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 systems in private, commercial, and industrial buildings.

What Do Electricians Do?

The electrical systems which run our world may include electrical communications, lighting, and control structures, and they power the lights, appliances, and equipment within buildings; electricians are responsible for both initially assembling these systems and ensuring that they continue to function through maintenance and repairs. They both incorporate electrical systems into newly constructed buildings and maintain these systems in older buildings. They install electrical wiring and lighting systems, and examine electrical components such as transformers and circuit breakers, inspect systems for defects or malfunctions, and repair these problems as necessary using hand and power tools. The field of electrical work encompasses numerous specializations depending on the context in which one works; these contexts include private homes, businesses, factories, highway electrical systems, and more.

Career Snapshot

An industrial electrician installs, services and repairs wiring, conduits, fixtures and other electrical devices and systems in an industrial or commercial setting. Industrial electricians may work in different industries. They often work primarily either in maintenance or in construction, and their specific duties may depend on the employer. All work performed by an industrial electrician must meet the regulations of the National Electrical Code.

In contrast, an electrical contractor is a business person or a company that employs electricians. Both commercial and contractor electricians must hold appropriate licenses and insurances. The requirements do differ by state. If you are a qualified electrician with plenty of work experience under your belt and like the idea of being your own boss, then setting up your own electrical contracting company could be a great career.

(Other job titles in this sub-sector may include: Control Technician, Electrical and Instrument Mechanic, Electrical and Instrument Technician, Electrical Maintenance Technician, Electrical Technician, I&C Tech, Instrument and Electrical Technician, Repair Technician, Service Technician, Technical Support Specialist)

Job Details

Industrial and Contractor Electricians are typically experienced in:

  • Running electronic tests and inspections
  • Inspecting components of industrial equipment for accurate assembly and installation or for defects, such as loose connections or frayed wires
  • Cleaning contacts or circuit boards
  • Installing lighting fixtures, outlets and switches
  • Bending conduit and replace old wiring
  • Following state and local building regulations based on the National Electrical Code
  • Directing and training workers to install, maintain, or repair electrical wiring or equipment

Education and Experience

Commercial electricians need both classroom training and work experience, usually through an apprenticeship. Some electricians start out by attending a technical school. Many technical schools offer programs related to circuitry, safety practices, and basic electrical information. Most states require electricians to be licensed.

Career Outlook

  • Annual pay: In 2019 an industrial and contractor electrician earned an average salary of $59,000
  • Employment of industrial and contractor 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