What They Do: Electricians install, maintain, and repair electrical power, communications, lighting, and control systems.
Work Environment: Almost all electricians work full time. Work schedules may include evenings and weekends, and may vary during times of inclement weather. During scheduled maintenance, or on construction sites, electricians can expect to work overtime.
How to Become One: Most electricians learn through an apprenticeship, but some start out by attending a technical school. Most states require electricians to be licensed.
Salary: The median annual wage for electricians is $60,040.
Job Outlook: Employment of electricians is projected to grow 9 percent over the next ten years, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
Related Careers: Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of electricians with similar occupations.
Electricians install, maintain, and repair electrical power, communications, lighting, and control systems in homes, businesses, and factories.
Electricians typically do the following:
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.
Electricians hold about 729,600 jobs. The largest employers of electricians are as follows:
|Electrical contractors and other wiring installation contractors||65%|
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.
Working with electricity is dangerous. Electricians must take precautions to avoid getting hurt. Although accidents are potentially fatal, common injuries include electrical shocks, falls, burns, and other minor injuries.
To reduce these risks, workers must wear protective clothing and safety glasses. Electricians who are subject to loud noises, such as those in factories, must wear hearing protection.
Almost all electricians work full time. Work schedules may include evenings and weekends. Overtime is common.
Self-employed electricians often work in residential construction and may be able to set their own schedule.
Get the education you need: Find schools for Electricians near you!
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 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 classroom instruction.
In the classroom, apprentices learn 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 classroom 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 preapprenticeship 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 any 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.
Color vision. Electricians must identify electrical wires by color.
Communication skills. Electricians work with people on a regular basis. They should be friendly and be able to address customers' questions.
Critical-thinking skills. Electricians perform tests and use the results to diagnose problems. For example, when an outlet is not working, they may use a multimeter to check the voltage, amperage, or resistance in order to determine the best course of action.
Physical stamina. Electricians often need to move around all day while running wire and connecting fixtures to the wire.
Physical strength. Electricians need to be strong enough to move heavy components, which may weigh up to 50 pounds.
Troubleshooting skills. Electricians find, diagnose, and repair problems. For example, if a motor stops working, they perform tests to determine the cause of its failure and then, depending on the results, fix or replace the motor.
The median annual wage for electricians is $60,040. 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 $37,020, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $99,800.
The median annual wages for electricians in the top industries in which they work are as follows:
|Electrical contractors and other wiring installation contractors||$58,760|
Apprentices receive less pay than fully trained electricians, but their pay increases as they learn to do more.
Almost all electricians work full time. Work schedules may include evenings and weekends, and may vary during times of inclement weather. During scheduled maintenance, or on construction sites, electricians can expect to work overtime.
Self-employed electricians often work in residential construction and may have the ability to set their own schedule.
Employment of electricians is projected to grow 9 percent over the next ten years, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
About 84,700 openings for electricians are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
Alternative power generation, such as solar and wind, is an emerging field that should require more electricians for installation. Increasingly, electricians will be needed to link these alternative power sources to homes and power grids over the coming decade. Employment growth stemming from these sources, however, will largely depend on government policy.
|Occupational Title||Employment, 2020||Projected Employment, 2030||Change, 2020-30|
A portion of the information on this page is used by permission of the U.S. Department of Labor.