity in homes (residential), those who repair control systems, equipment, motors, and more, in factories and businesses (inside).

Responsibilities

Electricians are responsible for getting electricity from its source to places where consumers can use it.

Their responsibilities may vary depending on the area of expertise but may include:

  • Reading and interpreting architect blueprints, circuit diagrams, and other technical documents.
  • Inspecting circuit breakers, transformers, and other electrical components for faults.
  • Repairing, replacing, and upgrading faulty or outdated electrical equipment, fixtures, and wiring, including isolating faults for safe removal and replacement.
  • Forming electrical circuits, by connecting electrical wires to components and fixtures and testing completed circuits.
  • Performing maintenance procedures to keep wiring, lighting, and control systems in good working order.
  • Training other electricians and directing them to perform specific tasks.
  • Planning the electrical systems for new buildings, including the best position for electrical outlets, light fixtures, heating outlets, and ventilation systems.
  • Installing hangers and brackets to support electrical products.
  • Installing switches, circuit breaker panels, relays, and other electrical control and distribution equipment.
  • Installing wiring, lighting, and control systems in new and existing buildings, according to municipal codes.
  • Using testing devices to discover why electrical products and systems are malfunctioning.

Work Environment

Electricians may work inside buildings under renovation or construction or outside on telecommunications or power systems.

They can work both in cramped or large spaces.

These environments usually have live electrical wires, so it can be quite dangerous without proper precautions.

Electricians can also work independently on projects or be a part of a large construction team.

Unlike employees who have a regular workplace, electricians can work on remote sites for a certain time.

It can last from a day to several months before they move to the next job.

They may also have to travel hundreds of miles from their home to a work site.

Schedule

Electricians can work throughout the year.

Their hours depend on their role.

Maintenance electricians usually work a standard 40-hour week.

Most of them usually work standard business hours during the weekdays and don’t work on holidays, weekends, or late at night.

Some electricians are on-call and can spend more hours troubleshooting urgent problems.

On the other hand, independent electrical contractors and junior electricians working under them don’t work regular hours like these.

They may have one busy week and then work only a few hours during the next one.

Independent electrical contractors or consultants work the most flexible hours.

What Qualifications Are Required to Be an Electrician?

Education

An electrician is one of the best professions you can have with only a high school diploma or GED.

Instead of attending school and earning a degree, electricians learn on-the-job.

Typically, it takes a four-to-five-year apprenticeship program.

To become an electrician apprentice, you should be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma or GED, and one year of algebra.

You should also pass an aptitude test and a substance abuse screening test.

In the course of the apprenticeship, electricians should complete 144 hours of technical training each year.

There, they learn about safety and first-aid practices, blueprints, math, electrical code requirements, and electrical theory.

Additionally, apprentices should complete 2,000 hours of on-the-job experience per year.

Less commonly, electricians enroll in a technical school.

The courses there cover safety practices, basic electrical information, and circuitry.

Graduates of tech schools usually receive credit for an apprenticeship program.

In most states, electricians are required to hold a license.

The information about licensing requirements in every state can be found on the website of the National Electrical Contractors Association.

Electricians usually take ongoing training throughout the entire career.

This way, they can stay up-to-date with changes to electrical code, how to deal with specific products, new safety practices, etc.

Experience

Since electricians don’t need a degree, the experience plays an essential role for them.

That’s why practical experience is the biggest part of apprenticeships.

Experienced electricians can also have relatively large salaries compared to newcomers.

Therefore, electricians with experience under one year make only 2% of the workforce.

Most electricians have between 10 and 19 years of experience, which makes up 31%.

24% of electricians have a minimum of 20 years of experience while 22% have 1-4 years of experience.

21% of electricians have 5-9 years of experience.

The experience that electricians have brings the points of value to their role.

Electricians passionate about what they do will find numerous opportunities in the course of their careers.

Skills

Electricians need various technical skills and personal traits to be successful.

While these traits aren’t typically listed on the job description, hiring managers still consider them essential:

  • Understanding of electrical standards – Electricians must meet the standards for all repairs and installations.
  • Understanding of mathematical and scientific principles – While they don’t need advanced math and science skills, electricians will use the basic principles of these disciplines to their work.
  • Good comprehension skills – Electricians need to understand and interpret memos, tech documents, and blueprints they receive on job sites.
  • Keen eyesight and hand-eye coordination – Working with electrical systems, products, and components is precise and requires steady hands and excellent vision.
  • Independent worker – Even though electricians may work in a construction team, this profession is more solitary and is perfect for people who prefer working on their own.
  • Time management – Electricians should be able to manage their time well and complete projects on schedule.
  • Safety concern – The work environment can be dangerous imposing a risk of burns and shocks, so electricians should be cautious.
  • Critical thinking – After testing products or systems, electricians use the collected data to diagnose problems and find solutions.
  • Logical problem-solving skills – In case of the failure of electrical systems or products, electricians must think logically to find solutions.
  • Customer service skills – With interpersonal skills, electricians can efficiently handle residential and commercial customers.
  • Physical endurance – Frequently, electricians have to stand or kneel for a long time, which can be physically exhausting.
  • Physical strength – Electricians often have to move heavy parts up to 50 pounds.
  • Leadership Skills – While advancing through their careers, electricians may have to manage and supervise apprentices and junior electricians.

Salary Expectations

The salary of electricians depends on the level of their experience as well as geographical location.

Entry-level electricians usually make about $21.25 per hour.

Early in the career, the salary increases.

With the experience between 5 and 10 years, electricians make about $49,000 per year.

The average salary is about $54,000 per year.

However, electricians in the most lucrative markets can make even more.

For instance, electricians in Boston, Massachusetts make $86,000 on average, $89,000 in Seattle, Washington, and $80,000 in Chicago, Illinois.

Job Outlook for Electricians

Projected Growth

According to the BLS, the employment rate growth is better than the national average for the period between 2014 and 2024.

Electricians will see 85,900 new positions, which is a 14% increase.

The increased demand is driven by an increased need for wiring in residential and commercial premises.

Many employers struggle to find qualified applicants, so electricians will be able to choose the best opportunities.

Career Trajectory

Many electricians have stable jobs and don’t seek career advancement.

If they do, they usually take similar jobs and work as a journeyman or certified electricians.

With these roles, they can earn an additional $2-3k to the annual wage.

Less often, electricians become construction project managers, supervising other electricians and construction workers.

Working as an electrician is an attractive opportunity for high school graduates with strong job growth and a stable career.

If you have logical thinking and are apt in math and science, becoming an electrician can be a great option for you.


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