Electricians work with electrical systems that power everything from security to climate control. They install, connect, test, and maintain these systems for home, business, and industry use. Electricians specialize in construction, maintenance, or both. They work with blueprints of factories, office buildings, homes, and other types of places. They study the location of circuits, panel boards, and other electrical necessities. They must follow the National Electric Code, as well as State and local codes, when installing electrical systems. They use insulated wires or cables, as well as plastic-covered wire, and connect this wire to circuit breakers, transformers, and other equipment. After they have finished wiring, they often test the circuits to ensure they have made sound connections.
Electricians also work with low voltage wiring systems, including those of telephones, computers, intercoms, and alarm and security systems. They may install fiber optic cable or coaxial cable systems to power telecommunications equipment. When they are doing maintenance work, they may rewire homes in order to hook up new appliances. When they work in large factories, they often repair motors, transformers, generators, and electronic controllers. Those who work in office buildings usually repair a wide variety of electrical equipment.
Those wishing to develop a career as an electrician should be in good physical condition. They should be healthy and able to lift moderate loads. They should have excellent agility and manual dexterity. Because electricians are often required to distinguish between wires of various colors, they need to have color vision.
In 2002, electricians earned a median hourly wage of $19.90. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $11.81, to the highest 10%, who earned more than $33.21. The following shows the median hourly wages in the industries employing the greatest numbers of electricians:
- Motor vehicle parts manufacturing: $28.72
- Local government: $21.15
- Building equipment contractors: $19.54
- Nonresidential building construction: $19.36
- Employment services: $15.46
Training and Education
A few electricians still learn the trade through on-the-job training, and some complete 3-year training programs. Most electricians gain their skills through formal apprenticeship programs that usually last from 3 to 5 years. Apprentices learn all aspects of the trade and, upon completion of the program, have a much higher chance of obtaining employment. Many apprenticeship programs include at least 144 hours of classroom instruction and 2,000 hours of on-the-job training. After completing the program, they become journeymen and continue to learn more electrical skills on the job. High school courses in mathematics, electricity, electronics, mechanical drawing, science, and shop can provide a good foundation for electrician apprenticeships. Most programs require applicants to be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma, and pass a skills test. Electricians can advance to supervisors or superintendents, and some go on to start their own contracting businesses.
Click here to review a list of Electrician Schools and the programs that they offer.
In 2002, electricians held about 659,000 jobs. Over 25% were employed in the construction industry, and about 10% were self-employed.
Between 2002 and 2012, employment of electricians is expected to increase faster than the average. Overall growth of the population and the economy will create demand for more electricians to install and maintain electrical wiring and devices. New technology will also stimulate demand. Job opportunities are expected to be good.