Most people know electricians as the professionals who come to their home to inspect or repair wiring, or to install outlets. These tasks, though important, are only one of the many electricians might tackle.
Electricians install, maintain and repair electric power in rural, residential and commercial areas. They stay up-to-date on safety codes and use only approved materials. They might work in homes, be contracted by large businesses, or work in factories and government installations.
Electricians are skilled at reading blueprints and technical diagrams, figuring out the best methods for installing new wiring, replacing old systems, identifying problems through the use of the proper devices, and following all state and local building and safety codes. They often work alone, though sometimes they work in teams, especially when designing and implementing electrical systems for new home or commercial construction.
Electrician salaries can vary widely depending upon several factors, such as years of experience, area of specialization, or state and local area. This salary guide helps aspiring electricians understand where the highest-paying areas might be, as well as what to expect from salaries in various metropolitan areas.
Electricians are in high demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects jobs opportunities to grow by 14 percent between 2014 and 2024. Those who are well-versed in solar power and other alternative power sources will likely be in higher demand; those who honed their skills in the military can also expect to see better job opportunities. This section explains job growth in various states, helping aspiring electricians make informed decisions about where the jobs are.
Becoming an electrician requires a great deal of hands-on experience and training. Here are the steps one might take to enter the field.
High school students considering electrician careers should take courses that offer some exposure to electrical principles, such as mathematics, physics and other technical sciences. Many local community colleges and vocational schools offer special programs exclusively for high school learners.
Once the decision is made to pursue an electrician career, it’s time to get serious about education. Though much of the work is hands-on, aspiring electricians will be best served with a strong foundation of knowledge, such as that found through the diploma, certificate or associate degree programs.
Training on the job is a vital component, and that training only happens under the watchful eye of a seasoned electrician. Requirements for an apprenticeship vary, but in most cases students will be expected to complete 144 hours of technical training and 2,000 hours of on-the-job training.
Requirements for licensure vary by state, but in most cases, a comprehensive examination of knowledge is required. State professional licensing boards usually post specific requirements online.
Codes change often, and what was okay a few years ago might not be best practice today. Continuing education, including courses that offer unique certifications, can not only keep electricians up-to-date, but can look very nice on a resume.
|Diploma or Certificate||Associate Degree||Apprenticeship|
|Curriculum Focus||Targeted toward those who want to move quickly into an apprenticeship; alternatively, certificate programs might be good for those who want to brush up on their skills.||This two-year degree offers not only foundational knowledge of electrical work, but also general education courses for a well-rounded experience.||Though there is some classroom training associated with apprenticeships, most training is hands-on, under the supervision of a seasoned electrician.|
|Duration of Program||Approximately one year||About two years||Four to five years|
|Benefits||Excellent for those who want to get a jump-start on an apprenticeship program. Some certificate programs are designed for experienced electricians who want to brush up on their skills or learn new ones.||Can prepare students to move into the apprenticeship immediately upon graduation, or provide a stepping stone a bachelor’s degree.||Strong hands-on training can prepare students to deal with real-world situations while getting them closer to licensure.|
|Disadvantages||Not all programs allow students to apply academic credits to apprenticeships, which lengthens the licensure process.||Though some apprenticeships will accept associate degrees as credit, much of the 4-5 year program must still be completed.||Apprenticeships are highly focused so do not offer any general education courses that could help students segue into different career fields, if they so choose.|
There are numerous electrician degree programs out there – it’s just a matter of knowing where to look. These options are open for those who want to dive into electrician careers.
Vocational and trade schools offer diploma or certificate programs for electricians and, in some cases, allow students to begin their training as early as high school. Most of these programs take about a year to complete, though some might take longer.
The Armed Forces are known for preparing servicemen and servicewomen for healthy civilian careers following transition. Those who choose to become electricians can pursue a great deal of hands-on training while in the military, as well as courses designed to further their knowledge.
Future electricians who want to pursue even more education can do so through community college, which offer associate degrees in electrical engineering and technologies.
There are two types of formal educational program for electricians, plus a required apprenticeship. This section highlights both.
Certificate programs take about one year to complete and usually consists of basic courses designed to prepare students for apprenticeships. Some apprenticeship programs accept academic credits earned in certificate programs. Students should be sure to look for programs that align courses with the latest version of the National Electrical Code. Some common courses:
This course prepares students to perform electrical work safely with an introduction to reading floor plans and blueprints, the various types of electrical equipment and components and how to properly install those components.
This covers common installations and issues with residential wiring, including lighting, major appliances, alarms, telephones, media and sound, wiring additions and working with out-of-date wiring and components.
