Electricians hold valuable knowledge needed by everyone in the country. It is their responsibility to ensure that electrical power is safely transmitted through the power grids to homes, apartment complexes, and businesses. They install the wiring, electrical components, and the fixtures that all help to move the power to its final destinations. They may also be responsible for troubleshooting transmission lines during an unexpected power outage.
Electricians need to have communication skills and the customer service skills needed to interact with their own or the electric company’s customers, and their supervisors. When they meet with customers, they have to be able to explain, in layman’s language, what has to be done to either route power to a new home or business. They need technical training and they must meet electrician licensing requirements.
Specializations within the electrician profession mean that qualified electricians can undergo additional technical training, gain work experience, and find themselves a niche where they can shine, even in places that are saturated with electrical workers.
Steps to Become an Electrician
Step 1: Education Requirements
Step 2: Internship or Apprenticeship
Step 3: Licensing & Certifications
Step 4: Continuing Education and License Maintenance
Step 1: Education Requirements
Every state has its own educational requirements for students planning to become electricians. Usually, students are required to have either a high school diploma or GED to enter an electrician training program. After you’ve finished high school or a GED program, you can find a trade school or electrician school where you will begin your vocational training. You may also be able to find an electrical trade program in a vocational-technical school; these schools teach students occupations in the trades.
You’ll begin learning electrical theory, with courses covering the following.
- Low Voltage
- Motors and Controls
- Commercial Installation
- Residential Installation
- Wiring, Cable, and Connections
Depending on the student’s state requirements, they should earn about 60 credits. During their time in school, they’ll also receive hands-on training, which gives them the real-world experience they need to begin working as electricians.
During this phase of their education, they should learn about the following.
- Electrical Wiring
- Instrumentation and Programmable Logic Controller
Before they graduate, students also learn about electrical technology, electrical concepts, and government policy.
Step 2: Internship or Apprentice
Depending on the state where the student lives, an electrical apprenticeship may take place at the same time they are in school and working on their technical instruction in the classroom. While they are in school and working through their apprenticeships, students may also be earning pay. As they are learning the nuts and bolts of the electrician’s profession, they should also be developing their critical thinking skills.
The on-the-job training that apprentices receive includes learning safety guidelines and requirements required for electricians. They also learn how to troubleshoot and repair electrical systems in a variety of settings such as homes, restaurants, shopping centers, factories, sports facilities, and more. This includes learning how to read technical diagrams.
Their classroom instruction introduces them to basic theory and the fundamentals of electricity, AC/DC circuitry, motors, electrical wiring, transformers, electrical current, and generators. They also learn grounding and bonding, power quality, solar photovoltaic systems (in some programs), and the scientific concepts behind them. Part of their classroom work also includes calculations, raceway, and box and conductor sizing. Building codes should be a major part of their education. Students may also expand their learning when they work on electronic systems repair.
When students complete their apprenticeship, they test for and earn a journeyman/journeyperson certificate. By now, they’ll know the components of the work they do. This certificate makes them more marketable as electricians and they are likely to see their salaries increasing. They may continue learning so that they can become master electricians.
Step 3: Licensing and Certifications
After students have completed their apprenticeship and training, they are ready to get their license to work without supervision in the field. The apprenticeship process may have taken up to four years to complete, which means the electrician should have roughly 2,000 hours of experience and training. Once they have received a license, they are able to begin working as a journeyman electrician. By now, the electrician should be ready to work on bigger projects without being supervised. They should begin learning about and working on other electrical systems so they can advance.
After they complete their training program, it’s time to take a licensing exam that covers their geographical area. This is because codes are different in different parts of the country. Once they pass the exam, they receive their license. For those electricians seeking a master electrician license, they have to complete several additional steps to satisfy the licensing requirements. These include learning about different types of electrical systems. This will be covered on the licensing exam. Once they are ready, they should complete the Master Electrician Certification program, then take the exam. Once they pass the exam, they will receive their master electrician license. All of this certification and licensing requires a variety of testing materials.
Step 4: Continuing Education and License Maintenance
A journeyman should be aware that some states require electricians to hold a master electrician license. This means more working experience in a journeyman’s role. While they are still at the journeyman level, they may work on a variety of electrical systems, helping to repair and maintain them. Areas where they may work include lighting, electricity distribution, and security.
Electricians at the journeyman level have to have the highest technical skills so they can identify issues with the electrical supply and quickly make repairs. Electricians need strong communication skills so they can interpret the results of what they are testing and explain their findings to co-workers and supervisors. They may be responsible for residential electrical installations, so they need to be skilled at reading diagrams and schematics. They renew their licenses on a regular basis. However, journeyman electricians are generally not allowed to work on their own in commercial settings. To do this work, you’ll need a master electrician license.
Electrical engineers may be former journeyman electricians who decided they wanted to get involved in designing and implementing the different components for devices that rely on electricity to operate. Electrical engineers work on the generation of power. They may also be involved in researching, creating, and improving electrical products.
What is an Electrician and What do They Do?
Electricians help maintain power to homes and businesses using basic tools and power tools. They inspect electrical components, ensuring they are safe to use and that they have been installed according to local or state codes. They install new wiring and lighting in homes and businesses. They also troubleshoot electrical issues.
