The role of an electrician is an exciting one full of daily challenges and opportunities. Electricians spend their day installing, repairing and maintaining the electrical systems that make modern-day conveniences possible.
They possess a level of skill and knowledge that helps keep electrical systems operational for both residential and commercial buildings.
Electricians play a significant role in building new infrastructure for urban development and commercial expansion projects. There are no formal post-secondary education requirements to become an electrician, but there are certain levels of training electricians can get in order to develop professionally.
Aspiring electricians get started in the field as apprentices. As apprentices, electricians work under the expert guidance of a licensed electrician. During the apprenticeship, they receive pay as they gain valuable on-the-job training. Electricians earn a rewarding salary, and there are plenty of opportunities to advance in the field. If looking for a new career, read below to gain more information and learn if this is the field for you.
Electricity powers most of the conveniences of modern life. Residential homes require power for lighting, computers, televisions, alarm systems and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. Commercial buildings rely on electricity to run daily business equipment such as servers, communication networks and industrial machinery. Without electricity, the infrastructure of most buildings would not be able to operate effectively.
Electricians play a vital role in keeping the power infrastructure running. They install electrical wiring, junction boxes, outlets, transformers and circuit breakers. Additionally, they diagnose issues with existing electrical components and make recommendations for solving those problems. Electricians sometimes analyze blueprints to determine the location for new wiring or help identify existing wiring in a building.
Due to the interconnectedness of a building’s infrastructure, they may collaborate with other trade professionals such as architects, plumbers and construction laborers. An electrician’s work varies each day. One day, they may install wiring in new construction. The next day, they may replace outdated wiring in an existing home, repair an electrical socket or fix an issue with a circuit breaker.
Sometimes, electricians must work with architects to plan the electrical system for a new building. They work in a variety of environments and across a wide range of industries. Some electricians work on construction sites installing new wiring. Others work for large businesses managing corporate electrical systems. Additionally, some electricians work for utility companies, installing and maintaining the main electrical supply lines for the city.
The work hours for electricians vary, depending on the role and project. Electricity is a necessity required no matter the time or day. Therefore, most electricians work odd shifts to ensure that things are running all 24 hours of the day smoothly.
Those who pursue a career as an electrician have two distinct career paths to choose from. Although each varies in job capacity, they both offer tremendous opportunities for daily challenges and opportunities to advance.
Linemen are electrical workers who install and repair lines that make up the entire electrical grid that supplies electricity to homes and businesses. They work for utility and telecommunication companies to ensure the grid remains operational at all times. Lineworkers frequently climb poles to access electrical components like street lights, traffic lights or power lines.
Some lineworkers install underground conduits for electrical wires, run the wiring through the conduits and ultimately connect the wiring to electrical components. During their day, lineworkers may visit multiple work sites to perform an installation or make a repair. Some work as contractors and travel to different states to complete their work.
Another exciting path for electricians is that of a wireman. These skilled trade workers connect commercial buildings and residences to the outside electrical grid. The wireman then installs the infrastructure to distribute that power throughout the building. Often, that involves running wires throughout the building, installing electrical outlets and installing fixtures.
Due to the complexity in the job, wiremen must understand how to read blueprints and electrical diagrams to ensure they connect everything correctly. Additionally, they must remain aware of local building codes so that they perform installations that comply with local regulations.
Salaries for electricians range from $32,000 to over $90,000 per year. The median average salary for the trade is $54,110. Government workers have the highest median salary of just over $60,000, while those working in employment services earned a median salary of $47,520.
Not only is the field lucrative, but the job opportunities grow year after year. New construction each year demands more residential and commercial electricians. Urban expansion will also create a need for lineworkers and wiremen. Those electricians who specialize will see the highest demand for their skills. Areas such as solar panel installation and industrial component wiring will be best suited to obtain jobs of the future.
Becoming a licensed electrician requires completion of an apprenticeship program where aspiring electricians work under the guidance of a licensed electrician. Acceptance in apprenticeship programs requires aspiring electricians to hold a high school diploma and pass an aptitude test. Further, they must have at least one year of algebra to enter the program.
Once accepted, apprentices spend 2,000 hours per year working and gaining on-the-job experience. Outside of work, apprentices must complete 144 hours of classroom training. The apprenticeship program lasts between four and five years, after which apprentices may apply to become licensed electricians. While there are no formal education requirements outside of completing an apprenticeship, some of form of post-secondary education is beneficial to those seeking a career as an electrician.
The experience and knowledge gained through a post-secondary program help students prepare for the aptitude test required to become an apprentice. Many aspiring electricians complete a two-year degree or vocational education program at a community college. The coursework provided the foundation necessary to begin a successful career in the field.
These courses teach fundamental safety skills and the fundamentals on common tools used by electricians. The programs also provide instruction on reading blueprints and building schematics. Students in these programs also gain hands-on experience as they learn about cabling, installation of new systems and how to use the testing equipment.
The best electricians are a good fit for the field based on several personal traits that help them excel. Electricians must have excellent coordination and strong mechanical aptitude. The job requires working with tools and small electrical components.
Often, electricians must use their tools to manipulate parts while navigating confined spaces. Therefore, it is essential that an electrician possess the skill to operate those tools. Solving electrical problems requires the ability to analyze a situation, assess all possible scenarios and make a diagnosis based on that information.
Further, electricians must be able to work on a problem with persistence until they come to a viable solution. Electricians must then be able to apply their solution using their skills. The job of an electrician requires the reading of blueprints and schematics, as well as residential and commercial electrical regulations. They must possess an ability to read those documents, interpret them and apply that information to their jobs.
Electricians must be very detailed oriented. Working with electrical components is a highly sensitive task. Mistakes can be costly and sometimes deadly. Therefore, electricians must pay attention to every element of the system and take care that their work is accurate and that they perform the job safely.
One of the least known but very important skills for an electrician is customer service. Electricians who work directly with customers must possess the patience and listening skills to understand the customer’s problem. After making the diagnosis, they must communicate that information to the customer in clear and easy-to-understand terms. The customer may have questions, and the electrician should be able to answer their questions in a clear way.