Focuses on the electrical requirements and distribution for a typical commercial facility, including factories; touches on special circuits, large-scale appliances, load requirements, and the calculations necessary to create a successful electrical system.
A strong overview of the National Electrical Code, including applications, intent, evolution, applicable tables, minimum requirements and protection devices.
An associate degree in electrical technology is perhaps the most popular option for future electricians who choose to attend two-year programs. Some students are able to specialize in certain areas of the field, like renewable energy or industrial electrical technology. Most programs take two years to complete. Though many of associate degrees in electrical technology are offered as applied degrees, meaning that they prepare students to start working immediately after graduation, some offer general education courses that open doors to four-year bachelor’s degree programs.
Some of the more common courses found at the associate degree level include:
This class focuses on best practices to keep the worksite safe, as well as lifesaving procedures to use in the event of an emergency situation, with emphasis on electrical accidents.
Focuses on the behavior and flow of alternating current, including the operating principles of AC motors, generators and control equipment.
Interpretation and composition of electrical system drawings and blueprints are covered in this class.
Lecture instruction and laboratory time focuses on the principle and operation of devices that use electrical power.
It is important to note that no matter the degree chosen, an apprenticeship will still be required to work as a licensed electrician. Some apprenticeship programs will take formal education into account and apply academic credits to classroom hours. Most apprenticeships require 144 hours of classroom work, as well as 2,000 hours of hands-on training under the supervision of a licensed electrician. During this time, apprentices will be educated in blueprints, electrical code requirements, electrical theory, safety practices and more.
At the end of the four to five years of training, apprentices can choose to earn the journey worker designation. After several more years of competent work, they can become master electrician.
Almost everything in the world runs on electricity, which means that electricians have a great deal of room to specialize in the field. Their jobs might take them to residential homes, factories, marine areas and even high up into the sky, where they work on lines. Here are some of the most common electrician careers today, with median wages from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Electricians install, maintain and repair electrical lines and components, such as lighting, communication systems and control systems. The can work in businesses, residential homes, factories, and anywhere else that relies on continuous power supplies.
These workers install or repair the wires and cables that take power from a powerhouse or substation to the destination. They might erect utility poles or build transmission towers, often in rural or hard-to-reach areas.
These electricians work specifically with power generating stations, substations and in-service relays. Their work is vital to ensuring that the power grid stays up and running. They might inspect and test the components of a station, repair any problems and maintain the equipment.
These electricians work on construction sites, adding the electricity needed to power new home or business constructions. They might work on-site for several weeks completing one job, then move to another.
These electricians work with blueprints, create diagrams and develop layout drawings for electrical equipment. They could create diagrams for circuit boards, small electronic devices or larger-scale use. Diagrams are used to create, repair, maintain and install electrical equipment.
Working as an electrician requires certain skills, a grasp of particular tools and technologies, and the proper credentials.
Electricians must be ready to consider a wide variety of reasons why an electrical component might not be working, and that answer is not always evident.
Electricians often work independently, and so much have the ability to bid on jobs, track progress, plan out payroll and handle duties common to a small business.
Electricians might be on their feet all day, crawling through tight spaces, lifting heavy components, and otherwise putting their bodies to the test.
Electricians must be able to see tiny components, including wires. They must also be able to tell the difference in sometimes subtle colors in order to ensure proper wiring and safety.
Electricians often work with colleagues, construction crews, and homeowners. They must be able to offer excellent customer service to those who hire them.
Electricians must be licensed in the state or local area in which they work. Though each state has its own requirements, most include a certain number of years of experience and passing an examination. Journey workers are licensed differently than full electricians; master electricians might also face different licensing requirements. The National Electrical Contractors Association has more information on state licensing.
Those who love the idea of working with electricity and related components but don’t want to actually work as an electrician have several career paths available to them. Here are some of the most popular.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Some electricians may eventually pursue careers as drafter, elevator installers, and line repairers. The following data includes occupations related to electricians.
However, like any profession, salaries depend on your location. Use our salary tool to see how electrician wages compare across the country.
A service of the Department of Labor, this program helps aspiring electricians find apprenticeship opportunities in their state.
This site offers important safety, education and training information for those in the construction trades, including electricians.
This association dedicated to those who are doing it on their own offers training, advocacy and more to its members.
This organization offers a wealth of important information and connections for those who work in the electrical industry.
This membership website offers information on professional development, advocacy, events and resources for electrical contractors, as well as helpful information for consumers.
Finding the right education is important for prospective electricians. There are numerous programs and electrical schools out there, however, so how can students choose which one might be best for them? This search tool helps them review their options and select programs that suit their unique needs.