The work of an electrician consists of maintenance for electrical systems in businesses, homes, and commercial factories. Electricians install the wiring of electrical equipment that distributes electricity to and from power sources. These workers are also responsible for the maintenance of machines used by businesses that use electrical equipment. The two primary focuses for an electrician’s career will either be in construction or maintenance. However, both construction and maintenance can be included in an electrician’s daily work.
The factories owned by businesses need wiring installation done by electricians who are construction specialists. Sometimes, electricians focused on maintenance must repair and upgrade old electrical equipment. The National Electrical Code, as well as local building codes, must be followed by all electricians. Many self-employed electricians do their work in residential areas for homeowners. Some of the numerous components that go into electrical work include: electrical outlets, transformers, circuit breakers, and other various components to an electrical system.
In general, starting a career as an electrician requires an apprenticeship that usually pays from 30% to 50% of the pay rate of a full trained electrician. The electric power generation, transmission and distribution industry of the electrician field employ the largest number of electricians, at a median hourly wage of $28.15. The local government industry in the electrician field is the second highest employer of electricians, at an hourly pay rate of $25.66.*
The industry of employment services in the electrician field employ the least amount of electricians, at a median wage of $18.32. The median hourly wage for electricians, as of May 2008, was $22.32. The mid 50% of electricians at this date were paid from $17.00 to $29.88. The bottom 10% made less than $13.54, and the top 10% made in excess of $38.18.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Training and Education Requirements
The apprenticeship programs that one must go through in order to be an electrician mixes paid training with instruction in the classroom. The most common electrician unions and associations are the typical sponsors of apprenticeship programs. Those wishing to be qualified for both construction and maintenance electrical work must, almost always, go through an apprenticeship program. The typical apprenticeship program lasts a length of four years and includes a minimum of 144 hours in a classroom, and 2000 hours of training on the job each year.
Apprentices will be required to learn blueprint reading, electrical theory, mathematics, the electrical code requirements, and safety procedures. Some of the more hands on work may include training in communications, soldering, fire alarms, elevators, and cranes. More hands on training sees the apprentices working under supervisor electricians, as they drill holes, attach conduit, and set anchors. They will be expected to fabricate, measure, and install conduit as well as test outlets, switches, and wiring.
If they wish to be successful electricians they must read, and draw diagrams of electrical systems. When they have thoroughly practiced the duties of an electrician they will be advanced in their careers. When an electrician begins their career they must continue their training and education. The National Electrical Code is subject to changes, and must be reviewed by all current electricians. Electricians may also take courses on how to become a contractor.
Job Description and Outlook
The future prospects for electricians are good, and for the electricians with the broadest range of skills it is even better. By 2018, the employment rate of electricians is expected to increase by 12% from 2008. More electricians will be needed as new restaurants, homes, schools, and various commercial buildings are erected. There will also be work on the older structures that need electrical improvements and repairs.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
New electrical technologies are coming out better designed; to decrease electricity consumption dramatically. As these electrical technologies emerge there will be a growing need for electrical workers to service them. In both the private and public sectors electricians will be needed on a round-the-clock basis. In addition, as the older electricians retire, there will be numerous openings for the next generation of electricians. Maintenance electricians, in general, have more job security than construction electricians; both, however, have more security than electricians in the various manufacturing Industries.
The work of electricians requires licensing that is regulated by local and state laws. Most electricians are then examined for their knowledge of the National Electric Code, electrical theory, and the local electric code for buildings. More licenses are often needed for residential and commercial electrical contractors who work in the public. Some state laws require that the electrical contractors need to be certified master electricians. Most master electricians need a minimum of seven years of electrical experience or a bachelor’s degree.
Union associations for electrician apprenticeship and training programs:
- National Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee (NJATC)
- National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA)
- International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW)
Independent associations for electrician apprenticeship programs:
- Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC)
- Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC)
- National Association of Home Builders, Home Builders Institute (HBI)
- National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER)