|Recommended Degree Level||Certificate or Higher|
|Number of Jobs, 2012||519,850|
|Annual Job Growth Rate||4.5%|
|Job Openings per Year (est.)||28,920|
- Unlike many other types of workers, electricians obtain the bulk of their education and training through exhaustive apprenticeships.
- To help get a more rapid start in this profession, some get started by attending a technical school and completing a certificate program related to basic electrical topics. Graduates typically receive some credit towards their apprenticeship.
- Electrician apprenticeships last for four years and require participants to log at least 2,000 hours of on-the-job training. They must also log at least 144 "training" hours. This off-site training typically introduces and reinforces complex concepts or techniques related to the trade.
- Aspiring electricians receive monetary compensation throughout their apprenticeships.
What you study:
Aspiring electricians should study the following subjects and techniques:
- State and local building codes
- Workplace safety
- Basic electrodynamics
- Wiring and switching techniques
- Algebra and geometry
A quick look at what electricians do in their work. Created for the US Dept. of Labor.
A Day in the Life
As an electrician, you're a member of a 550,000-strong cadre of skilled electrical workers who work in a variety of industries and sub-fields. Once you received your certification, you discovered that you had a wealth of opportunities available to you.
Eventually, you accepted a job with a construction company that builds new office buildings in your region. Since you like to travel and enjoy working on different projects, this seemed like a good fit for you. Although you currently help to install wiring, outlets, transformers and other components under the supervision of a construction foreman, you hope to open your own contracting business soon. After all, at least 10 percent of all electricians are self-employed.
For now, you arrive at your job site at around 8 a.m. every weekday morning. Although you occasionally work overtime as a deadline nears, most of your work occurs during regular business hours. Today, you're helping to install the lighting system in a new commercial building.
Upon arriving at the job site, you put on your hard hat and stuff your lunch pail and belongings in a makeshift bank of lockers. You ride a construction elevator to the building's third floor and meet your fellow electricians. Each of you has been assigned to a specific section of the floor. You walk over to yours and begin un-looping lengths of standard electrical wire. In order to install the wiring, you string it along the wall supports that will eventually be hidden by wall plaster and use heavy-duty staples to keep it in place.
Next, you consult a copy of the building's electrical blueprint to determine where its wall and floor outlets will lie. Although attaching a socket to a length of wiring can be a complex affair, you've rapidly gotten the hang of it over the past few months. You perform this task several times before breaking for lunch.
After lunch, your foreman informs you that you're needed on the building's top floor. You'll be installing the temporary construction lighting that will allow other members of the building's construction crew to work quickly and safely. You dutifully take the elevator upstairs and begin stringing long loops of wire along each of the building's structural supports. Once this has been done, you attach floodlights at regular intervals. Meanwhile, one of your colleagues installs a switching system that will allow the lights to be switched on and off.
As you work, you notice that the shadows are lengthening outside the building. One of the nice things about your current job is that it allows you to work on your feet. Although plenty of detail goes into the wiring work that you do, you also get to move around a lot. What's more, you get to work in an open environment. While you're not technically outside, you're also not cooped up in a small office.
At around 5:30 p.m., you punch out and say "good night" to your fellow workers. You need your rest. As always, you anticipate a fresh set of challenges tomorrow.
Certifications and Licensing
Electricians who wish to make themselves more attractive to certain employers may obtain specialized certifications from the NJATC. These might include an instrumentation certification, solar electricity certification, and various special-craft certifications. Although these do not function as employment prerequisites, they may help boost a job applicant's profile.
However, most states do require electricians to obtain local licenses in order to practice their craft in a legal manner. In addition, most electricians join their local International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers chapter. In most areas, these two credentials are a prerequisite for finding employment. However, some self-employed electricians may not need to join the IBEW.
Full-time versus part-time:
Electricians generally work full-time during regular business hours. Given the demanding nature and abundance of their work, few electricians are able to work part-time. In fact, some may find themselves working more than 50 hours a week in order to meet a pressing construction deadline. Those who work on major construction projects or conduct emergency electrical repairs after storms and blowouts may have to work irregular hours, including overnight shifts. On the other hand, self-employed electricians largely set their own working hours. However, those who wish to build a reputation for responsiveness may need to be on call at all times.
Due to the hands-on nature of the industry, electricians cannot work off-site or from home. They must be willing to travel within a specific geographic area and work in a variety of potentially dangerous environments. These might include old, renovated or under-construction buildings. Those who conduct emergency repairs may be asked to work outdoors in poor weather conditions.
The following websites contain useful information for those who wish to become electricians.
- National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee -- The NJATC is a national organization that partners directly with local apprenticeship groups to train and certify aspiring electricians in accordance with the standards set by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Its site contains information about finding apprenticeships, certification classes and state-specific electrician licenses.
- California Apprenticeship Coordinators Association -- The California Apprenticeship Coordinators Association contains career-related information like salary ranges, job duties and job growth forecasts. Although it caters to residents of California, the information on its site should be useful to aspiring electricians across the country.
- U.S. Department of Labor -- The Bureau of Labor Statistics puts out a detailed fact sheet for aspiring electricians. It contains useful information about work responsibilities, job flexibility, salary ranges and the industry's job outlook. This site is a great place to start learning more about becoming an electrician.
- International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers -- The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers is a labor advocacy group that provides a wide range of resources for its electrician members. These include political advocacy, certification and training information, and a full-service jobs board.