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.”

Electricians install, maintain, and repair electrical power, communications, lighting, and control systems in homes, businesses, and factories.

What Do Commercial and Residential Electricians Do?

Duties

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 and power tools, such as conduit benders, to run and protect wiring. Other commonly used hand and power 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. At larger companies, electricians are more likely to work as part of a crew; they may direct helpers and apprentices to complete jobs.

Although lineman electricians install distribution and transmission lines to deliver electricity from its source to customers, they are covered in the line installers and repairers profile.

Career Snapshot

Commercial and Residential Electricians install, maintain, and repair electrical power, communications, lighting, and control systems in homes, businesses, and factories. Ensure that work is in accordance with relevant codes. May install or service street lights, intercom systems, or electrical control systems.

(Other job titles in this sub-sector may include: Electrician; Journeyman Wireman; Maintenance Electrician; Mechanical Trades Specialist, Electrician; Qualified Craft Worker, Electrician-QCW)

Job Details

Commercial and Residential 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

Education and Experience

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 states require electricians to be licensed.

Career Outlook

  • Annual pay: In May 2019 a commercial/residential electrician earned an average salary of $56,000
  • Employment of commercial and residential electricians is projected to grow 10 percent from 2018 to 2028
  • Entry-level education: Typically requires a high school diploma

Career Growth Opportunity

Increases in construction spending and demand for alternative energy sources will drive demand for electricians. Electricians who can perform many different tasks, such as electronic systems repair, solar photovoltaic installation, and industrial component wiring, should have the best job opportunities.

Professional Associations

  • Electrical Training ALLIANCE - The Electrical Training ALLIANCE is the largest apprenticeship and training program of its kind, having trained over 350,000 apprentices to journeyman status through local affiliate programs.
  • Home Builders Institute - This organization’s mission is to advance and provide education, career development, training and placement of men and women serving the building industry.
  • Independent Electrical Contractors - The mission of IEC is to be dedicated to the success and advancement of our members within the independent electrical industry.
  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers - The IBEW represents approximately 775,000 active members and retirees who work in a wide variety of fields, including utilities, construction, telecommunications, broadcasting, manufacturing, railroads and government.
  • National Electrical Contractors Association - NECA members are electrical contractors who work in all aspects of electrical construction. While most qualify as small businesses; large, multi-area electrical contracting firms are also members of the association.
  • Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. - ABC's mission is the advancement of the merit shop construction philosophy, which encourages open competition and a free enterprise approach that awards contracts based solely on merit, regardless of labor affiliation.
  • National Association of Home Builders - NAHB represents the largest network of craftsmen, innovators and problem solvers dedicated to building and enriching communities operating at the local, state and national levels.
  • National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) - This mission of this organization is to build a safe, productive and sustainable workforce of craft professionals. Their vision is to be universally recognized by industry and government as the training, assessment, certification and career development standard for construction and maintenance craft professionals.
  • The Associated General Contractors of America - The Associated General Contractors of America works to ensure the continued success of the commercial construction industry by advocating for federal, state and local measures that support the industry.
  • National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies - Search here for NASCLA accredited electrical examination programs.

Publications