What does an electrician do?

Electricians install, repair and replace electrical and power systems in buildings. This can include placing wiring, fuses, circuit breakers, outlets, switches and other control equipment, as well as testing and installing items that use electricity, such as lighting, fans and other machinery, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook 2010-2011.

While some electricians work in the construction industry, many focus on maintaining systems, and some go into both fields. Construction electrical work consists primarily of installing wiring, while maintenance workers fix and upgrade already existing equipment. Both jobs require knowledge of federal, state and local codes, and professionals are required to adhere to those standards.


What education is needed to be an electrician?

Most jobs require a mix of on-the-job electrician training and class work. Education generally consists of how to read blueprints, as well as memorizing electrical codes, electrical theory and safety procedures. Additional knowledge of soldering, fire, communications and elevator systems is also required. Apprenticeships in the field generally last four years, and are followed by a licensing exam. However, most states differ in license requirements.

Advancement opportunities for electricians generally come in the form of supervisory positions or the title of master electrician, according to the BLS. These roles generally require at least seven years of experience and a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. Professionals can also become electrical inspectors after completing similar electrician training opportunities.


Where do electricians work?

Electricians work primarily in three locations – private homes, businesses and factories. Residential work generally consists of installing or maintaining wiring and circuit breakers or other equipment, as does business work. Factories, on the other hand, entail more complex jobs. Electricians in these settings will often work on motors, transformers, generators and robotics, according to the BLS. They may also work in advisory roles to factory management, assessing the condition of equipment and recommending replacement if necessary.


What is the average salary for an electrician?

Electrician wages depend greatly on the area that the professional works in, and can range from $14 per hour to $38 per hour. Those who work in power generation, transmission and distribution usually earn approximately $57,990 a year, while nonresidential electricians make about $50,070, according to the 2010 BLS Occupational Employment Statistics.

Every state has a need for electricians, with Alaska, Illinois, Hawaii and New York all paying over $67,000 as the average salary.


What do career prospects for electricians look like?

Job openings for electricians should increase by about 12 percent through 2018, according to the BLS, with around 83,000 positions becoming available. Those interested in this career should look for work in both residential and nonresidential construction, as well as installation of energy saving systems, such as solar and motion sensor technology.

Electricians can also become independent contractors, hiring out their services in construction and maintenance.


What are the benefits of becoming an electrician?

Those interested in electrician training in construction, maintenance, independent and contracting positions can all look forward to excellent work environments. Some night and weekend work may be required, but a 40-hour workweek is average. Electricians may also be required to do heavy lifting, climb ladders and stand or kneel for long periods of time. Frequent travel is also common, according to the BLS.

While the field offers both indoor and outdoor work, the latter is highly dependent on weather conditions. In addition to this, there are minimal risks of electric shock, though by following safety procedures and codes workers can further reduce these chances.

Electricians work with their hands, see physical results from their labor and spend a good deal of time working with others. They use interesting tools such as ammeters, ohmmeters and harmonic testers, as well as conduit benders, power tools, wire strippers and other equipment.



*Source Reference: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. http://www.bls.gov