Everything that is powered by electricity in today’s homes and businesses functions only because of the work that electrical technicians and master electricians do every day of the week. When the power fails due to weather or an accident involving electrical lines, these workers go out and find the source of the outage and carry out the repairs needed to bring the power back.
Today’s electricians are required to go to trade schools and receive the training they need to work in this field. This is where they learn electrical concepts. They need not have had any experience in the field prior to their training. After they have learned some of the theory and learned of apprenticeship opportunities, they may enter an apprenticeship program, where they put their new knowledge to use under the supervision of a trained electrician. After they have worked for the required number of hours in their electrician apprentice training, gaining experience, they earn a journeyman license.
One of the most important qualities an electrician must have is color vision for installations of electrical lines. This helps them identify the correct wire, which is covered by colored insulation rather than marked in any other way. You can still be an electrician if you are colorblind, however. This simply requires an extra step in that you must sort out the wires by means of color filters that helps these workers differentiate one color wire from another.
Electricians should be able to read and understand wiring schematics or electrical plans, which tells them which wires have to connected to a supply of power or an electric device. This is another major skill that you will learn in your electrical training. Electricians also ensure that every building in which they install wiring or electrical devices conform to their local and state regulations, which are based on the National Electric Code. They have to know these codes well; it would be incredibly inconvenient for an electrician to have to spend time looking up a state or local code while they were in the middle of performing maintenance or installation.
Where do Electricians Work?
Electricians may specialize in either residential, commercial, or industrial work. Depending on the type of education an electrician received and the certifications they hold, they’ll likely specialize in one of these fields. Specialty areas include outside linemen, inside wiremen, residential wiremen, and installation technician.
Residential electricians focus on the wiring of homes for proper electrical function. This may mean that they work with contractors in building new homes or renovating homes. This would mean that they install fuse boxes, outlets, and all the wiring a home needs. Many of these types of contractor electricians also run their own businesses and help clients who have issues with shorts, wiring that has become unsafe, fuse boxes that no longer function, etc. Or these specialists can work for a larger company that hires them and insures their work while also taking care of the customer side: taking phone calls, scheduling service, and more.
Commercial electricians are the ones who may work for power companies or set up electrical work for larger buildings. These types of electricians work to different codes than residential electricians, which is part of why they two types don’t overlap their work much. These codes are complex and may be difficult to switch between on a daily basis. As for industrial electricians, they deal with electrical systems that might handle micro-currents or high voltage machines. That is why these workers form their own category.
Why Become an Electrician?
Considering that becoming an electrician means spending just two years in a trade school program and then further training on the job, where they will already be getting paid, it may seem worth it to many people to put in the effort to become an electrician. This job also means that graduates from a program will have the potential to earn higher-than-average pay for their work. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has published a report that says electricians may have a better-than-normal job outlook.
Depending on their state’s laws, new electricians may be able to take their certification exams after graduating with their two-year degree - with their certifications becoming effective in two years or less after they have completed any required on the job training. Earning their electrician licenses makes them more attractive to employers. Again, depending on their state, journeyman electricians must complete a specific number of hours for an employer.
As for future outlook, the job outlook for electricians isn’t likely to fall drastically. Every state has new developments and construction going up. And those who are considering becoming electricians will, once they have completed their training, have the potential of earning an annual wage of $54,000 as of 2019.
Electricians have a number of great professional organizations that they can join. Professional organizations offer advantages to electricians working in all areas. If they didn’t receive the opportunity to join an organization while they were in school, electricians should find one that fits their career goals and their specific role. Members may also learn of job opportunities via these organizations, either through job boards or networking.
- National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA)
This is one of the biggest professional organizations that caters specifically to electrical contractors. It offers education, business training, and contributes to standards in this field. Members are able to take part in association events as they take place across the country.
- American Lighting Association (ALA)
This organization aims its efforts specifically at the lighting sector of this field. Members receive specialized support; they learn about new technologies and gain access to leaders in this industry. ALA also gives members a large array of services that may help them to achieve success.
- Fiber Optic Association, Inc. (FOA)
FOA offers information focused on fiber optics to its members. Members also learn about jobs that are available in the field. FOA offers training and administers certification for those in the field. Members benefit from professional networking in this area of the electrical industry.
Electrician Career & Salary
The average electrician earns an annual base salary of $59,000. Their early-career earnings are about $35,000 and their late-career earnings are closer to $96,000. Between 2019 and 2029, the employment of electricians has been projected to increase by 8%. This is faster than the average rate of growth for all occupations. The increase in construction spending, as well as the demand for alternative energy sources is pushing the demand for electricians higher than ever.
These alternative methods of power generation include wind and solar power. This field has begun to emerge in the past several years. Both wind and solar energy require electricians to install the associated systems. Electricians are also needed to link these alternative sources of energy to power grids, homes, and businesses over the next ten years. However, government policy impacts the growth of employment.
Over the next decade, approximately 82,000 new job openings for electricians are predicted. A good percentage of these openings come from the need to replace workers who transfer out of this field and into other occupations. Some of these workers may leave the labor force, retiring after spending their working years installing electrical systems or troubleshooting them. Those electricians who are skilled at several tasks will have the best job opportunities. They are expected to work on solar photovoltaic installation, repair electronic systems, industrial component wiring, and more.
To be a part of this expansion, electricians need to have the job experience, skills, and equipment so they can quickly respond to job opportunities.
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