Electricians install, maintain, and repair electrical power, communications, lighting, and control systems.
What they do
Electricians install, maintain, and repair electrical power, communications, lighting, and control systems in homes, businesses, and factories.
Electricians typically do the following:
- Read blueprints or technical diagrams
- Install and maintain wiring, control, and lighting systems
- Inspect electrical components, such as transformers and circuit breakers
- Identify electrical problems using a variety of testing devices
- Repair or replace wiring, equipment, or fixtures using hand tools and power tools
- Follow state and local building regulations based on the National Electrical Code
- Direct and train workers to install, maintain, or repair electrical wiring or equipment
Almost every building has an electrical power, communications, lighting, and control system that is installed during construction and maintained after that. These systems power the lights, appliances, and equipment that make people’s lives and jobs easier and more comfortable.
Installing electrical systems in newly constructed buildings is often less complicated than maintaining equipment in existing buildings because electrical wiring is more easily accessible during construction. Maintaining equipment and systems involves identifying problems and repairing broken equipment that is sometimes difficult to reach. Maintenance work may include fixing or replacing parts, light fixtures, control systems, motors, and other types of electrical equipment.
Electricians read blueprints, which include technical diagrams of electrical systems that show the location of circuits, outlets, and other equipment. They use different types of hand tools and power tools, such as conduit benders, to run and protect wiring. Other commonly used tools include screwdrivers, wire strippers, drills, and saws. While troubleshooting, electricians also may use ammeters, voltmeters, thermal scanners, and cable testers to find problems and ensure that components are working properly.
Many electricians work alone, but sometimes they collaborate with others. For example, experienced electricians may work with building engineers and architects to help design electrical systems for new construction. Some electricians may also consult with other construction specialists, such as elevator installers and heating and air conditioning workers, to help install or maintain electrical or power systems. Electricians employed by large companies are likely to work as part of a crew; they may direct helpers and apprentices to complete jobs.
Lineman electricians install distribution and transmission lines to deliver electricity from its source to customers; this occupation is covered in the line installers and repairers profile.
Electricians work indoors and outdoors at homes, businesses, factories, and construction sites. Because electricians must travel to different worksites, local or long-distance commuting is often required.
On the jobsite, they occasionally work in cramped spaces. The long periods of standing and kneeling can be tiring. Electricians may be exposed to dirt, dust, debris, or fumes. Those working outside may be exposed to hot or cold temperatures and inclement weather. Those who work in factories are often subject to noisy machinery.
Electricians may be required to work at great heights, such as when working on construction sites, inside buildings, or on renewable energy projects.
Many electricians work alone, but sometimes they collaborate with others. Electricians employed by large companies are likely to work as part of a crew, directing helpers and apprentices to complete jobs.
How to become an Electrician
Most electricians learn through an apprenticeship, but some start out by attending a technical school. Most states require electricians to be licensed. For more information, contact your local or state electrical licensing board.
A high school diploma or equivalent is required to become an electrician.
Some electricians start out by attending a technical school. Many technical schools offer programs related to circuitry, safety practices, and basic electrical information. Graduates of these programs usually receive credit toward their apprenticeship.
Most electricians learn their trade in a 4- or 5-year apprenticeship program. For each year of the program, apprentices typically receive 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training as well as some technical instruction.
Workers who gained electrical experience in the military or in the construction industry may qualify for a shortened apprenticeship based on their experience and testing.
Technical instruction for apprentices includes electrical theory, blueprint reading, mathematics, electrical code requirements, and safety and first-aid practices. They may also receive specialized training related to soldering, communications, fire alarm systems, and elevators.
Several groups, including unions and contractor associations, sponsor apprenticeship programs. Apprenticeship requirements vary by state and locality.
Some electrical contractors have their own training programs, which are not recognized apprenticeship programs but include both technical and on-the-job training. Although most workers enter apprenticeships directly, some electricians enter apprenticeship programs after working as a helper. The Home Builders Institute offers a pre-apprenticeship certificate training (PACT) program for eight construction trades, including electricians.
After completing an apprenticeship program, electricians are considered to be journey workers and may perform duties on their own, subject to local or state licensing requirements.
Most states require electricians to pass a test and be licensed. Requirements vary by state. For more information, contact your local or state electrical licensing board. Many of the requirements can be found on the National Electrical Contractors Association’s website.
The tests have questions related to the National Electrical Code and state and local electrical codes, all of which set standards for the safe installation of electrical wiring and equipment.
Electricians may be required to take continuing education courses in order to maintain their licenses. These courses are usually related to safety practices, changes to the electrical code, and training from manufacturers in specific products.
Electricians may obtain additional certifications, which demonstrate competency in areas such as solar photovoltaic, electrical generating, or lighting systems.
Electricians may be required to have a driver’s license.
The median annual wage for electricians was $56,180 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $33,410, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $96,580.
Employment of electricians is projected to grow 8 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. Increases in construction spending and demand for alternative energy sources will drive demand for electricians.
Similar Job Titles
Chief Electrician; Control Electrician; Electrician; Industrial Electrician; Inside Wireman; Journeyman Electrician; Journeyman Wireman; Maintenance Electrician; Mechanical Trades Specialist, Electrician; Qualified Craft Worker, Electrician (QCW, Electrician)
Pipe Fitter and Steamfitter, Elevator Installer and Repairer, Mobile Heavy Equipment Mechanic (except Engines), Heating and Air Conditioning Mechanic and Installer, Refrigeration Mechanic and Installer
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- Associated Builders and Contractors
- Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers Union
- Electrical Training Alliance
- Home Builders Institute
- Independent Electrical Contractors
- International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
- International Municipal Signal Association
- National Association of Home Builders
- National Electrical Contractors Association
Magazines and Publications
- Electrical Contractor Magazine
- Electrical Construction Maintenance Magazine
- Electrical Line Magazine
- Electrical Business Magazine
- Professional Electrician
Behind every light switch or electrical outlet, there is an electrician who made it work. Almost every building has an electrical power, communications, lighting, or control system that electricians and helpers installed when the building was constructed… and maintained afterwards. For new construction, electricians read diagrams that show the planned location of circuits, outlets, and other equipment to guide their work. They use hand and power tools to run wiring through walls and protect it. They also test equipment and materials to find problems and ensure components work properly. Maintenance means first finding the problem then accessing it for repairs. Electricians must carefully follow building regulations to ensure safety, especially when directing or training other workers. Electrician helpers carry materials and tools, cut and bend wire and conduit, use tools to repair and maintain wiring, and clean work areas and equipment. These workers keep full-time hours, sometimes evenings and weekends, working indoors and outdoors in homes, businesses, and construction sites. Most work for electrical and other wiring contractors. Work can require long periods of standing and kneeling, sometimes in cramped spaces. Most electricians learn their trade in a 4- or 5-year apprenticeship program that combines technical training and paid on-the-job training. Most states require a license. Electrician helpers usually need a high school diploma or equivalent and are trained on the job. Electricians and electrician helpers literally help the United States “keep the lights on.”
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org